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What it means to be a public

school teacher in the Philippines

by Archielyn Abad Semanero

The Philippines, in the latest record of the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) is composed of 7,641 islands. All over these islands are 38,000 public elementary schools, 13 million public elementary school students and 560,000 public school teachers.

I am among the 560,000 public school teachers.

To be more specific, I teach in Cornelia M. De Jesus Memorial Central School in the West District of the town of Sta.Maria, in the province of Bulacan. This consists of 3,200 elementary students and 91 teachers.

After college, I never realized that by choosing to be a public school teacher, I would have this multi-tasking role aside from teaching. All I thought was I would just have to create my teaching devices and execute my lesson plan. But presently, I play the role of class adviser, subject teacher, subject coordinator, school paper adviser, academic competition coach and athletic coach.

Teaching is only a small portion of tasks we perform. The eight working hours stated in our contract is just a contract. But in reality, we arrive at school as early as 6:30 a.m. and go home at 4:30 in the afternoon. Yet the whole day is still not enough to beat the paperwork, the left and right deadlines, the training we give our students in preparation for some competitions, and many other arising needs. Some days are frustrating: when the kids are behaving badly because they are starving, because they left home without breakfast and have nothing but a bottle of water; when parents are neglecting their duties and blame us if their child performs poorly; and when we are exhausted by chasing the deadlines of different reports.

Tired is the keyword. Handling 45 Grade 5 pupils with different attitudes, different upbringings, different levels of intellectual capabilities and different family backgrounds is not an easy task.

In the teaching and learning process we have to be innovative and resourceful. With a ratio of one textbook to three students, learning is still expected. We cannot give failing marks no matter how poor a child’s performance is – this will always be a teacher factor. We must do all the necessary interventions. I had a habitual absentee last school year and I conducted regular home visitation. I even gave him his daily allowance from my own pocket just to assure his attendance, because I cannot drop him from school. My superior would have questioned me because K-12 imposes mass promotion.

Our school is the only one in town with a Special Education (SPED) Center. We have hundreds of SPED students taught by four SPED teachers. And since the K-12 curriculum promotes fair education for all, some improved SPED students are included in our classes as regular students. We have to deal with these special students with special needs even though we don’t have enough background and training in handling them.

Included in our daily routine is cooking and serving food for some of our students as part of the feeding program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). We have to leave our other students with some activities while we cook the dishes, but at the same time, we have to look in on them from time to time because they might misbehave, resulting in an accident or injury. And we would be the only ones accountable for it. And on scouting days, we have to supervise our students for 72 hours.

During national and local elections, we sit to supervise from voting to counting. We keep our eyes open for 24 hours. We deal with the complaints of electoral candidates, and the worst: we face legal accountability if irregularities are found within our precinct.

We also do the de-worming for the Department of Health.

We monitor members of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4P’s) [Bridging Program for the Filipino Family]. This is a conditional cash transfer program of the Philippine government under the DSWD. Students who are 4P’s members must perform well.

During our vacant periods, you might think we sit and chat with co-teachers in faculty rooms or do our class records. But, no, at this time, we are sellers in our canteen. We pack hot dishes and assist the students as they buy their meals.

Our day usually ends with a bunch of paperwork that we bring home – consolidation reports, narrative reports, accomplishment reports and many more. Most of the time, our noble profession takes our remaining time that is supposedly for our families.

The Department of Education says we are well compensated because a Teacher 1 receives P20,000 a month, with bonuses, chalk and a clothing allowances. Being a public school teacher is not about teaching according to salary. It is about being a public servant who serves limitlessly, who embraces challenges and tasks without expecting any monetary reward.

Archielyn Abad Samanero is an elementary public school teacher at Cornelia M. De Jesus Central School in Sta. Maria, Bulacan in the Philippines. She currently teaches Grade 5 students.