One of the most disturbing phone calls I got this past week was from the mother of a ten-year-old girl, who I confirmed in May. We shall call the child Queenie. It was an evening call, and the mother was very concerned about Queenie, who the teacher had reprimanded that morning. The Christian Living Education teacher, a religious sister, was discussing about the various signs and symbols used in the Church. As the sister began to discuss the Sacrament of Confirmation, Queenie raised her hand and so proudly volunteered the information that she had been confirmed during the summer break.
With great doubt in what Queenie had just related, the sister asked that she remain standing to answer a few more questions regarding Confirmation. At this time, Queenie was very self-conscious and embarrassed at the seeming interrogation. When the teacher left, Queenie began to cry. That evening, she told her mother that she felt the sister was insinuating that she did the wrong thing or was, in effect, making up a story. The words “No, cannot be!” as the sister proclaimed kept ringing in Queenie’s ears.
This well-meaning teacher must have thought that here was a child caught in fantasy or was terribly misguided. Sadly, she did not bother asking Queenie to make sure or to bring her certificate and show the class at their meeting. She went right ahead and implied that the child was wrong—a strong accusation for a child who is, in reality, a conscientious student.
Of course, I was upset when I heard this story. I felt responsible. I confirmed the child. I quickly hung up and prepared all the documents supporting Queenie’s Confirmation validity. I sent it to Queenie’s mother at 6:30 a.m. the following day. Queenie’s mother brought the documents to school and waited for an opportune time to speak with the CLE teacher. Queenie’s mother was upset, too but tried her best to keep her cool and see things from the proper perspective. She told me she prayed before the Blessed Sacrament and asked the Holy Spirit to give her the right words and approach. She had no intention of proving the teacher wrong. She just wanted to clarify the matter and request the teacher to please assure Queenie and her classmates that Queenie was confirmed and that she was not lying or making up a story.
She is a gentle woman. In her gentlest way, she told the teacher how the incident had affected Queenie and that she had called me to allay her daughter’s fears and apprehensions. Then as the need arose, she brought out the documents to support the validity of the Confirmation. Queenie’s mother was very happy because they parted well. The teacher had agreed to correct the situation and restore the joy and confidence Queenie originally felt about her Confirmation.
Unfortunately, this story did not have such a happy ending. The next day, Queenie was called out from class, and the CLE teacher reprimanded her for squealing on her. Queenie was told not to make “sumbong” because you “bother” other people. She was told that if she has trouble in school, she must not tell her parents. Instead, discuss her problem with the teacher involved. This incident troubled Queenie even more. She began to cry in front of her teacher this time.
This reaction made the teacher impatient, and she demanded an explanation for these tears. The child claimed she was confused.
Confused. Who wouldn’t be? Since when was it more important to keep things from parents? Wav a “bother?” Aren’t parents supposed to know what is going on in their children’s lives? Whatever happened to the school-parent partnership? Is it not true that parents are children’s first teachers?
For a child, a nun is close to being infallible in matters of religion. A nun is the authority in matters of right and wrong. When a child is taught by a teacher who happens to be a religious that what she did was wrong, how can a child discern whether all areas of concern should not be brought up with the parents? Who will the child listen to now? The sister who is like the voice of God teaching her about the Absolute good or evil and the commandments, or should she listen to poor Mommy who is “just” Mommy to the child?
It pains me to point out that this teacher is not encouraging communication. If she threatens the child in such a manner, she herself may lose touch with this child. She has just instructed the child to build a wall between her and her parents.
Her self-esteem will definitely be affected because she was told that she could not have been confirmed when she believes the contrary is true in her heart. Now she may even doubt me as the priest who confirmed her. Perhaps in order to survive, she will think in terms of grades. “If I contradict my teacher, I might fail.” This is a thought that will hound her. She will probably conclude that Mom cannot fail her, but the teacher can. Then she may decide to listen and obey the teacher because of fear.
Meanwhile, she will be forced to endure all her hurts silently, doubts, and whatever else will bother her in her growing-up years. She will start to keep secrets from her parents and possibly begin to alienate herself from them. She will remember that the last time she confided in her mother, she got into trouble in school. These are some possibilities, and there could be more.
My worry is that there could be many Queenies now in school who are not learning in a free and friendly environment. There could be students worse off than Queenie who function solely out of fear. I am afraid that we have many teachers who believe that their role is to instruct and dictate to their students instead of allowing or enabling them to bloom and discover truths with each other. I am worried about how much more damage teachers like these can cause to such impressionable minds.
If a parent-teacher partnership were real, can parents help out in this situation without feeling fearful for their children? Are parents confident enough that a truly listening ear will welcome them? Or will we all shrug it off and say, “No one wins over authority?”
So cry if you have to but don’t say a word? Don’t be a bother?
INSTRUCTORS OR EDUCATORS
Jesus Our Light
One Reply to “INSTRUCTORS OR EDUCATORS”
Thank you for sharing this story Bishop Soc. I am a.mother and a teacher at the same time po. God bless you po. 🙏