Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Thesis of Teacher Thea

Teachers - once defined by their commitment to molding minds through the inculcation of values and knowledge were, for some time, considered a vanishing breed. The dedication with which practitioners ennobled their profession by nurturing the learning process of their students with personal involvement and sacrifice - elevated the profession to the highest levels of esteem society could provide. Their valued contribution towards development was critical in sustaining the future of a just and humane society.

Over the last 2 decades, this breed was thought to be extinct, replaced by the mechanical method of instruction bound by rules, procedures and statistical parameters that made education a rigid dogma - implemented by civil servants saddled by tons of duties unrelated to education and burdened by low compensation.
This reduced the practice to near mendicancy and loss of self esteem that relegated the teachers to the dustbin of forgotten and regrettable professions. Only a handful of the very senior ones remaining seemed to carry on the nobility of molding upright citizens for the country. However, a new crop of teachers from the current generation have been blessed with the DNA of those highly respected teachers of the past. One such teacher is Althea Danielle Tolentino.

Teacher Thea is a typical single young woman on the threshold of joining the teaching profession. Despite having a more comfortable life than most students her age, she was never detached from the realities and circumstances that impact on the less fortunate children who do not have the opportunity for a college education. She consistently equated this unfortunate situation to the country's future, so much so that she chose an indigent community in Metro Manila to take part in the major portion of her thesis in Music Education major in Classic Guitar at the University of the Philippines. The thesis calls for the training of a group of people in classic guitar music for 13 weeks, and for this group to perform in a recital for the purpose. Teacher Thea knew that the skills her would-be students would acquire may give them some opportunities and open some doors to a better way of life after the recital. The training would be given for free.

For this training up to the recital, teacher Thea secured the commitment of a major music store to provide the guitars, which were to be returned after their performance. There were 11 students of various ages who signed up for the training, but who were skeptical about the learning they would get, or the completion of the timetable and program for the training. Teacher Thea understood this doubt since many broken promises from various sectors and politicians have jaded their view of do-gooders. The training began on July 3rd 2008 with the recital scheduled for October 5th. Only 3 guitars were available then, one belonged to teacher Thea, and the other two she borrowed from her friends.

After 3 weeks, the students were convinced by the seriousness of the effort and were thrilled by the skills they were acquiring. They also appreciated teacher Thea's empathy regarding their dreams and the predicaments that hinder these. Even the neighbors were getting impressed by the sounds they were hearing from the training site, and were excited at the idea of seeing their friends perform at the University. But they were practicing with only 3 guitars which teacher Thea entrusted them with, and which they passed around at the end of each training session to practice what was taught. They had not played together as a group and could not hear the full compliment of 11 guitars played at the same time. The company that promised to provide the guitars had not come through, and appeared to have reneged on their commitment.

Teacher Thea noticed the worried look on their faces at the end of 3 weeks and feared that the disappointment would demolish their enthusiasm. She was wrong. The students were actually worried that she would get a low grade for the failed training and time was running out. They were wrong too, because teacher Thea was less concerned about her grade, and was worried that the failed training would lend credence to their belief that this effort is another unfulfilled promise. The students showed her their drawings of guitar frets with dotted lines where the fingers for the chords should be placed, and told her that they could still practice the pieces selected - an action meant to motivate their teacher. She however, showed enthusiasm for this approach to discourage self pity amongst her students. But she knew she had to do something.

Teacher Thea posted an appeal on her Multiply website last August 20 citing the circumstances and requesting kind hearted people to lend guitars for the trainees. On the very next day, she received an overwhelming response with donations of cash and people unknown to her lending their guitars - dropping it off at the University's College of Music. She had enough for each of her trainees which were to be returned after the recital. She pasted the names of her trainees on the guitars for their personal use. Upon seeing their names and the instruments, the students were in near tears, and for the first time, they practiced and played together with the full compliment of 11 guitars.

Teacher Thea has enough cash to buy 4 good locally made guitars. If more donations come through, she intends to purchase a guitar for each of her 11 students to be given after the recital as a surprise gift.

