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To inform, to form, and to transform

 

Conference talk delivered by His Excellency Ruperto Cruz Santos, Bishop of Balanga

at the Department of Education Convention of Administrators, Supervisors and Teachers in Bataan on Thursday, 26 July 2012

 

 

Good morning Ma’ams and Sirs!

 

This is a privileged time for me to be in front of very distinguished men and women, Bataan’s teachers. You are no less heroic that the great men who marched through our historic roads, some martyred for our country’s honor. The profession of teaching is also a vocation because it involves a special calling and a committed response. What teachers do affects directly the human person and how this person grows and develops in this world.

You teachers are second parents. During the primary and secondary education of children, you almost spend the same time with them in a day as their parents do.

This reminds me of a story of a class in Arithmetic. The teacher asked her grade one students, “what comes after 8?” One very excited boy raised his hand and said, “nine!” The teacher said, “very good. So, what comes after nine?” The same boy again answered, “ten po.” “Alam ko po yan kasi tinuturuan ako ni daddy,” the young boy added. Teacher commented, “wow, that is very nice. Eh what follows 10?” The same boy boastfully said, “ma’am after ten is Jack, then Queen at tapos po ay King.

Now I am sure that is one boy who will not qualify for home-schooling.

According to a study in the United States a few years back, teachers come second in the most trusted profession, next to firefighters (I think this is a fallback of the 9/11 tragedy). And in Bangkok, teachers again came in second in a similar survey, next to doctors and ahead of pilots, judges and dentists.

One of the comments of a mother in the US survey is particularly revealing. She said, “I think every teacher recognizes that they are part of a trusted profession – that parents trust them to do the best they can for their child, that their principals trust them to do their best to prepare the students for the next grade level. And I think teachers take that trust pretty seriously…trying to teach the children as if they were their own.

Indeed teaching is a job that entails a huge responsibility and challenge. All eyes and ears are on the teacher, waiting for what she will say and do. You are always conscious that everything that you say and do is important to your students, and will have an effect on them. And teaching is not only about the lessons or your explanations, what is more valuable, effective and efficient is what you teach through your actions.

Let me cite a true story about our ancient Greek philosophers. It is said that when Cicero, a great philosopher spoke, everyone who listened to him would say, “what a great speech!” However, when it was Demosthenes who spoke his listeners would turn to one another and say, “let us move!” This meant that Demosthenes could inspire action.

Considering the huge trust that parents and the entire society place on teachers, we might say that you are at the forefront of the movement for moral regeneration. Thus teaching cannot just be about how well you speak or how long your lectures are or how many years of teaching you have accumulated. The teachers, as the guardians of young people, must show that his or her teaching has substance and not full of gimmickries; that it is backed up by how you live and what you value in life.

In the end, a teacher must be able to move his or her students and make them stand up and do something based on what they have learned. And like the students of Demosthenes, they would urge one another, “come, let us go. Let us move. Let’s do something, better and beneficial.”

As teachers your mission has three components. What are those components? These are the following:

 

to inform

to form, and

to transform

to Inform. This is your most basic task. When you face your students you must be confident that they will get something from what you teach or preach. What you say must have substance and that you increase their knowledge. With what you say they will be able to tell right from wrong, what is proper and useful. Thus in acquiring this information, they become enlightened about the things around them, and obtain the answers to their many questions, the what, when, who, why and how of things and events in this world. You give them the building blocks of knowledge. To make them curious, eager, and inspired to know more, what you say must be weighty and not fluffy such that they feel they have not ingested anything. In hip parlance, dapat may arrive, and not something that they can pick up from the street. Your words should be cohesive and not confusing, factual and not imaginary. Information is vital; your students will carry them throughout their academic life. Thus it is always one plus one equals two in Arithmetic; or the earth is round in Science. To inform is the easiest part of your task because information is available and attainable.

