I have always loved teaching, never passing up the opportunity to lecture in schools on subjects learned from my craft: visual communications, advertising, copywriting, design, even history and culture. Teachers ruled my schoolboy life, and my early inspirations were Mrs. Eleuteria Paquia (Grade 6), Mrs. Salud Manarang (Grade 3), Mrs. Paula Alfaro (Grade 5)—beacons of knowledge all whom I looked up to for guidance and disciplined enlightenment.
More recently, I lectured at the University of Asia and the Pacific, sharing my knowledge and experience in integrated marketing communications with smart, senior students always eager to learn, inquisitive minds who are just about ready to take on the challenges of the corporate world. And, with all the high tech instruction aids available today---notebooks, CD Roms, power point presentations, audio-visual presentations, Mac computers—classroom sessions have become a more convenient and enjoyable experience for both students and teachers. Gone were the brown Bureau of Education notebooks that we once used; instead, students now take down notes using their laptops and palm pilots.
Teaching conditions were far different in Pampanga schools a hundred years ago. One need only to look at the journal of an American teacher, Will M. Carruth, a young Cornell University graduate who came to Pampanga as one of the 25 civilian volunteers from the U.S.A.T. Thomas in September 1901. Just days after his arrival, he was in Betis assigned to teach English. But to his horror, he found out that all the books he was supposed to use were in Spanish! Carruth also wrote of the shortage of school supplies. In one instance, he had to order the required books from Manila--a mere 40 miles away-- with the materials arriving only after 55 days. As if this ordeal was not enough, he had to contend with fluctuating number of students, with enrollments often being cut in half as a result of the demands of the harvest season. Carruth labored in Sta. Rita, San Fernando and San Simon, solving administrative problems—from dealing with incompetent teachers to contending with meddlesome town officials—until deciding finally he had had enough. At the end of his contract in 1904, he went back to the United States.
Luther Parker was another Thomasite who took a great interest in Pampanga and its people. It was he who initiated the compilation of the town histories of the province from the Spanish period onwards, a valuable source of information for researchers of local history. In Arayat, teacher Alfred Arnold put up entertainment programs to win over native officials to the cause of public education. In Candaba, supervisor G.N. Anderson used his own money to finance a new building, while in Magalang, Kilmer O. Moe helped build classrooms with his own hands.
Obviously, Americans alone could not cope with the demands of public instruction. The next course of action was to train local instructors who were often steeped in the old, outdated ways of the Spanish school system. A Teachers’ Institute thus was established in San Fernando, run by American supervisors, with the intention of upgrading the teaching skills of native teachers. Classes were held in between semesters in February and March in order not to disrupt the regular school schedule. In other towns, local “normal” schools held classes for Filipino teachers every afternoon for English lessons and advanced pedagogical techniques.
Education was apparently not a popular choice by Kapampangans at the University of the Philippines in the 1920s. Only 16 enrolled in the 1918-19 schoolyear, dwindling down to just 9 enrollees five years later. Agriculture and Medicine were the more preferred courses. Blame it on the horror stories that abound about the rigors of teaching that continue to hound the image of this “noble profession”: low pay, low motivation, long hours, a thankless job.
So, what keeps a whole legion of teachers—including me—going back to the classrooms? I guess it’s the still the same reason that prodded the Carruths, Parkers, Manarangs and Alfaros of this world to leave the comforts of their home and stand in front of bright-eyed students for hours every day. It’s got something to do with the intangibles, that ultimate feeling of fulfillment that comes from having enriched a person’s life through knowledge shared, from having led the way in opening new windows of opportunities, from having made a difference. Not everyone is given the privilege to do that every day.
(15 November 2003)