LOCATING THE LITERATURE TEACHER IN THE CONTEMPORARY AGE
In this postmodern world, we are truly living already in the digital and technological era. Everything seems to be automatic that people would just need to chant a little spell and the work shall be done. Japan, for an instance, has already developed robots and other automated gadgets making the lives of people easier. There are now books read on tablets and smartphones instead of the traditional paperback and hardbound books. The internet almost provides everything—from how to plant a gumamela to the context and historical milieu of the works of Shakespeare. It seems that we just need to type some words and we will already have the answer.
There was a time that the time magazine featured the “you”–which is obviously us who are embraced by the technological era. We live in an era where information seems to expand and expand and connection between litterateurs across the world is easier. Information indeed is already given to us and we are the glad recipients of it. However, do we really maximize the use of this information open-handedly given to us? Or we just accept it but do not even rely on it?
In the Philippine setting, we are now experiencing technological advancements and globalization so fast that most of the time, we can’t almost keep up with it. There is the recent K-12 reformation of education that is detrimental to instructors and professors of general subjects and the humanities. This kind of system may be beneficial because it may help students, especially those who can’t continue until college, have a decent work. But on the other hand, instructors and professors might lose their jobs or they might be delegated to high schools teaching general courses. Of course, this could be a blow to them because they will be working in an environment which is new to them in whatever manner because there is a difference between college and high school education and students.
According to the recent 2012 Alexa rankings, the results presented that Facebook.com is the most visited website in the Philippines, followed by the search engines like Google.com(.ph) and Yahoo.com(.ph). Facebook.com is now the best avenue of virtual socialization to find classmates from high school and elementary, to promote causes and business products, to share thoughts and opinions about current issues, and many more. It is already like a virtual space of its own, catering to the needs of its users by incorporating a lot of features that may hinder a person from not choosing Facebook. It has Notes and Document Uploads that enables people to share documents and information. It also has games that will surely entertain its users and also fan pages grouping people together with same interest(s). Truly, Facebook became an important avenue for people to render it as their own “virtual tambayan”.
With all of these being said, is there still a value for literature teachers in the age of Facebook, K-12, and of virtual and hyper realities? The question cannot be answered in a straightforward one-sentence explanation because all of the concepts present may be connected through the present global advancement but nevertheless, they are different in giving provenance to the teachers of literature in the present.
Literature Teachers in the Facebook Age
Facebook is a great site of information. Through Facebook, we can witness a lot of events that can’t be provided immediately by the media to us. The question is, how important is Facebook in the present age…and what makes Facebook not important or disadvantageous? Firstly, Facebook is important because it promotes “additional” connection. In this technological age, our smartphones enable us to connect with others wherever we are (unless there is no signal reception in the area) but now, it is capable of using the internet and help us to connect to Facebook. Here, students can connect with their professors and ask questions regarding their lessons or ask help from a lesson that they failed to understand properly.
Second, Facebook enables the use of groups. Students using the group system may interact with each other to create a virtual classroom of exchanging set of thoughts about their lessons. This system also enables a faster update when there are announcements regarding academic setting. Also, this system is effective and efficient because when students have additional questions regarding the announcement, everybody in the group can see the question asked and the answer given, avoiding people to ask the same question over and over again, promoting rapid dissemination of information. Because of this group system, students can interact in academic context rapidly and efficiently, maximizing the time outside the academic setting and contributing to time needed in the classroom for discussions. It is also important to note that a teacher can also create a group to upload important texts / hand-outs and for important announcements instantly connecting to almost every student handled with connection to the Facebook and the internet.
Third, the internet in general can provide study guides to students when they can’t understand a certain lesson or text. Especially in literature, some students are having a hard time grasping the theme of a certain story or the story’s event flow itself. There are many analysis guides and summaries provided in the internet that can aid the student in the further understanding of the text, enabling them to come extra prepared in class and promoting their ability to recite voluntarily or when called by the teacher.
Fourth, in connection with the third importance, there are many video sites that perform or enact short stories, poems, plays, or novels that also promote better and easier understanding because of the music and video accompaniment. Students may also use the film/s to promote critical thinking by comparing how events and situations were portrayed to the written text.
The disadvantages of Facebook seems to be obvious, or the internet itself. It primarily promotes laziness that some students won’t read literary texts anymore and rely on the summary or the analysis itself. It promotes reliance too much on technology that students nowadays are letting technology to control their will and mind. As the Philippines is not a reading nation, students would resort to anything that would make their lives easier by not reading much instead, just using the internet as an extension of their automated thinking. Truly, the internet is the information age but students who are embraced by laziness would not resort to reading long pieces of information and instead, just focus on summaries provided and some reviews given.
