“ONE looks back to the brilliant teachers with gratitude . . . to those who touched our human feeling.” – Carl Gustav Jung
“The little world within us, like the great world without, is full of confusion and strife; but when Jesus enters it, and whispers ‘Peace be unto you,’ there is a calm, yea, a rapture of bliss.” – C.H. Spurgeon.
With 2017 with us, today January 0, the last day of Christmastide, we celebrate Epiphany in the Christian world as most Christians do. Epiphany from the Greek epiphania, means manifestation. Celebrating the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child (Matthew 2:1-12), we celebrate Christ’s revelation to the Three Kings at Bethlehem. Through them, Christ revealed Himself to the gentiles.
By itself, epiphany refers to a moment of sudden understanding of something very important to (oneself); a powerful religious experience – a divine manifestation.” Epiphany is “a perception of the essential nature or meaning of something; an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking, or an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure: a revealing scene or moment” (Mirriam Webster Dictionary) “usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience” (dictionary.com). In literature, epiphany is usually a symbolic “moment of revelation and insight.”
On this feast of the Epiphany, we draw inspiration to help shape the minds of our learners to perceive the essential meaning of some incident or circumstance, to duly revise their mental models and postulates, which otherwise would rob them of their highest dreams. But how do we tailor instruction to foster in them mental habits that draw, instead of shut out, from them opportunities to foster a reflective mind? As panel members for a class project, are learners trained to curb judgments, such as not to compare projects with another one, even before project feasibility has not been fully explored? Do we caution our guidance counselors, to be patient, to listen and understand a learner’s story instead of readily “placating or giving advice?” In literature classes, do we create an environment for learners to respect varied interpretations of a passage reminding them of its context? All these lead to habits of a reflective mind.
To conclude that our learners who generally are passive in class are inferior to learners in foreign shores is wrong. Typical Filipino passivity is cultural. However, the teacher’s supportive behavior rather than boring the class with incessant monologues or throwing biting remarks at learners’ failed attempts to demonstrate their learning, would greatly encourage more interactive sessions. What we need is to evoke in our learners an excitement to learn. Learners who enjoy what they learn, who nurse their lessons because they enjoy learning them, attend to details and in so doing develop patience and accuracy. There are many occasions where learners can be taught accuracy in their output. Instructing them to refer to the corresponding rubric and showing them how to organize their capstone essay to assure that its contents respond to what is required, foster development of their analytical and critical thinking. Proofreading their essay (correct grammar, correct terminology, correct spelling), reflecting on the finished product for final touches before submitting the essay, will discipline them to be more accurate and thorough. This doesn’t mean we pay more attention to format than to content. Sloppy essays ensconced in fancy folders do not a Pass mark make.
Learning is a commitment; learners have to dwell on the ideas posed to them, ruminate on them, digest and assimilate them. Only then can we say, one has learned.
But how do we develop in learners a genuine interest to learn, not merely to pass an exam but to make what is learned influence both mind and heart? How do we foster behaviors leading to “the highest level of student engagement and learning? How do we develop in them a strong inclination to not merely read through their texts or lectures, but learn with liking, evoking wonder in what is learned?
For example, learning leaf morphology in K-12 STEM, students take up the arrangement, attachment, shape, structure and margin of leaves. Will they realize the fact that no two leaves are exactly the same, just as even identical twins cannot be exactly alike in all ways? What does this imply? That there is one Supreme Being who can create such fantastic, myriad differences! (Some would remark, “But why does He allow surges? Hurricanes?”) This sets students on the consequences of man exercising his own freewill, which hopefully is reiterated in appropriate subjects. Could we expect our learners to experience some epiphany, some realization of what man’s actions can lead to? Can a class in morphology, while evoking the wonders of nature as God’s handiwork, make them also realize that mankind has so abused nature for selfish gains? Would a lesson in morphology occasion an epiphany in them, inspire them to nurture nature in their own way? That the strength of their resolve will make them staunch lifetime guardians of the environment? “A mind is a fire to be kindled, not a vessel to be filled.” (Plutarch)
Let us all pray to share the experience of the Magi–Christ revealing Himself to us, an epiphany for “the little world within us,” which, like this “great world without, is full of confusion and strife.”
TERESITA TANHUECO-TUMAPON is one of the most accomplished institutional management experts in the Philippines, she held top academic positions at Xavier University (the Ateneo de Cagayan) before heading chartered institutions. She attended topmost universities in the Philippines, Germany, Great Britain and Japan. An internationalization consultant on call, she is journal copy editor of, and Graduate Studies professorial lecturer at, the Liceo de Cagayan University. Awards include a Lifetime Professional Achievement Award from the Commission on Higher Education and recently, the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Verdienstorden der Bundesrepublik Deutschland). Contact: [email protected]
This article was republished with the permission of the author and it first appeared in the The Manila Times on January 6, 2017.