Posted in Teacher's Life

Limang Bagay na Natutunan ko Mula sa Pagiging Guro

Sasaglit pa lang ako sa pagtuturo. Ni wala pa yata sa kalingkingan ng mga taong iginugol na ng marami rito. Iyong pawis, boses, at kunot ng noong naibuhos ko, baka gapatak lang ng balde-balde nang naibuhos ng iba; at baka nga ang chalk na naipunas sa uniform ko’t mukha ay baka wala pa kumpara sa nalanghap na’t naibuga ng iba. Pero sa maikling panahon, may natutunan ako.

 

Una, hindi naman talaga madaling masindak ang mga esdudyante sa malalakas na boses. Kunwari lang silang tatahimik kapag tinawag mo ang pangalan nila sa mas mataas at malakas na tinig, pero hindi dahil natakot sila o nag-aalala dahil baka galit ka. Ang iba, napapalingon lang dahil nagulat na may mas malakas pa pala ang boses kaysa sa kanila. Hindi laging napapasunod ng malalakas at matataas na boses ang mga tao. May mga batang mas nakikinig kapag hindi ka sumisigaw, hindi bumubulyaw.

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Pangalawa, hindi laging bumibilib ang mga estudyante sa mga mahilig magsalita at magalit at manermon sa Ingles. Posibleng tumatahimik sila kapag niraratrat mo na sila ng nakakadugong mga salitang baka ni minsan eh hindi pa nila nasilayan man lang sa mga diksyunaryo nila sa bahay, pero hindi iyon garantiyang tumatagos nga ang mga sinasabi mo sa isip, puso, baga, o atay nila. Ang pagpapadugo ng ilong ay kailanman hindi magiging kapantay ng pagpapaintindi sa estudyante ng kung ano ang kaiga-igaya.

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Pangatlo, hindi nakakapagpayaman ang 98, at hindi rin nakakapagpataas ng pagtingin sa sarili o dignidad bilang guro ang pagpapaulan ng 75, kahit na ang 70. Hindi masama ang magbigay ng mataas na grade sa mga sadyang magagaling, bibong mga bata. At hindi rin tama ang pagbaha ng 75 o 70 dahil lang hindi mo feel ang mga hikaw sa ilong, mahaba at mabahong buhok, makapal na make-up, bunging ngipin, malaking ilong, o hapit na pantalon, mas mini pa sa miniskirt na suot, o corny na joke ng estudyante mo. Ibigay lang ang 75 o 70 doon sa mga tamad sa lahat ng bagay, lalo na sa pag-iisip.

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Pang-apat, hindi lahat ng tahimik sa klase, nakikinig. Hindi rin lahat ng bibo at sagot nang sagot ay magulo. Mas madalas pa nga eh baliktad iyan. At kahit totoo rin ito, hindi rin tamang isipin na lahat ng tahimik at walang imik ay walang alam at lumilipad ang utak at na ang lahat ng madada sa klase ay nakakaintindi sa sinasabi mo. Bilang tagapagturo, huwag kang laging naniniwala sa nakikita mo. Tandaan, maraming namamatay sa maling akala. May kanya-kanyang personalidad lang talaga at trip ang mga estudyanteng kaharap mo. Gumawa ka ng paraan, mahirap man iyan o madali na maintindihan ang mga ito.

 

Panglima, hindi libro, o salita, o talino o kaalaman ang totoong sandata o gamit ng isang tagapagturo (mas bata man siya o matanda na). Sabi sa isang public talk na napakinggan ko noong nakaraang buwan lang, pag-ibig daw talaga ang totoong pinakamabisang gamit ng sinumang nagtuturo. Dahil kahit kailan, hindi magiging madali ang tumayo sa harap ng maraming estudyanteng iba-iba ang hilig at ambisyon at dahilan sa pagpasok (lalo na kung 50 sila o higit pa). Kung hindi mo silang kayang mahalin, hindi mo magagawang magturo, o tulungan sila. Baka nga kahit magbigay ng simpleng joke para gisingin ang natutulog na nilang mga utak at pagkatao (dahil alauna ang klase mo) ay hindi mo magawa. Hindi simpleng pagpasok sa classroom, magsulat sa board para may kokopyahin ang mga bata at pagtanggap ng suweldo sa kinsenas at katapusan ang sinusumpaan ng kahit sinong guro. Higit pa ito doon. Dahil buhay ang hawak mo (mga 50 o higit pang buhay), na pwedeng masira, o mapabuti.