What is evident here is the positive response to genuine and sincere endeavor, coupled with skill and applied with the acceptance and understanding of the needs of recipients - that unlocked the interest and aptitude for learning the skills taught;
the creation of hope where resignation once thrived; and the recognition of society at large of the value that such an approach could engender which they have long sought and thought to have ended. No doubt, other pockets of nobility in the teaching profession exists in many parts of the country. One other such practitioner is teacher Yeng based in Davao City, who continues to upgrade her skills to have more meaningful interaction with her students through knowledge and understanding.

There is perhaps a new element that teacher Thea will add to her thesis: that in giving her utmost best and using all available avenues, learning and the enthusiastic embrace of the lessons taught will provide her such exhilarating satisfaction no other experience can match. That learning is nourishment for mind and soul. Finally, that those bureaucrats and politicians who have demeaned the profession should be banished from this earth.



Kim said...

this is a beautiful story Durano!!!
I had goosebumps when I read it ..
it sounds like Teacher Thea is a one in a million and it was so heartwarming to read that through the actions of generous people the children were able to carry on...
a reminder that there is 'hope' in this modern world. :)
have a wondeful day :)

manilenya said...

Nice one! mabuhay si Teacher Thea! I remember once I stood up and reply my mother when she asked me what do I want to be when I grow up?

I told her I want to be a teacher, she didn't like my reply. :(

Kim said...

congratulations Durano !!!
you have won my competition :)
thank you for your terrific title...I'm sending the credits to you now ...have a great day :) :)

upyours said...

Many Filipino students embark on courses of study to please their parents and are forced to shelve their true callings. This "cash crop" mentality, this preference for courses that will sell better in the job market, has been the chief determinant for career choices among Filipino youth. Notice how nursing schools have mushroomed all over the country as we rush to churn out graduates to fill nursing jobs abroad. Another is a twisted sense of continuing a family "tradition"; it is not unusual to hear about "a family of lawyers, doctors, engineers, etc". It matters little that some of these doctors have killed so many patients that one could not help but wonder if their true calling isn't that of a serial killer, nor that some lawyers do not actually argue cases in court, and are nothing more than high-salaried fixers and go-fers for unscrupulous businessmen.

My wife has a niece who also studies Music, hoping perhaps to be a teacher like Teacher Thea and becoming an instrument for changing destinies. In this case, the contravida is another aunt who is, admittedly, a successful lawyer (read high-salaried fixer and go-fer for an unscrupulous businessman) who has taken it upon herself to meddle into each and every career choice of her nieces and nephews.

I can sympathize with Manilenya's and Teacher Thea's frustrations. If it's any consolation, there is never any doubt who benefits from a great teacher. Can we say the same for a great lawyer?

Nice said...

i always look up to teachers not just because my mom is one, but because of their committed effort in molding the youth.

bow ako sa kanila.

Jena Isle said...

What a touching story. I believe that teachers have the noblest of profession. Kudos to teacher Thea and her unyielding spirit.

May her tribe increase. Thanks for sharing this inspiring post. Another very well written article, by none other than the master himself. My hats off to you.

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hello Kim,

Teacher Thea has learned and applied the correct values I believe, at least I agree with those that she had expressed. :-) And I'm very glad about it.

People are really inspired by acts of selflessness and are moved by the strength of character that are displayed by those who struggle against mediocrity, especially when they're young.

Yes, there is hope in this world, and I would continue to be one of those who work towards seeing that the flame of hope will always burn.
:-) --Durano, done!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Manilenya,

I'm sorry to hear that your mother responded in such a manner about your interest to become a teacher. It has been relegated as a profession that would ensure poverty, thanks to the politicians and the bureaucrats.

Hopefully, this can change with a new breed of dedicated teachers that I have been seeing all over the country.

We have already lost so many good ones to foreign schools, and we continue to do so.We have even lost many more talented and skillful countrymen like yourself just to carve out a better life in faraway places.

It's a pleasure to see you drop by. Thanks for the visit. :-) --Durano, done!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hello Kim,

Wow! Really? You actually chose the title I gave out of all the entries. That is so pleasing to hear. Thank you very much.

Tell Marissa that her metamorphosis would continue to improve as she blooms into womanhood.

