On being a teacher and an educator

On being a teacher and an educator

Elita Flor Umali

“Education would really be excellent only when it gives service to others. Throughout my professional life, I have always been guided by that having a vision of excellence and pursuing a mission of service.”


Back in 1991, our then Superintendent recommended that I participate in a one-month training program at INNOTECH. It was during that training that I came to know about INNOTECH and appreciate its vision. As an Assistant Superintendent during that time, it promised to help me gain management skills which later became useful when I became a Superintendent. 

My INNOTECH experience was a great learning encounter and it formed the baseline skills, concepts, and values which are essential in implementing management programs in the Division. The lectures, of course, were very enriching. They gave us additional knowledge on effective and efficient management, and further, a vision of excellence which lasted to the end of my service.  

The INNOTECH experience can be taken on a number of aspects. On the cognitive side, the resource persons were knowledgeable in their respective subjects and gave practical insights on the readings shared.  

On the affective and behavioral side, our socialization and our interpersonal relationships with other participants were great factors in developing individual personhood. Over the month-long course, the collegial atmosphere made friendships evolve from being simply acquaintances. 

I remember two of my fellow participants approaching me for assistance in understanding the lectures. A Korean and a Burmese participant asked me for help because they were having difficulties with the English language. After our sessions, they would come to me after dinner for a lengthy and detailed explanation of the things that were discussed during the day. I was very glad to have done something for them. In factKorean classmate and I have become good friends. 10 years later, we were still in touch. Unfortunately, it took a while before I had an opportunity to visit Korea. 

Tutoring my co-educators in English was particularly rewarding for me and had given me a deeper insight in understanding human relationships. It was also an opportunity to learn, first hand, the ways and culture of other nations. That was long before the idea of an ASEAN community was formed. My experience in the INNOTECH training prepared me to appreciate our neighbors better. 

Aside from the inter-relationship, values were inculcated during our course. One of them is always being ready with our outputs, submitting on-time, and being punctualLooking back, that value was actually instilled in me by my father; being at INNOTECH certainly deepened it.  

Another take-away from INNOTECH, something that we practiced later in the Division, was “solve the problem” or focus on the problem and its causes. For example, if students and teachers are tardy because of traffic, they can try travelling earlier to work around the difficulty.  

Even now, with the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) results being a major concern among our policy makers, they need to maximize the time spent on teaching and learning. Some teachers whom I talked with said that they lack teaching time. So I advised them to focus on their primary obligation: teaching and putting more time on instruction and learning. The demands for a teacher’s time, such as the preparation of reports and attending seminars, are all important. But these should happen without the teachers neglecting their primary classroom obligations: teaching and learning. I am very happy that the Department of Education now has an immediate response to that PISA report  Edukalidada program that focuses on quality of teaching and learning.    

I would always emphasize to teachers that we are not only here as teachers; we transcend to become educators. What is the difference? In my mind, teaching involves moving information to learners. But to be an educator, we transmit not only basic knowledge but also formation of true values for transformation. We become educators because of our work for the total development of the students, for total personhood. When taken collectively, it is building our nation. 

For the future, I expect that education would return to the basics  simply building basic knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes  but with greater emphasis on the quality of instruction. Education would really be excellent only when it gives service to others. Throughout my professional life, I have always been guided by that  having a vision of excellence and pursuing a mission of service. 

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