Second is to Form. Here your task acquires another dimension. When you inform, it is possible that some of it will be forgotten or will not be retained. As the saying goes, into one ear and out in the other. Nevertheless a great part can be retained and stored in memory. And there will be some that will lodge in the heart. So they will be affected. They will be touched. And at the end of the day they will be formed. Remember that what you teach can form them into becoming true children of God and useful citizens of our Society. From their questions about the what, where, when, why and how they will formulate the answers, “this is how I should do this, I know now what is right and wrong.”

Sad to say but teaching and preaching seldom earn praise or applause, and as teachers we should not do our job only in order to earn these. We are not here to entertain them. We are not here to give our opinion or to offer commentaries on issues. We speak, we teach, we preach about life, about lessons in life. We teach and we talk based on the handbooks. To form means that what we teach our students will enter their consciousness and enable them to reflect and later on determine how they can apply it in their lives and in their relationships with others.

The third component is the highest level, to Transform. They will not only be touched, or moved by your teaching; they will be changed. They will be converted. Their lives will be changed and be put in order. Thus it is necessary that as teachers you also know and encounter Jesus Christ. He is the greatest teacher, the greatest preacher because although He spoke with authority and wisdom and people listened to Him, He taught with His life. This third level requires from you a personal knowledge of our Savior, especially how He walked on earth precisely to instill in us the knowledge of God, His Father and to bring to us His message of salvation.

Through these three components we see that your tasks as teachers touch on three vital essences of the human person: the physical, the moral and the spiritual. When you inform you contribute to their physical growth because their mind expands and they become more aware of their bodies, their surroundings, and all the matter around them. This knowledge and awareness make them grow physically and mentally.

With your task of forming them you shape their moral values and provide them with the moral compass to navigate the ethical minefields of their lives. Without proper formation a person drifts and his or her character will not be molded. This person will find it hard to be a good citizen, a good family man or woman, a good worker, a good member of society. Even if this person possesses all the information in his brain he will not function well in a society that demands daily decisions on what is right and wrong.

But a person is not for himself or herself alone. He must think of others. His formation is complete when he is able to transform others, to transform his community, his country. This requires from him a personal relationship with God, through His Son Jesus Christ, who came to this world and lived us like, breathing the same air as humans, doing all that humans do, even dying like us.

When you teach to transform you develop the spiritual essence of your students and start them off to the journey to fulfillment, to fullness of life that can be found only in God’s Kingdom.

My dear teachers, when you inform, when you form, when you transform you are building up the physical, moral and spiritual development of your students. And today they are your students. But tomorrow they will be our leaders. With you they ought to be responsible and respectful leaders. The beautiful thing is that what you give them you also possess.

Sometimes we are tempted to consign Jesus only to the subject of religion. But I tell you, your teaching will fail if you do not come to know Him and if you do not model your teaching after Him. To transform, that is your highest mission. To know Jesus, to live according to Jesus and to bring to Him to others. When they’ve come to know Jesus then they have learned the greatest lesson. It is now from the head to the heart, to their very own life.

My dear, these are your tasks, your duties, and responsibilities: to inform, to form and to transform.

Let me leave you with this story as my conclusion and it is in Filipino, so that it will be more descriptive and so you can appreciate better its heartwarming message. Isang bata ang papasok sa paaralan. Upang matiyak ng ina kung ang lahat ng mga bagay ay nakaayos na at kung ang anak ay handa na sa pagpasok, siya ay ay natanong. “anak, nasaan ang mga libro mo?” “Nasa bag ko po” ang mabilis na sagot ng bata. “Eh yun mga baon mo na snacks at lunch?” Ang tugon ng anak ay nasa lunch box niya. “Yun pera mo?” “Nasa wallet ko po.” “Yun mga bilin ni mommy?” Ang sagot ng bata ay nasa sa isip kasabay turo sa kanyang ulo. At paghuli ay tinanong ng ina kung nasaan si Jesus. Sumagot ang bata, “nasa sa puso ko po!” Like this young child let us always carry Jesus in our hearts. Let us always place Jesus in our homes, in our lives. And we will never go wrong.

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Diocese of Balanga
(Bataan, Philippines)