(Note: This piece is written before August 15, 2020.–Ed)

The Department of Education (DepEd) has recently reiterated firmly that classes will open on August 24 against all odds. Secretary Leonor Magtolis-Briones stressed that come hell or high water, learners of all levels and from all regions must prepare for the new normal: online learning. The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has also confirmed that classes, albeit online, will proceed as usual. TESDA has also made known and real its plan to make all classes online.

As of this writing, Metro Manila and its conurbations have been placed under Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine since cases of COVID-19 have been increasing. As a result, the alarming rise in cases have stirred panic and fear among us teachers, our learners and their parents, and the nation as a whole (and unleashing in all of us a plethora of worries).

The impending opening of classes has provided us teachers with the opportune time to prepare ourselves physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally, albeit double the effort in preparation for the new normal in learning. We educators may have done double (or triple) the requisites that regulatory bodies impose, but we are still standing tall and strong, as we are wont to do. Despite the many controversies that have hounded the state of education, we educators still do roll with the punches (without compromising our principles, of course) and rise to the occasion like a valiant soldier would in times of war (but in peacetime today, we are fighting an insurmountable, pernicious war that is the COVID-19 pandemic).

As part of our preparation, I would like to personally share the letter below for our students to read (you may read it aloud to them and then share the letter with your fellow educators).

Dear learners:

We, your teachers, hope that you are doing great even when you are mainly at home, waiting for school to begin in a matter of two weeks. Frankly, we have been rattled and overwhelmed by so many things that have happened ever since the pandemic began full blast. We constantly think about you and are constantly worried about what is going to happen in this new normal especially when it comes to your learning. No one, not even DepEd and CHED, saw the pandemic coming even when 102 years have passed since the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 first hit the world, eventually claiming millions of lives by 1920. Nobody is to blame for this sudden upheaval, but so far it has tested our patience, resilience, resourcefulness, and humanity.

While you are all agog over your summer vacation plans (which were suddenly nipped in the bud by the ECQ to a point), we still pore over your turned in work, your evaluation, your records, and other requirements for you to be eligible to enroll this coming academic year. Frankly, we feel like we are assembly line robots trying to cope with the demands of Ford, General Motors, Mercedes, or BMW in a matter of time. But we are not robots. We are humans who have needs, wants, feelings, sentiments, sensibilities, and shortcomings. It is sad to think that it seems that all our efforts come to naught whenever someone (or several, or even a multitude, what a pity) criticize us for the pettiest of mistakes and sometimes for our efforts to make you toe the line, which is for your own betterment and benefit. We, your teachers and mentors, understand that you go through stages in your life and through moods that sometimes rile you up. However, what gets our goat is that sometimes you refuse to listen to our admonitions and to our reminders to do your homework, as well as your penchant for turning the tables the wrong way and making a scapegoat out of us.

Despite your deficiencies and rebellious tendencies, we your teachers and mentors still forgive you with all our hearts and leave the past behind. We strive to understand you as much as we can and to protect you from the malevolence and the decadence of the outside world, while at the same time equipping you with courage, fortitude, and brawns to face the Goliaths in your life (translation: your problems, your adversaries, and your naysayers). We also are your cheerleaders in life, who only want you to succeed in the cleanest and most honest ways possible. Learning about your eventual successes would make us jump with pride; on the other hand, hearing about your failures would make us cry and seek the succor of the heavens, imploring God to intervene and put you on the right track, towards the right direction.

Please be patient with us for our shortcomings and little deficiencies. God knows that we your mentors strive to do better. Your presence, your efforts, and your achievements in school and in life cannot be gainsaid because without you, we your mentors would amount to nothing and would not be able to live for a noble purpose: to educate you and to lead to a path that is straight. We do not intend to play favorites and we strive not to do so because no matter who you are and what you did in the past, we will still accept you with open arms.

Dear students: love yourselves. Loving yourselves means caring for your body, your mind, and your heart, too. Our country would not be fortified without you, the hope of the future and the pride of the nation. Eat healthfully, read voraciously, and avoid vices completely. Love and respect your parents and your other elders because they provide you with the wisdom that they have gained through the years. You may have intelligence and skills but if you lack wisdom and guidance, you would eventually lose track of what you have lived for: to be a blessing to others and to our country. Love your fellow humans because God created us all in His image and likeness and because love can lead to greater things and to nobler ways of living and doing things. Love your school because you become more intelligent and refined as you learn so many concepts. Love God because without Him, you would not exist and live.

Live not for yourselves alone but for the country. Strive to help yourselves so that you can help others in the future through your chosen professions. Live with love and be happy, but do not forget to be responsible and to be empathetic towards others.

Please remember that even if you graduate from school, it does not mean that you have graduated from life. Keep on learning, growing, and sowing.
We are looking forward to your successes in life! We love you so much from the bottom of our hearts even if we do not say it!

Your Teachers