Thanks a lot Kim, winning is just such a great feeling. :-) --Durano, done!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Upyours,

A great teacher is one who provides the perspective that enables students to learn how to learn and to think critically and independently. I agree that the benefits derived from a great teacher are limitless and lasts a lifetime.

A great lawyer can successfully defend the noblest of men and the worst of scoundrels. And there lies the difference. They make no effort to make noble men out of the scoundrels and merely lets them loose in society to wreak more havoc. Teachers mold minds to create upright citizens.

I can relate very well with what you term as "cash crop" mentality by way of profession and the foolish family tradition baggage. I'm also sorry to hear about your niece and her meddling aunt. Perhaps she should have kids of her own she can meddle to her utmost delight.

As to lawyers who are mere go-fers and doctors who are better off referred to as serial killers, these are the aberrations of these professions. My only wish is for their kind to vaporize.

Thanks for dropping by. :-) --Durano, done!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Nice,


I congratulate you Mom for her chosen profession. I believe you appreciate how lucky you are for the practice she chose and you respect her all the more for it.

It looks like you have been very well molded yourself. However, is it true that children of teachers have it tougher in school because their performance would reflect on their teacher parent? I didn't want to believe this when I was in school and I always thought it depended on the kind of parent they were, and should not be related to their skills as a teacher. But the connection between teaching and parenting is so close. Can you provide me some enlightenment on this?

Thanks, and I will expect your reply. :-) --Durano, done!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Jenaisle,

Thanks for the comment and the kind words.

By the way, I just counted how many blogs you have and these are all in different subjects. No wonder you are experiencing some difficulty. You're spreading yourself too thinly plus being a wife and mother and running a household - a full time day and night job! :-)

I miss the continuation of your story. I didn't mean to preempt the development with my last response. You can write it as you see fit.

Thanks for the visit. :-) --Durano, done!

Kim said...

ah yes Durano...
there's nothing quite like the euphoria that comes with winning ;)

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hello Kim,

Yes, I can understand that.

Coming from one who has won so many awards and achieved sensational milestones, that euphoria means that the desire to improve and intensity of the effort towards excellence remains strong and steadfast.

I know your joy at winning is still as great as ever, and I'm happy for that. :-) --Durano, done!

upyours said...

Hey Durano,
So sorry for this rather belated rejoinder. I was ready to move on but can't for the life of me let this opportunity pass.
About that meddling aunt who ought to have kids of her own. First off, someone has to make her pregnant-- an utter impossibility considering she is challenged in the looks department. What was your term? Aesthetically challenged? It's apt that she chose to be a lawyer because she has sort of a Supreme Court kind of beauty. You know, NO APPEAL !!!!! No amount of nipping and tucking can alter her rather unfortunate configuration. The sad thing is she is so sorely lacking in the kind of beauty that matters -- the inner kind that integrity, goodness of heart and goodwill can give.

Javi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Javi said...

This is very inspiring Brad. Talking about teaching, I think there's still hope. Two of my siblings have gone into this vocation knowing full well the economic realities that go along with it.

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Upyours,

That is an interesting rejoinder to your comment about the meddling aunt. However, I would not venture into the specifics of how she can have kids of her own except to say that adoption is a very good option.

There are so many unloved, uncared for, and abandoned/orphaned children who sorely need caring, affection and a family life to enrich their lives, physical appearance of the parent/s notwithstanding.

However, if as you say, that even in the "kind of beauty that matters" - and I agree with you here - she is also sorely lacking, then I'm afraid she would not be allowed to adopt nor would she be successful in it if she can. The sad part is, if she ever needs a friend, she will have to get a dog. :-) --Durano, done!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Javi,

My teachers inspired me, and I still look up to them until now. I have also gone into some kind of teaching through seminars and training programs which we still do until now. Our trainees are either those in management or those we serve to provide skills in livelihood development, marketing their produce, packaging and mainstreaming.

I have also seen numbers of young teachers in the provinces, some in the metro area, who are really dedicated and true to their calling. It's nice to hear that 2 of your siblings have opted for these noble profession. If we give up on teaching, it means giving up on the kids. And if we give up on the kids, we are giving up on the future.

We should have more teachers than lawyers. I never understood the motivation to study for 8 years to learn how to lie. :-) --Durano, done!

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