 

Hindi ganoon kadali ang isabuhay lahat ng nabanggit ko. Dahil araw-araw na pumapasok ako sa mga klase ko at humaharap sa mga estudyante ko, anuman ang kurso o dahilan pa nila sa pagpasok, dumudugo pa rin ang ilong ko’t kumakabog ang dibdib, at humihiling na sana hindi ko masira ang buhay at mapatay ang pangarap nila. Pero isa lang din ang alam ko’t pinaniniwalaan – kung ibibigay ko ang puso ko sa pagtuturo, ibibigay din ng mga estudyante ang mga puso nila. IMG20170407132934

Posted in Teacher's Life

Dear Teacher (What Students Want to Say)

We have just finished reading and discussing King’s Decree (Utos ng Hari), a story written by Jun Cruz-Reyes in my Philippine Literature class last week. The story features a high school student named Jojo who questions/criticizes how some of his teachers treat students like him. The story shows that no matter how great the shortcomings of teachers are, students will still remain voiceless, deprived of the chance to air their sentiments. Most of my students said that they can relate to the story’s main character for they once had the same sentiments the character had, asked the same questions the character asked and have questioned some of their teachers’ decisions and actions the way Jojo did.

After the short class discussion, I gave my students a simple activity that would enable them to voice out whatever opinion or sentiments they still have about their teachers. I asked them to prepare a simple card that would contain the things they would tell their teachers if they would be given a chance.

These are some of the things they wrote on their cards:

I just want you to know that…we are not perfect. We can’t do everything you want us to do. Please be more patient. – Renzel Aquino

we just need to be understood and you are the one who should understand us because before you became teachers, you were once students, so we also expect you to know what we feel. – Sameera Cruz

Please teach us with all your heart and we should feel that you’re teaching us because you love to and you want to, not because you need to. – Michael Nastor

I respect you as my teacher and all I want is for you to respect us too. But sometimes your advices and the way you discipline us can hurt us. – Dianne Marron

Just because we fail in exams doesn’t mean we are not studying our lessons. – Priscila Gotgotao

Please respect us the way we respect you. Don’t judge our actions. We are also humans. We have feelings too. – Jonalyn Salinas

Tao lang din kami. Nahihirapan, napapagod. Hindi lang kayo. – Rhonna Vinluan

You are a good teacher and I know you will understand me. Please be fair to your students. We may sometimes be incompetent but you must help us. Train us. Mold us. Let’s help each other. – Israel Embuido

Teachers and students are humans alike. Both have feelings that should be respected and taken into consideration. – Lilibeth Calacsan

It is your duty to inspire and encourage us, not to pull us down. Mentors are to guide, not to let us abide. – Kurt dela Torre

As our teachers, your duty is to guide us and bring out the best in us. – Mary Edilyn Urbano

Alam po namin na kayo po ay may kapangyarihan sa loob ng silid aralan Ngunit masama din naman po ang pag-abuso sa kapanyarihan. Bigyan niyo po sana kami ng karapatang ipaglaban ang aming mga sarili lalo na kung kami ay nasatama. – Lara Jane de Guzman

I know that you just want us to learn but I think there are better ways to do that than being harsh to us. – Princess Castro

Wala akong tatay na doktor o magulang na may mataas na pinag-aralan. Pero sana po patas ang pagtrato niyo sa amin. – Casey Abarabar

I don’t have the qualities of a perfect teacher’s pet but what I have is the determination to study. But you have already taken that away from me. – Richelle Almaida

(I wrote and published this on Tumblr in 2013. It was my first time to teach Philippine Literature and it was the most exciting and humbling experience I have ever had.)

Posted in Teacher's Life

Putting on the Leader’s Suit

Shout and give orders and people will fear you. Motivate and toil with others and everyone will respect you.

One who aims to be a good leader shouldn’t only incite fear. Instead, he should endeavor to gain his subordinates’ trust and respect. However, without a measure of ethical standards and the willingness to adhere to such, this will not be feasible.

But what is ethics? Many would rather scoff at this topic and think that in this world, there really is no clear demarcation line between what should be done and what should not be done; some might even reason that sometimes we need to be crook to get what we want. But the truth is, to be in a position of honor, trust and respect means to exert oneself in the narrow gate of ethical and high-minded life.

Ethics, like most books and even real life experiences would show, brings positive results on anyone who adheres to it. It makes one systematic, instilling in him the ability to follow a certain set of strategies and significant steps in order to achieve whatever objective he has set. Moreover, it makes one a responsible and better person, making him more vigilant and careful knowing that his actions and decisions, big or small will always have an impact on others. Ethics therefore is anything one, especially someone who claims to be a leader, ought to do to be professional.

A leader is someone who is not only focused on implementing rules and plans. He is someone who convinces a group of skilled or even inexperienced individuals to do and be better. He propels the people he’s working with to achieve what might at the onset seemed unreachable. And how can ethics help him improve his craft?

When guided by sound and ethical principles, he can become someone who doesn’t only stand in front of his people, like an owner would do to his servants, whipping them with his rod of blunt instructions as to what direction they should take or how far they should go. Instead, he becomes someone who stands beside his own subordinates, taking them by their hands and uttering words of comfort and encouragement as they walk toward their destination, like a father would do to his dear child.

A leader is probably a head of a company, or an administrator of an institution or a supervisor of a particular department. Whatever he is leading, he might be tempted to abuse his power and enjoy its benefits. But ethical principles would hinder one from doing such. They would remind him to say no to very enticing yet ill rewards of his power – bribe money, sexual favors, privileges that present clear conflict of interest, or even the use of profane and obnoxious words when talking to the members of his team. They would make him stay true to his words – giving to his people the incentives he has promised to give them. His ethical principles will teach him to be just in all his dealings, to be more credible, believable.

