Master Teacher in the digital world

IT has been said that there are seven pillars of society, namely religion, family, business, education, government, arts and entertainment, and media. Some add an eighth pillar—sports and culture. While others cut them down to just five fundamental pillars: respect for the human person, the institution of the family, fair and effective law and government, universities and economic organizations. Whether it is seven, eight, or five, I concur with the proposition that government and education are the two pillars that differentiate societies that simply survive from those that thrive. The role of government cannot be overstated as things at present are affected by decisions of policy-makers. What has been done or not done during the 75 days (thus far) of community quarantine were largely, if not solely, dictated by government leaders. In the days to come, all of us will depend not on what we may think is best for us, but rather, on what those in government think is best for the general welfare of society.

In contrast, the role of education is just as critical since the future will be impacted by the way our youth is educated. For me, we can never postpone or cancel an academic year of education for the sake of public health. There are so many other ways where education can be carried out despite limited face-to-face interaction.

Being in the academe for more than 20 years now, I have both witnessed and adopted different teaching methods to help my students learn. As millennials these days are tech-savvy, learning can even be enhanced. There are a good number of Internet-based applications for education available for the taking. In the public school environment where some students would not have access to decent Internet connection, school materials can be sent home for reference with teacher involvement by phone or pre-recorded video lectures. For this new way of doing things, however, technology is just the means and learning is the end.

In Ateneo Law, for instance, the leadership has decided to apply an online learning philosophy, which largely depends on three essential ingredients—content, teacher, and student. Primarily asynchronous, online learning can be designed in such a way that the focus is not on teachers’ lectures but on students’ tasks or assignments. For instance, since the lockdown started, I have administered seven quizzes to my law students via Google Drive. As soon as I upload the quiz, they answer in real-time since I can actually see what they write while they are encoding their answers. I can also see when they actually submit their answers, seeing the time stamp when their file was last edited or uploaded. Checking their quizzes takes more time though, as I try to give them more than just the right answer. I even give them tips on how to answer any law exam question in the process.

In my freshmen class, we’ve had about four professor-student interactions (PSI) online via Zoom. Instead of my usual scribbled notes in the school whiteboard, I present to them key points via PowerPoint as I share my screen during the PSI. Despite the lack of physical interactions, I believe I can still assess the performance of my students with the hope that they are learning what we have discussed through the mechanisms of quiz feedback and PSI. These coming days, learning can be difficult to both the teacher and the student, but it is not impossible. Teachers just have to be creative. We need to reorient our mindsets and accept that the traditional teacher-centric teaching method can, and will likely, be replaced with an equally effective online student-centric learning method instead.

In history, one Master Teacher radically changed the teaching methods that prevailed during his time. He was a creative storyteller with lots of credibility, whose stories shocked and awed many of his students and listeners. He used quite a lot of hyperbole not only to get his students’ attention but also to definitely get his lessons across. He taught not within the confines of a classroom, but in any place where people would want to listen to him. He asked a lot of questions to his students similar to a law professor. An avid promoter of visual communication, he made use of various tangible aids to communicate his message visually. Once he employed an actual child to teach child-like faith. He treated his students as his masters one time to teach the principle of servant leadership. He crafted some catchy sayings, the most widely known perhaps is what we now know as the Golden Rule. In the Bible, Luke 6:31 tells us that the Master Teacher said, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” The lesson sticks! We all remember!

Online learning can be just as effective as the traditional way of teaching. So, for educators like me, if we want to be an effective teacher, in the advent of this New Normal, let’s model our methods after Jesus, the Master Teacher. As inspirational author Andy Stanley says, “Memorable is portable.” If our students remember what we tell them, then they have learned the lesson. Believers learn and apply lessons from the Master Teacher all throughout their lives. In the same vein, our students will carry the lessons they have learned from us wherever they go now, and, more important, in the future. As teachers to their own children, parents are reminded to “Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.”(Proverbs 22:6)

Society depends on us to teach our students and our children effectively as much as our country depends on them in the future as influencers in any of the pillars of society—religion, family, business, education, government, arts and entertainment, sports and culture, and media.

A former infantry and intelligence officer in the Army, Siegfred Mison showcased his servant leadership philosophy in organizations such as the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Malcolm Law Offices, Infogix Inc., University of the East, Bureau of Immigration, and Philippine Airlines. He is a graduate of West Point in New York, Ateneo Law School, and University of Southern California. A corporate lawyer by profession, he is an inspirational teacher and a Spirit-filled writer with a mission.

For questions and comments, please e-mail me at [email protected]

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