Below is a story of a woman who illustrates what it takes to be a “true” teacher. I have never met Ms. Schneider in person and I don’t think I can “technically” call her a mentor. But reading about her life somehow inspires me to do my part as a citizen of our country and a citizen of heaven. I posted this story in the hope of being able to share with the others the essence of what it takes to be a teacher and a Filipino.
In my search for enlightenment about what an ideal teacher should be, I came across the book “Rubble & Redemption” which tells the story of a Swiss primary school teacher named Christine Schneider. She is a no ordinary teacher who chose to live in the slums of Manila. In Payatas she experienced living in a house without a comfort room, gang wars right in front of her doorway, and the terrifying dengue that almost took her life. Together with her husband Christian and with the help of Atty. Harry Roque, they put up “Onesimo”. It is a therapeutic communal organization that aims to provide life-training programs for children in the slums particularly those addicted to meth and some other forms of drugs, those engaged in illegal activities like snatching, gang feuds and robbery and for those who seem to lose hope in life. They taught these children how to read (particularly the bible), to earn a living and earn the respect of others through exhibiting good morals. She created activities that promote unity among feuding gangs in the slums. She taught them to be self-sufficient by introducing entrepreneural activities.
She is a teacher and a Christian who willingly sacrificed the comforts of life in Switzerland. She chose to live uncomfortably in the slums to provide an atypical form of education that aims to uplift the dire condition of our countrymen.
I am both inspired and ashamed at the same time. I am inspired by a teacher like Ms. Schneider who went out of her way to reach out to people in her hope to change lives in anyway she can. I am ashamed at the same time for some Filipinos who have developed a culture of apathy for the sufferings of our brothers and sisters. Love for our countrymen should come from within us Filipinos; yet a foreigner from the west is the one who did it for us.
A teacher’s role in national development is truly a humongous and difficult task. The presence of self-interested groups and policy makers will continue to make our country Asia’s developmental puzzle. It is quite hard for a teacher to promote national unity and growth if the students experience the ill effects of corruption. But as St. Mother Theresa of Calcutta once said, “To be a saint, you need not help all the people all over the world. It is enough that you give charity to a small number of people around you.” To be an effective teacher who contributes to national development, it suffices to introduce change among the small number of students we meet everyday. May our hearts lead us to serve the small number of students we meet every day. May we also learn to reach out to one or two of our suffering neighbors. There will surely be a big difference in the end, if we teachers learn to do our part just like Ms. Schneider.