|Teachers frown at DepEd's Smile Policy | Photo by AP|
A grumpy teacher who constantly makes a fuss about everything defective in our educational system – from the dilapidated conditions of schools, meagre pay, up to unruly, inattentive students – breeds a generation of students that are contemptuous towards studying and positive thinking. While there are students who are mature enough not to be dragged down by a terror teacher’s daily sermons, such acts can be demeaning and demoralizing to many students who come from poor backgrounds and challenging mental capabilities. Terror teachers breed disenfranchised, cynical citizens who do not give a damn about their own progress, and do not believe in the alleviation of their condition. Classes with terror teachers are breeding grounds for criminals, terrorists, and felons in the future.
A terror teacher is one of the glaring evidences of a traditional, teacher-centered education which still dominates our educational system in the Philippines. We are lucky to be in a new administration whose reformist agenda is aimed at deconstructing this traditional, potentially lethal setup. Just few of the approaches to reforming the educational system is the new K-12 Basic Education Curriculum, the use of the Understanding by Design approach to lesson planning, and more recently, the DepEd memorandum encouraging teachers to smile in class and avoid frowning at students.
Every good idea will have the usual, opposite reaction. So-called “progressive” teacher groups are quick to dismiss the idea of smiling in class as ridiculous, given the circumstances faced by teachers and students alike. Their united disapproval extends as well to the rest of the new measures being implemented by the reformist Bro. Armin Luistro. Their point: how can teachers smile in class if they cannot be given the just compensation for their services, if schools are constantly congested, and innovation in teaching comes at a snail’s pace? While these points are legitimate and cannot be dismissed altogether, are these points huge stumbling blocks (let alone legitimate reasons) for teachers not smile in class?
"I can’t smile in class because my classroom is cramped and shabby. I can’t smile in class because my students are a pain in the neck. I can’t smile in class because I’m not being paid enough to do so. I can’t smile class because the entire educational system is a total wreck."
Are these alibis even expected of a reasonable, noble teacher?
While we teachers can demand so much from our masters, we should also ask: Is teaching about us, teachers, or the students? A universal, across-the-board frown on DepEd’s Smile Policy is just another glaring evidence of a traditional, teacher-centered consciousness about education which still prevails among our teachers, especially in teachers who call themselves “progressive”. It’s laughable how they call themselves progressive and yet cannot even smile in the midst of their students.
A student-centered educational system is one which seeks to shift the focus of learning from teacher to student. In this system, students are not the ones being pressed to achieve by blindingly shoving down their throats what teachers ramble about daily. In this system, it’s the teachers who should be pressed to evaluate themselves, if their means of teaching are indeed benefiting the student. In this system, students are not being treated as criminals who need to be reformed from feeble-mindedness. It’s the teachers who must constantly reform themselves in order to better serve the needs of their clientele.
While a smile isn’t just what it takes to totally reform our approach to student learning, a smile is powerful enough to shed a positive streak of light in students’ hearts, which opens opportunities for easier, more human means of instruction which they can appreciate and anticipate throughout their 12 years of schooling. By smiling more, we are breeding individuals who are positive in their outlook, caring, active and assertive – the marks of responsible, participative citizens and nation-builders.
If you’re a teacher who smiles in class in a genuine, heart-felt manner and conviction, you have my respect and admiration. Kudos to reformist teachers!