Friday, January 24, 2014

Outstanding Spanish Educator: Cipriano Ramírez


To be an educator is to be a part of one of the most influential vocations, one that is of vital importance to a country. Teachers are responsible for shaping the generations that will compose our future societies, and they play a major role in constructing the personalities of these new, young-adults. Education, cultural awareness, motivation, and even enthusiasm to take on new challenges and face obstacles is largely determined by these same educators who guide these children throughout most of their young lives.
However, as we all know, there are some good educators out there, even some exceptional ones, and some less good as well. Everyone has had at least one of these exceptional teachers in their lives: one who knows how to truly educate, who seeks to motivate their students and makes the subject matter enjoyable to them; one that celebrates the small victories such as good grades on an exam and who is troubled when they don't go as well. Thanks to these teachers, there are many successful adults out there who try to make the best of themselves that they can. Cipriano Ramirez is not one of those compelling teachers, in any respect.

Cipriano Ramirez is the fake name I have given to talk about all of those teachers whose job it is to educate, but who fail to do so. Those professors who would benefit everyone by removing themselves from the classrooms and letting new generations of educators take over, ones with more passion and enthusiasm for their work. They should abscond themselves from their duties for the good of the future generations, and for the overall health of our country.

It's these professors with an air of hubris who, through years of working in public schools, have earned a respectable position (headteacher or even director of the institution), and begin to believe that they are almost god-like in their power; untouchable entities who can do whatever they want, and who think of their students as little more than an annoyance that they have to take care of day after day. They have completely forgotten that what is their obligation, and should be their passion: to educate.

Mayhaps we need to recall what it is to educate, exactly. When one is educating, they are imparting knowledge of a subject onto their students that they want to teach them. The objectives is not to give the same paragraph to memorize year after year, to simply create an exam with whatever questions and then to assign a grade. To educate is to be concerned with how this material is presented, to make sure it is done in an adequate way that adapts to the needs of the students. To ensure that the students are actually learning, and that they are learning it in a correct way, in that the knowledge will stay with them longer than the time it takes to memorize it for the exam. To present the material in a way that is enjoyable and motivational so that the students are as receptive as possible to what they are learning and it can shape their growth. However, for this to happen, there is some absolute, fundamental principles that must be embraced fully, but unfortunately they are violated daily in many of our schools, colleges and universities with impunity, without anyone attempting to stop it: good manners and respect.

I'm talking about those moments of arrogance and public humiliation that occur. The student, with enthusiasm to learn more about a topic, asks a question about something that they do not fully understand, and the teacher, their face expressing their tedium, instead of answering the question, lets loose a barrage of sarcastic comments such as, "Let's see, can anyone explain this to him?". I have personally seen professors give students a smack on the back of the head; but their main form of punishment isn't physical, it´s humiliation, professors calling their students idiots, or insulting them by responding condescendingly and sarcastically. Do you know what happens inside the mind of a student when things like this happen? That student stops wanting to ask questions, stops wanting to go to class, and therefore stops learning altogether.

Cipriano Ramirez is not doing a service to his students. He treats his students like a band of idiots because, after all, he is a demigod. In one case, a student wanted to change the schedule of their classes because the administration had committed an error and not assigned him to the courses he had requested. Ramirez responded to them with a, "Go away, I don't want any more troublemakers, always trying to switch classes", forcing him to leave without even listening to him, even though the student was within the registration changing period and had every right to do so.

Ramirez had commented to the class previously that if the students had any complaint, that they should take it to the director of the school, immediately adding, "Oh wait, that's me". This type of inappropriate conduct teaches students to think that they should simply obey every demand that is imposed by higher authority, without question. This is something that then happens not only within the educational community, but in every other government institution across Spain.

This type of behavior would be seen as a genuine scandal in the United States. The professor would be openly investigated or even outright fired. Our educational system generates people who are afraid to ask questions, to learn, to be publicly humiliated, and they are left without a real education, in part because of the bad teachers who abuse their positions of power.

The worst of all is that I have heard these stories told to me amidst joking, signaling an acceptance and resignation of their plight. The situations seem almost comical when they happen to someone else, but the conclusion is always, "What are ya gonna do, that's just the way it is." No, people, that's not just the way it is, it is a scandal in every sense of the word and we should be doing something about it.

In Spain, we have plenty of young people studying education; people who want to teach and who want their students to actually learn. This country needs to revamp the system and bring in the new generation of educators to do away with all of the shitty ones that have been accumulating over the years.