With these given, how is the literature placed as an important scholar in this technological age? The literature teacher has a very important value. The literature teacher can guide the students into further understanding of the texts by engaging the students into critical thinking, incorporating interesting notions about their environment, and assisting them into the answering of questions. It is enough to ask “what happened” but it is important to note, “why it happened.” Summaries may help the students but summaries are always limited to what the “summarizer” has provided. He may opt to leave important statements and facts that will be very important in the explication of any literary text. By focusing also into the little details in a literary selection, the literature teacher can help make the student understand that reading is also an important aspect because it enriches him more.
The main role of the literature teacher is not to teach literature but to encourage students to be interested in literature and to read literature. What is the point of teaching literature if no one’s interested? With the no-interest of the students expounded, they resort to things that would just make them pass instead of learning. In the “Faculty of Arts and Letters” unofficial fan page, there is a post there that a certain student doesn’t like literature—or even to read literature, until he met this literature professor that made him realize literature is fun and even beyond what he regards as a boring downpour of texts. He was inspired to read selections because the literature professor also relates the text into the everyday life, making him (and other students) realize something affective.
The literature teacher must also serve not only as an inspiration but as guidance. There might be times that students resort to the internet as a guide because they are afraid to go to their literature teachers for questions. Especially in a classroom setting, students are shy to answer whenever a teacher would ask, “Class, are there any questions?” Students would normally say “none” even though there are a lot of students with questions. The value of a literature teacher is to guide the student not only in the understanding of the text but to help him “how” to understand a text better which the internet cannot provide instantaneously. The literature teacher can guide a student by interviewing him how he read the text, how he understood the text, and why did he fail to grasp the main theme of the text. With this interview, the literature teacher can set his standards and way of teaching to the level of the students to further help them in being interested in literature.
Literature Teachers in the Age of K-12
At first, people were wondering what the use of K-12 is. It would be very hard to the students because it extends their pre-college life and many students are excited to experience college life and specialize on the program of their choice. However, DepEd emphasized that this program would be very beneficial to students and parents. It is evident primarily that there is an increasing hardship for parents to enroll their students to college. This results to students only finishing high school education and these students find it hard to seek jobs especially when they are already old. With the K-12 program, this enhances the capability of students learning education and increases their secureness of job even just after graduating high school.
Summarizing the benefits of K-12, it is centered on (1) solving the annual growth of out-of-school youth; (2) addressing the low achievement scores and poor academic performances in the elementary and high school education; (3) opening doors for more jobs for the youth even without college diploma; and (4) promoting the “professional” title of Filipinos even abroad. Given all these benefits, who wouldn’t like this system? This encourages people to study and finish high school and find a decent work afterwards. However, what would happen to the teachers especially in the field of general education and the humanities?
Primarily, there is hardly a literature education in the high school education. When I went to a birthday party of a close friend, a former classmate asked my program. I told her, “literature” and she retorted, “What is that?” I had to explain it thorough and ended up telling her that it is like, “AB English”. I wasn’t able to experience a decent literature education where we are required to read different short stories or numerous amounts of novels that would prepare us for having a literature degree sometime in the future. To be honest, during my stay in high school, I have only read one novel: The Giver by Lois Lowry, which is an important novel for us to read because we were required to write a critique paper for it. In conclusion, I wasn’t prepared for grasping literature in college, or rather; I am not prepared to take on a program on Literature. I have to thank my literature professors here in college that helped me to develop an interest in reading literature and appreciating them as an important form of educating our souls. Because of them, I am graduating soon with such degree.
Obviously, the K-12 program isn’t fully beneficial to literature teachers because they will only be able to teach major courses in literature and there is only one literature program even in the university, and only one section per year level. Generalist literature professors would have to specialize in one literary field to form an expertise rendering them able to teach major courses in literature. Some teachers of course would have to resort in teaching the general courses to high school students but perhaps it would be a competitive environment because of a massive amount of teachers being delegated to the high school. If this is the case, how is the literature teacher valued in this age?
Of course, the literature teacher is a very important element in high school education. As argued before, there is hardly a literature education in high school. With these literature teachers teaching literature in the high school, they can prepare the students in college and helping them to read important works in literature that helps them develop a consciousness of how important literature is and how it is situated in the present. Literature teachers can inspire students to read so that in the future, they will develop an interest in reading. It’s hard to teach students to read in the college because the college education expects them to have a due knowledge in grammar and vocabulary, as well as an extensive reading capability. With literature teachers in high school teaching general courses on literature, students would form an awareness what literature is and how literature is an embodiment of world and Philippine cultures.
