There is always this discussion about how teachers their infuence on their students more than they do money. This is supposed to be inspiring, not just to students but to teachers as well. However, I cannot help but think about how this is used by institutions to give useless salutations to their teachers instead of paying them what they’re worth. After all this income versus outcome discussion is a false dichotomy that almost feels like it was created for a specific purpose—to take advantage of idealistic teachers who want to change the world.
As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I have always dreamt about being a teacher. And it wasn’t because I wanted to teach, it was just because it felt like it was a profession where I could feel that sense of purpose; if I am a teacher, I will not feel useless. Someone depends on me. My existence isn’t for nothing. I become a hero to someone, if not everyone. This sense of heroism in teachers, especially the newer ones, is exploited not just by the institutions that employ them but by the system itself. This is why we don’t have good education in the Philippines. This is why teachers leave the profession. And this is why teachers who chose to stay lose their passion.
I remember a few years back, when I was in high school, one year’s teachers day theme was
My Teacher, My Hero, and it honored how teachers sacrifice their lives for their students.
And when I say sacrifice, I don’t mean that they literally die for the country’s education, although that might as well be true. Teachers die a slow death. There’s a quote that’s always
thrown up in the air:
we are teachers 24/7, which is true, since teachers work on the weekends, on hours way past their work hours, and even on holidays. In reality, we use our
holidays to catch up and finish our backlogs of ungraded papers and submissions. Teachers become advisers to their students, but also psychiatrists, family counselors, social media
influencers, time managers, and pacifiers to parents who can’t seem to understand that their child isn’t the only student in the school.
I have always found it ironic the way we honor our heroes, though. Heroes are shot down, decapitated, stabbed to death. And when they die, we put their busts on museums. We imprint their faces on coins and bills. We build statues in honor of them. And yet not one of them received what they deserved. Could this be true about teachers too? Definitely.
It’s quite honestly mind-boggling to me whenever people say that teachers should always be after the outcome, not the income. Teaching, after all, is an occupation. And I am outraged whenever that philosphy is thrown around, because that concept is only brought up whenever it is convenient to an employer, that is, whenever teachers request salary raises, or when teachers seek for part time jobs other than teaching to generate more income for their families.
I have been working freelance for the past year to support my family. Teaching has barely gotten me into the minimum wage. I talked to one of my co-teachers, and she said,
masuwerte pa nga tayo rito eh. Doon sa dati kong school, ₱5,000.00 lang ang suweldo kada buwan.(we got lucky here. Back in my previous school, we were paid only ₱5,000.00 (around $100) a month.)
And at that time, it made sense. I should be grateful, I thought, some people have it worse.
Right now, however, I am outraged by that. There is a reason it is called minimum wage. Anything below that is inhumane. Think about this: Jose Rizal would not have been paid that same amount had he been alive today. Andres Bonifacio would have yelled at his employers if he received such a low rate. So why are we doing this to our teachers, who were supposed to be heroes of the modern day?
One afternoon, I almost refused to accept additional teaching loads. They assumed I wanted to leave, which I would be more than delighted to do at this point. They told me that I would be
compensated, as I should be. Still, I was hesitant, since I am already overly overloaded and accepting another demanding subject would compromise the quality of my teaching, making my
students suffer; still, I accepted it reluctantly. This is what prompted them to send an inspirational picture to the faculty group chat:
Teachers don’t teach for the income. They teach for the outcome.
This type of toxic positivity leaves a very bitter taste in my mouth. Why should we always have this false dichotomy, this imaginary battle between earning money and also having an impact?
Why is it that everytime a teacher shows even a slither of motive and intent to leave an abusive and overly demanding employment, they are abruptly shut down, telling them that they have to
because we belong to a family? The only family that I belong to is my two brothers and my aunt who are starving because I can’t pay bills.
It is made even worse by the fact that people higher up the institutional hierarchy are privileged and basically have it better. They fail to recognize that this system is a huge disservice to the passionate underpaid overworked teachers. They do less work, but they are paid more. Setting teachers free to work somewhere else is the least they could do to give back to their employees that they can’t pay enough.
I have been saying for a while now that teaching is a volunteer work in the Philippines. I stopped saying that now. Teaching is a profession, a job, and it should pay proportionally to the job description and employees’ performance. We may be teachers all day long, but we are also sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, breadwinners, and normal people just trying to get by. We deserve at least a reasonable compensation to what we do.
I hate doing this, but I am removing my cape. I no longer want to be a hero, or at least a hero that can’t pay his bills.