Just recently a good friend of mine resigned — or rather, stepped down — as one of the executive assistants of a well-known Undersecretary in the Department of Education. I had always known her to be of the ideal teacher type and who had the capability to make it as one of the best frontliners of the delivery of basic education in the country, yet somehow her circumstances have led her in the same direction but- not as an educator but an education professional in policy. I can somehow understand her perspective — she took four years to finish her undergraduate degree in Secondary Education — and she saw that the profession may be stable and secure but real institutional change needed to support our teachers comes from the top and not from the bottom.
“EDS 111: Principles of Teaching” has helped me contextualize the teaching profession not just on the ground but with how DepEd works and should work as a bureaucracy. It also helped me understand how it is situated within the broader socio-economic context of society and what individual teachers, schools, divisions, and institutions must do to ensure that they exercise critical reflective practice. The concepts and principles in the course can help in educational policy and in the teaching practice. After taking the course, I hope to pursue more research on teaching and teachers as part of the scholarship of teaching and learning as a student and as a researcher in the field of development.
The role of an educator is not only to teach but also to deliver quality education for all. We must create a learning environment that is conducive and inclusive of learners from different backgrounds. How well do education institutions provide inclusive and quality education for Filipino learners? How well do teachers, the school administration, government and community provide for their needs?
It is said that creative teaching becomes essential in the face of diversity because it entails developing and utilizing different methodologies and approaches to facilitate the learning process for all learners. Despite the many materials, information and trainings out there about how to employ creativity in the classroom so that learning is different and useful, teachers still would have to overcome two barriers: an unsupportive institutional structure and themselves. In the case of the public school system, anecdotal evidence points to teachers overloaded with teaching, administrative and extra-curricular work that simply gives them no time to reflect and that puts them into the position that they are frontliners but adhere to the policies of a centralized bureaucracy. Outside of this black hat of being devil’s advocate, I would like to assume that the limited resources, time and support has helped public school teachers be more creative in their practice (i.e. social media for support and admin work, the Internet for materials and information) and collaborate with their peers for support and pedagogical knowledge.
One thing that I think must be strengthened, in the quest to create creative and innovative teachers (and learners), is that they must be given enough time and space to critically reflect upon their practice and to share with others. Second, critical thinking and problem-solving also entails that teachers must be trained to engage and appreciate Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL). Given that a Bachelor’s Degree in Education normally does not have students write a dissertation or thesis, it is normal for them to be intimidated by the intricacies of academic language, which describe the nature of instruction in which most SOTL are written in. How can we verify the effectiveness of our teaching-learning practices and its impact on our learners if we do not appreciate and engage in scholarly work? In the US, author bell hooks has been able to transgress the academic language and to speak of transformative education in layman’s terms – perhaps this should also happen in the Philippines. While education professionals in DepEd provide support for academic research and provide support for professional learning communities (via LAC) in public schools), it is important to ensure that these really enhance teacher effectiveness and translate into better learner outcomes.
The principles of effective teaching – critical reflexive practice, creativity, strong knowledge bases, professionalism/professionalization – ties in well with the conclusion of the principles of effective learning. From the broader “-isms” on how we learn, the teacher becomes both a learner and a facilitator of learning by being theoretically grounded in his/her practice and by being critical and open about applying learning concepts in the classroom. How else can we create critical, reflective, and creative individuals if we ourselves do not practice what we preach or do not give them the opportunity, venue, and time to do so? How can we facilitate higher-order thinking if their foundations are weak and if so, how can we make it so that they can learn? At the end of the day, successful learning and successful teaching is not about having good grades and giving good grades – at this day and age, it should be equipping them with the life skills and concepts they need to survive in a dog-eats-dog world and ensuring that they have the intrinsic motivation to do good for themselves and for others.