Also, the literature teacher can serve as a consultant of literature in terms of what books can be suggested by the teacher according to the student’s interest of genre like romance, science fiction, or fantasy and of subject matter like student life, inspirational changes, and others. The literature teacher while teaching may use references to other literatures that may inspire a student to read such literature. For example, if the teacher is discussing a short story about romance, he or she can use other poems, novels, short stories, or plays with the same topic and give a gist that would entice the readers in reading it. Truly, this aspect of a literature teacher is very important and must not be disregarded.
Lastly, the literature teacher serves as a promoter of liberalism in education. The literature teacher is able influence students studying different matters in literature freely, also promoting consciousness not only in the literary world but also in the current issues of the world. Also, the literature professor helps the student in appreciating art and its variants helping the student on the value of art in the world and how it is a representation of many interpretations in the world.
Literature Teacher in the Age of Virtual and Hyper Realities
Truth be told, people nowadays are incorporating the virtual world as part of their lives. Some people might even say that they cannot live without the internet. Hyper realities distort our image of what is truly a reality and confuses us on how should we view the reality. Primarily, literature is also embedded with themes of hyper reality (close is, the fantasy genre) and people tend to love it because it explores something beyond the reality: beyond what our body and our eyes can handle. However, we are already viewing much of the world with a fantasy—the world is now being controlled by technology that what seemed to be impossible is now possible in the present, and maybe even in the future.
In this virtual world, people are spending more time in being with it rather than reading literature. People just download movies and television shows from the internet and marathon-watch it rather than staying in one corner of the room reading novels of Austen, Flaubert, or Hugo. The virtual world made entertainment more interesting: games now are more interactive like the Wii which uses the physical and present body of a person to play a game. Simply put, people nowadays like to enclose themselves in a physical hyperspace rather than travelling through reading books.
Even until the present time, a lot of libraries still conform to the traditional—that is, the library as a place for studying and reading. The library houses a lot of books categorized as a form of literature that students can freely read. However in the present, libraries seem to be just a place where students who need to accomplish an academic assignment stay to research; and not stay for pleasure reading. Some students also sleep and just use their laptops to browse websites of their liking without really maximizing the use of the library for pleasure reading and desire for information. Again, libraries are already being taken over by a virtual reality.
With many people indulging themselves with the virtual entertainment, what could be the role of literature teachers? How is their value determined in this virtual age where people are already living in a hyperspace immune to literature? Primarily, literature teachers themselves can participate in the virtual lives of the students by incorporating literature and the virtual arena. Simply put, combining the usage of literature and the virtual world. There are many films that are imbued with literary importance and suggesting them to students would prove very useful not only inspiring entertainment but also imparting knowledge. Secondly, create a virtual world for literature itself: encourage students to incorporate themselves in a reality or a fantasy in the virtual world using literary works. For example, why not create a community of lovers of romance novels and help them explicate the themes of romance novels to inspire students? Though this would be hard and perhaps, late already, there is still a chance to reform on how literary educators affect the students in the virtual world. Lastly, the literature teacher can serve as a moral and affective educator: why indulge in something virtual when you can find a greater reality, an imaginative reality reading books? That, through books, you can go beyond the windows of your own room—flying infinitely to the skies of unseen and unheard places, listening to merry music caused by pipes resonating within you—and finding yourself that you are a person and a student of the reality and not of the hyper reality or the virtual world.
Locating the Literature Teacher in the Contemporary Age
With all the fuss of the contemporary age affecting the literature teaching, it all goes down the literature teacher being an inspiration and an aspiration. The literature teacher serves as a beacon of light guiding the students to the path of what is right and what would be beneficial to them. The world without a literature teacher is like a world without anyone to guide you in your travels. It’s hard to travel without a guide or knowledge where you would like to travel and how to travel for an instance. You will be lost and disinterested in continuing the travelling life you would like to pursue.
Is there a need to map the location of a literature teacher in the digital, information, modernized, and technological age? Apparently, there is no need because the literature teacher himself is still present and valued (and needed) despite many hindrances to the students’ learning of literature. The literature teacher himself is the manifestation of the need for literary education. A literature teacher, though however shadowed by the modernity of the contemporary age, still exists and their value is of high importance. They continue to serve the students in educating them with different literary thoughts that would surely help them as they move on with their lives. It is true that literature is of a low unit value compared to the sciences. However, it is undeniable that those students guided by literature and literature teach know how to function more in life: because they had more experience in travelling and in knowing.