I saw your facebook post lamenting the fact that your students have turned in essays saying “I want to be an assassin” or “I want to be a killer.” You complained that the president’s seeming endorsement of these acts makes your job harder, and that it was easier last year.
I know you feel hopeless about the fact that this president’s and this administration’s values differ wildly from your own, and I am not here to argue against those feelings. You have every right to feel that way. I would just like to offer you a fresh perspective about the job you said is now more difficult.
Were I still in the classroom today, I would be having a field day. Never have I seen people so polarized, or so engrossed in following current events. One of my major struggles in being an English teacher was finding relevant and engaging topics for students to discuss or write about. It seems so easy these days, and there is so much material you can actually use, whatever your political leanings.
You could, for example, use your students’ submissions to jump start an open discussion in class. Try to get your students to open up about why they feel that way and what motivates them to such aspirations. Allow yourself and the rest of the class to listen without judgment, and then let the others voice their opinions or ask questions.
This can easily spawn into a debate session. Take your pick of topics — Is vigilante-justice wrong? Is media biased? Was Marcos a good or bad president? Should he be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani? Is Delima innocent or guilty? Is Duterte’s war on drugs succeeding or failing?
If you’re teaching writing and composition, there are also so many lessons to be gleaned from news articles — good headline writing (Leila’s Dillema) vs bad (Witnesses Finger Delima), how to use data to support your statements, how to write news objectively, and how to evaluate articles. There is such a wealth of examples (and non-examples) to pick from and you can use these examples to show the importance of clearly articulating one’s ideas.
With the renewed interest in Marcos, you can invite speakers into your class, both pro and anti and even those who are in between. Invite martial law victims to come and share their stories, or even those who lived through those times.
And while teachers usually lament that kids these days are glued on facebook or youtube, you can now give them a legitimate reason to spend time on these sites (since they’re going to be immersed in them anyway). Let them watch senate hearings, congress hearings, the president’s speeches, senator’s speeches, etc. You can then have them turn in reaction papers, or ask them to write news articles about what they watched — then compare what they wrote with what major news outlets came up with, and even compare those with each other. Let your students decide which article was the most objectively written, which has an obvious slant, and so on.
By now, I think you get my point. What you see as a difficulty, I see as a marvelous opportunity to reach out to students in issues they find relevant. I see a way to get them thinking about matters of governance and politics, something that students are usually apathetic about at their age.
Your role as a teacher is now more important than ever. I have read and listened to a great many inspirational speakers and a good number of them cite as their inspiration, either a parent or a teacher. Rarely do I hear them mention the president of their country as providing the spark that led them to achieve great things.
If you think the president is not setting a good example, then show to your students by your own example, how it should be done. After all, they only see the president on TV while you have close personal contact with them on a daily basis. Who do you think should have a greater influence on their lives?
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.