Teaching is a noble profession since the school of thought began. It is a skill that needs to be cultivated because it requires flexibility for teachers who are faced with different individuals everyday with their individual needs and thoughts. Time. Effort. Insurmountable emotion is at stake.
When I chose Clay High School (out of the 25 school choices) for my 30-hour community involvement program, I only have one goal in mind: to successfully fulfill this program. However, when I met Connor and the rest of the class, I have realized that my choice of community is special and requires special attention, time and effort. Interestingly, my subject class is composed of five special individuals who have speech, attention, learning and physical limitations and I thought this was an easy task. Immediately, I made a resolution to strategize on how I can further contribute to these special individuals’ development. Like most beginners dilemma, stepping forward is always the hardest thing to do. My limited experiences in facilitating a tutorial class left me with critical questions:
(1) How will I start the academic discussion and hold their interests when I discuss?
(2) Am I an effective educator?
For the first time, I realized that 30-hours can be really exhausting for me especially if I am left without brilliant ideas on how to hold the tutorial sessions. I realized as their facilitator, I play a big part for their progress no matter how brief 30-hour could be.
What prompted one to be good to others and appear better in the public and in the community? Is it not our motivation that drives us to perform our best practices whenever and wherever? That is basically what Thomas Hobbes mean when he made an argument in his egotism theory that we are more focused with what others may think and view of us than how we see our own welfare and self-interests. (Hobbes, T.,1994). I see Hobbes’ thoughts on Mrs. Redden who is always there to teach her five special students and care givers like Jason who assists Connor (who has cerebral palsy) 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These practices are but few examples of what Plato calls “community building” where mutual needs are met. (Thornburg,7)
At first, I was so frustrated that I cannot hold the class’ attention when I was discussing academic lessons. My brief stay with my subjects appears to be longer than the usual because I felt that no matter what I do, I cannot have them focused on my teaching lessons perhaps due to my limited teaching experience or because of their physical limitations. Partly, I just thought of giving up all my efforts and achieve one goal: to finish the 30-hour required time for this subject.
During the process, I learned that some of my students wants to be a carpenter, an electrical service crew or construction workers after graduation. They have a clear vision of what their future holds for them, no traces of uncertainties. Similarly, decades ago, philosopher Immanuel Kant talked about the “force” that encourages an individual to act according to his conviction. Kant, who became the head of the family at age 22, already marked the path that he was about to undertake, a course he envisioned in his life believing that “nothing shall stop” him from proceeding along it. (Schönfeld,25-27). My students have the same conviction but my thoughts differ, until I realized that my frustrations were solely based on self-focus and that the only things that I considered are my capabilities and my needs. I am a part of the community involvement program but am I really involved personally? I realized that I was personally detached because of my own limitations. This held me back in exerting efforts beyond what is required. Plato’s words in his book The Republic about community building out of mutual needs were vague. (Thornburg,7) Plato communicated the importance of having mutual needs in order to build a community. This prompted me to I started identifying my needs, how I can meet my students’ needs and have to determine if our needs are mutual.
To create mutual needs, one has to understand his initial motives for doing a community service. For them, I have determined that their need for academic knowledge is one of their many needs. But the reason why they are there is to learn, to gain experiences and to let the whole community know that yes, they are physically limited but they are equally as important as the rest of us. Hence, my initial goal of achieving 30-hour requirement progressed to a deeper commitment allowing myself to be vulnerable to meet my subjects’ needs through appreciation of their thoughts and actions. Saying “thank you,” soliciting their thoughts in certain issues and the like are some of the adjustments I made during tutorial sessions. Acknowledging my limitations also played a big part in letting them know that I am most willing to learn from them. This realization resulted to my achievement of self-actualization that:
a) A person cannot give what he does not have but he can share some of what he has.
b) Experience is still the best teacher allowing opportunities for one to grow emotionally.
c) Everyone is a teacher and a learner and every opportunity is a learning process.
d) A teacher is a communicator and a nobleman because of the amount of knowledge he imparts in creating a better community.
There are thousands of teachers and aids like Mrs. Redden and health care aids like Jason whose untiring and unconditional support continues yet they feel blessed to what they do. Aristotle is right when he said that in order for a person to achieve happiness, “human good turns out to be activity of soul in accordance with virtue….” (Kemerling, G., 1.2).
It is true that to be a tutor, a facilitator or a full pledged teacher, you have to be knowledgeable and expert in dealing with all types of individuals, regardless of their socioeconomic condition and limitations. My five subjects’ strong determination to act beyond their limitation is just amazing. Their optimism is contagious allowing opportunities for me to realize that early frustrations have become happiness in the long run and become a person for others. What is “life without inconvenience and troubles” anyway? (Hobbes, T. 1668) Plato talked about good ethical theories, community involvement and building; Hobbes on one hand encouraged individuals to go beyond their self-interests to liberalize individual limitations (Hobbes, T. 1651). Kant on one hand provided assertive thoughts on how he faced life’s challenges at an early age and Aristotle made noteworthy arguments on social and political solidarity. These teachings and one’s willingness to act in accordance to moral responsibility leads to self actualization and this is basically what I thought of its meaning.
Clay High School’s arrangements for special people like my class created opportunities for my students to understand that there is more to life than just being contained in what others may call “disability.” I recommend and encourage more community involvements from nearby schools to special students become a part of their academic goals. I am confident that the experience will create a lifetime value to every individual who will be part of the program. Future community volunteers would then realize that human happiness is the terminal goal of life, a teaching Aristotle conveyed in his logical writings. (Kemerling, G.,10.8). Moreover, I can say that our community can offer more to these special children—resources, time, human supports and most importantly, appreciation. Arranging for a one-to-one tutor is a good idea. In this regard, more volunteers are needed. However, it is always important to consider that our local government and local leaders play a big part on this kind of mobilization program—their willingness and support can help build a strong and responsible community.
Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan . 1994 . Ed. Edwin Curley . Hackett, Indianapolis . 1651-1668.
Thornburg, Thomas. CliffsNotes on Republic . 20 Apr 2006 <http://www.cliffsnotes.com/WileyCDA/LitNote/id-154.html>.
Kemerling, Garth. Aristotle: Logical Methods. Philosophy Pages. 13 August 2002
Schönfeld, Martin, 2000: The Philosophy of the Young Kant: the Precritical Project. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Schönfeld, Martin, “Kant’s Philosophical Development”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2003 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2003/entries/kant-development/>.