“I am a third-generation educator in the family. My grandmother was a public-school teacher in the 50s and my mother in the 80s. Two years after I was born in 1990, she took a leap of faith and started her own school that we lovingly call Scuola Maria. Being the youngest of three girls, I decided to take the same path and chose Child Development and Education as my major in college.
Right after my graduation in 2012, I went home to Batangas and decided to help my mother run our 20-year-old small private school. While most of my friends advanced in their professional lives with high compensation and travel perks in the corporate world, there I was, doing the best I could to make meaning in my daily job as a full-time educator in our small community. While many thought I was living a life of privilege from running a private school business, little did people know that this privilege came with a lot of difficulties and business competition.
When the lockdown happened, I was not spared from the physical and mental exhaustion brought by COVID-19. I had to make decisions that did not please a lot of people. Our school was two weeks away from graduation ceremonies and I had to cancel all of it with no promise of any form of celebration to compensate. Most people did not understand why I had to cancel abruptly when I could have just rescheduled the most awaited picture-perfect program on our stage.
It broke my heart into pieces when I knew us teachers could not see our students walk up the stage, even for a few minutes. As a school administrator, I had to decide for the common good. A principle that my university instilled in me as a student and as a practitioner in the work field.
I spent most of my days and nights in April researching and talking to all the people I looked up to in the business and education sector. When I thought I was all alone carrying the burden of the pandemic, I was supported by friends and mentors from the university.
Every second that the COVID-19 cases rose felt like the countdown to the loss of job opportunities for my reliable faculty members, deprivation of private school education access to my students, and an end to my mother’s passion and legacy. I didn’t want any of it to happen. Nobody would have wanted all of this to happen.
I had to do something because all of us had to survive. Not just to keep the business going, but to keep the community and nation thriving.
Our small school is barely surviving in the pandemic. It broke my heart because I had limited capacity to help everyone. There is no perfect solution to how we could continue education in a way that is fair to everyone. I knew there were various unique living conditions in the market I was trying to serve.
With limited financial resources, I was able to create a program from scratch. We reduced the tuition fee rates from 50k to 30k while embracing full digital transition. Internet technology is now our best friend, yet it is also our enemy. It is the fastest growing industry today, yet it is the most unstable companion. It keeps on developing, yet it is dragging us all behind every single time it goes through changes and maintenance. It promises a lot of futuristic things and yet, it seems that we can’t move forward.
But this is not just the new normal. This is our reality.
I received another blessing to pursue one of my dreams to teach in a university. I took the job for many reasons, but most importantly because I wanted to take part in helping prepare student-teachers.
I’ve met students who’ve braced the storm using banana leaves, climbed the roofs of their humble homes, and walked miles just to have good signal while listening to my lectures. How humbling it is to see them value education right now, despite their personal circumstances. These are my students now and they are our children’s future educators.
I know our educational setting is not ideal. I know, as a teacher, that learning from a distance is nothing compared to learning face to face. But learning is not limited to just schooling.
More than anything, we need our students to learn how to embrace changes, manage stress, and solve problems because these are life skills that will make them better citizens of our country in the future.
I always tell people owning a school isn’t an income-generating endeavor. Contrary to what people think and imagine, school owners are never profit-hungry. Being in the education sector means being in the business of human development. And our ‘products’ are never tangible. It takes years, even decades, to see the fruits of our labor.
We spend countless hours preparing for lessons while constantly learning and investing in innovative technologies. We receive calls 24/7 from parents ‘complaining’ how difficult everything is. We are always judged for every little thing we do like we have never done anything right for our students, as if we want to make everyone suffer and feel stressed.
We have families with comfortable living conditions while other families who just make ends meet each day for basic needs. Regardless of circumstance, we need parents who see us as equal partners in this journey. We need parents who value education not just to advance academically, but to help every child reach their fullest potentials.
Parents, we know this is all new to you, but remember you are the primary educators of your children. We can never do our jobs without you.
We know our job is difficult, but it becomes unbearable when everyone thinks we don’t know how to love. Our love for our students keeps us going, despite the difficulties. Even if everything is not ideal right now, you have no idea how much we can’t wait to do high fives again, how much we want to give everyone a hug again, and how much we want to do everything in the best way possible.
We can’t give up now. We can’t stop right now because more than anything, educators are the nation’s partners in human development. So much debate has been going on about an education freeze.
We are not machines you can just put to a stop when something fails. We are humans who constantly need development. The only way we will progress is if we are challenged.
Sure, we are all uncomfortable now, but learning never comes from comfort zones. Let this pandemic be a lesson to us, that education is an avenue for character development. When we all try to become better versions of ourselves despite adversities, we will become a better nation.
If we continue education during the pandemic, we will be one step closer to a better world.
To all my fellow educators, you are our world’s silent heroes and today’s frontliners. Happy teachers’ month!”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ina Gonda-Ramos. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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