The issue involving teacher Melita Limjuco, whose disciplinary action to her pupil allegedly traumatised the child, hit me on three fronts: as a journalist, as a mother and as a teacher.
A media personality is in the midst of this controversy who claims to be the defender of the less privileged. But there is something so fundamentally wrong with how freedom of expression was utilized in the case. It was used as a license to malign someone without thorough and fair investigation. Worse, it has become the excuse of a man to discredit a teacher for taking on the cudgels of developing a young mind to be a disciplined and responsible member of society.
The teacher was stripped off her right to due process and was subjected to private humiliation the moment the grandmother and mother brought the issue to that man whose name I will not even mention because he does not know media ethics at all. The video they played for all the world to see did not only show the child involved, there are other minors in that footage too. If you are so keen on defending the rights of one children, then you should also include the others.
Someone remind that man that fairness is a basic journalism tenet and what happened was a direct violation of the code of ethics of journalists.
The issue happened in Malate, Manila but it resonated throughout the Philippines and the action of the grandmother and mother to bring the case to the man-who-must-not-be-named sadly backfired on them.
There is a shared responsibility between parents and teachers to nurture children who are not only knowledgeable and skillful, but children who also espouse good moral values and are able to empathize with others.
Parents, the moment we enrol our children in school, we are giving their teachers the responsibility to take care of them. Taking care of them does not mean pampering them with praises and words of encouragement; taking care of them also means disciplining them when they commit mistakes.
Take note that discipline does not automatically mean abuse. This is where most parents err. When teachers discipline our children, it does not mean that they are abused. I am personally against the old method of pinching the child, throwing erasers at them, hitting them, and sit-on-the-air.
I have been called several times by my son’s teacher about a couple of misbehaviors. It is but natural for us, parents, to take on defensive stance; to fight back because we do not want to be labeled as irresponsible for not teaching our children good manners and right conduct. But let us not escalate situations where we could have engaged in a decent dialogue with our children’s teachers. Let us not fall prey to trial by publicity or victims of social media misuse. In cases like this, nothing should trump face-to-face communication.
Since 9 a.m. of Friday, November 22, my Facebook newsfeed has been filled with testimonies from friends about how they were disciplined by their teachers who taught them the values of discipline, humility, hard work, perseverance, honest and patience in the process.
I used to teach college students, day care children and children with special needs. One exam day, I caught three of my students cheating. I gently asked them to go out and then I talked to them after the exam was done. One student brought her parent the next session. The parent was concerned that her child will commit suicide because she was humiliated. Inside a room, the mother, the student, the principal and I discussed the issue. The student said she was overreacting when she told her mother she will kill herself. She admitted her fault and we moved forward from there. The same student is now working in a restaurant where my husband and I dined last week.
I have had brushes with parents and students on issues involving discipline after that. But as a teacher, I have been conscious about one Guiding principle; that whatever I do, it should always be for the best interest of the child.
These days, my classrooms are under the shade of trees, museums and barangay halls when our non-profit organization, Basadours Inc., conduct storytelling sessions. We have a child protection policy in place to make sure that both children and volunteers are protected.
The policy includes asking permission from parents or guardians when we take pictures and post them on social media. It also includes rules on how to deal with children who are disrupting sessions and how we act as volunteer-storytellers when we are with them.
The preamble of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child notes: “Recognizing that the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.”
It also says: “Considering that the child should be fully prepared to live an individual life in society, and brought up in the spirit of the ideals proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, and in particular in the spirit of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity. “
There are big words stated in the UN CRC: happiness, love, understanding, peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity.
All these and more are ideals and values that our children need to embrace. They will never be able to have all these without the guidance of parents, teachers and the society as a whole.
There is truth in the saying that “it takes a village to raise a child” so it should be clear that we are partners in molding children who will grow up to be responsible and well-meaning adults. Open the communication line and discuss issues with a calm approach, an understanding heart, and an open mind.
And please, stop bringing your issues to that program or similar programs for that matter. You’re not helping your child or yourself by doing that.
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