This December 2022, Maribel Vázquez Hidalgo has already accumulated more than five decades of teaching. Each calendar weighs on her entire being, the effects of an illness and of what she jokingly calls "sefuela", that is to say, according to her own words, "youth is gone"; however, in the classroom she is incombustible and happy. This last word enjoys here all its fullness and rightness: "I've had a wonderful time in this profession," she says at some point in the dialogue, which is exquisite and full of wisdom; a brief journey through the fruitful life of someone who at 16 years of age stepped into a classroom, as a teacher, for the first time.
"I was studying at the Cucalambé elementary school, those were times of great revolutionary effervescence and we young people were always waiting for what to do. In addition, that is when they gathered us together and told us that the following year there would be an explosion of enrollment among sixth graders and there, at that moment, I took my first step forward; after that, it has been an unbridled career.
"What we didn't know is that we had, when we returned, the surprise that those who had been classmates would become our first students since the enrollment explosion was really in Basic Secondary and not in sixth grade."
She tells this as just the beginning of a long trajectory of work that later led her to be one of the founders in Las Tunas of well-known schools in the countryside such as Los Melanios and to be part of the Misión Patria, in the context of the Battle of Ideas.
She talks about those who paved her way and she does not miss her unforgettable Spanish-Literature teacher Crisanto Henrique Marrero López. Moreover, there are my Grammar books suggested to him when he visited a class and told me that I was a star, but he pointed out 17 content errors, and then I had to study by Samuel Gili Gaya.
"He taught me that a Spanish teacher is a person who has to be aware of the whole culture, it's not just the subject and the predicate; it's much more. He taught me that ours is perhaps the most difficult language, with a tremendous amount of words and more than 19 variants around the world. And this must be illustrated to our children, today open to the world and surfing the Internet; we must show them that a language is a component of nationality and that we must respect it and try to communicate with clarity, precision, and coherence. And how complicated it is to try to teach all this in times when almost nobody reads!
"For these and other reasons, it is important for educators in all subjects to work on this basis. Sometimes, children do not get to the implicit meaning, of what is between the lines, and it turns out that, often, the messages of great literary works are not said. You have to think, analyze and reflect... and then you realize the final meaning of the piece."
"Teaching is all that and much more, and it is, above all, a load of convictions, of values, of feelings, because the purpose is to make us better and better people."
"From this point of view, the pedagogue has to study every day. It doesn't matter how long he has been in the profession and how many times he has taught the program because the reality is that every time, children are different, and they are different times, and they resemble their time. So, we have to speak the language of the time to be able to reach them with the messages we have to transmit from ancient times to today", she concludes."
The teacher, mine and that of so many of the students of the Luis Urquiza Jorge Vocational Pre-university Institute of Exact Sciences (Ipvce) or of the Camilo Cienfuegos military school is not the same and in essence, she is, although she is right when she says and confesses that in her profession she has to reinvent herself every day to equalize the distance between her age and that of her students.
"In this profession and for so many years we have interacted with so many ways of being and thinking... and we cannot mistake the path or the way of educating. I have always thought that a teacher has to have taught in his or her blood because that is what allows us to undertake a superior task."
"We cannot lose the perspective of dreaming and doing, that it does not matter if a human being does not know what the subject or the predicate is, we take care of that; but we take more care that he is a good person, that he does not even suffer if he does not learn, because the classes have to be feasts of knowledge, of feeling, of emotions. We have to laugh a lot, that's why I joke with them because at this stage of the championship, as they say in sports, there is a big difference between the age of my students and mine, and of course, there are generational conflicts! But these conflicts must be overcome based on the proper use of pedagogy and love for the profession, which is the same as having love for each one of them and responsibility for their learning."
"And I reiterate, you have to study hard and respect the profession, more so in these times. The more time and preparation we have, the more we realize that we still know nothing, but at least we have some weapons that allow us to succeed in the formation of that human being who needs and expects the best from us."
Cuban is talkative and witty; she has the gift to remain in the memories of her students also because of those witticisms or typical phrases that she addresses to them in the middle of the teaching-learning process. "I tell the students that you have to prepare yourself to go to the University and not for the place where you are going to see if you can give... they laugh a lot, the truth."
"And the thing is, in class, you have to have fun, enjoy yourself, and you have to think when the bell rings, 'Oh, how soon the shift is over!' Because if we don't leave an imprint, we have passed for fun, an imprint has to remain in the intellect and the hearts of the children. We have to provide society with good men and women who are useful, as Martí said, 'better than being a prince is to be useful'; and that is what it is all about, and that they love the profession they choose. With so many years of teaching in pre-university education, he has very well defined the essence and objective of this education that opens the doors to a professional future. "It is not only about academics, but also about a human sense and values such as responsibility so that the country will later have professionals who love their work and perform it well."
With these ideas behind her in her endless struggle, she arrives every day to the classrooms of the Ipvce, and she is seen, swiftly and quickly, climbing the stairs even though, as she says, it hurts "from the birth registration to the death certificate.
"Despite the time there we are still there, doing what we can but, above all, enjoying the experiences of working by, with, and for students who are the future of this city and any other place where they decide to go; but how good it is that they take with them the human quality and the knowledge that we try to deliver every day in that school."
"My greatest support is these generations, who need me and I need them too. I think I have had a wonderful time in this profession."