When making decisions, he would see to it that it will be for the benefit of everyone and would welcome suggestions and even feedbacks if possible. He would always aim to come up with a fair judgment. He doesn’t accept credits for well accomplished works but puts the blame on his people when plans have failed. Instead, he declares every achievement a product of everyone’s earnest efforts.

His aim is not to be popular among his staff. His aim is to make his staff realize their own potentials and hone their own talents so they too can become leaders someday by setting a good example for them to follow.

But these might not always be easy for everyone. Aristotle once said “Unless you have a good character yourself, actions won’t be truly righteous or virtuous.”

Everyone may have the desire to lead, but not everyone will be worthy and qualified for such task. Without a good character, someone will only dominate his fellowman to his injury. But a good character, as we all know, cannot be obtained overnight. Strong and ethical principles in life are but the result of rigorous training that mainly has something to do with constantly doing what is upright.

So for anyone who would dare to assume a leader’s position someday, it will do him well to start training his conscience to reject selfish and injurious pursuits and to always uphold lofty moral standards because it is only through such that one can be truly followed, be appreciated and be worthy of respect.

Posted in Teacher's Life

For Macky, With Love

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When someone we love dies, he takes a piece of our heart with him in his grave, leaving us incomplete and marred. And no matter how many years would pass, the space in our heart where that piece once was will always be empty.

One of my students, Macky, died today and his death broke me.

Macky was more than just a student. He was an excellent lay out artist, a cartoonist, a comic artist, a story teller, a film maker all rolled into one package – a young guy in black shirt, printed backpack and fashionable shoes. He could turn ordinary settings to appealing frenzied scenes, seemingly impossible plans to great and memorable realities. I have been with Macky for three years. I have seen him work on our school’s official publication and toil for one event I have always dreamt of organizing; I have watched him talk in a series of workshops I have organized. I have listened to his rants and melancholic stories about his sister. And I will never see him do these things ever again. That is painful. Unnerving.

Macky didn’t know this, but I was a fan of all his undertakings. One of my roles in his life as his teacher was to inspire him. But Macky, with all his glittering ideas and admirable dedication moved me, humbled me and inspired me to become better in my own craft.

I have been trying to contemplate his death the whole day – why it happened, why him. But all I can come down to is the truth that his death is like a bowl of overly bitter ampalaya I can never bring myself to chew and swallow. All deaths they say are sudden and surprising. But in my eyes, his death wasn’t anything like that.

He had been sick for a month, had been in and out of the hospital for weeks, had been dealing with his on and off fever and had been diagnosed with an illness which according to the doctor, would lead to death if uncured. Macky had been losing weight. That was why we have been worried about him. His classmates and closest friends would pay him a visit at the hospital. And for several nights, I too, prayed for him. Death was just at the door, getting ready to knock, but Macky, his family and everyone who knows him including me shun that thought.

His death didn’t surprise me, it paralyzed me. After hearing about his death, I just stayed in my bed and hid under the blanket. I refused to call some of his classmates. I refused to offer them comfort. How can I now do for others something that I couldn’t do for myself? The news about his death has never left me. I started imagining about the days that will come after today – when I would already have to go to school and I won’t be able to talk to him again or see him sitting among his classmates while listening to my lecture. How can I facilitate the production and publication of our school paper without remembering him? How can I organize another film festival without yearning for his presence?

I was his teacher. And even using the verb “was” now while talking about him crushes my heart. He was supposed to learn from me and take lessons from me, but what he took was a piece of my heart that can never be replaced or replicated.

Death doesn’t only take away the people we love. It takes a piece of our life, our heart, ourselves. That’s what I hate about death. I may be able to meet another student whose qualities and interests would be similar to Macky’s in the future. But there will be no another Macky. He is a photo in an album I would always look at and a story I will always talk about whether I want to or otherwise.

Posted in Teacher's Life

Lovers’ Quarrel

Last week, I asked my students in my Essay Writing class to write a short narrative paragraph that will illustrate the line “my parents are on the edge of breaking up.” While they’re busy working on their narratives, I also tried to come up with one and here’s what I wrote:

“My father was a machinist. That day, his voice was as loud as his “torno” while he was hurling invective at my mother who couldn’t even dare to face him for the fear that she would be directly hit or wounded by his words the moment she does.

I couldn’t really understand what they were talking, fighting about. All I could remember was that my father’s sentences all ended with “tanga.

“Ikaw kasi ang tanga mo,” I heard my Papa said. Then I saw Mama turned and lifted her hand. It was then that I heard the sound that was more frightening than banging doors, breaking windows, thunders or even the strong and raging wind during Cosme –  for the first time, she slapped my father on the face.  Cosme’s vicious strength can be seen from the uprooted trees and electric posts and damaged houses. If Papa was hurt, then he had managed so well to hide his injury. His face remained blank.  

Mas tanga ka kasi nagpakasal ka sa tanga,” I heard my Mama retaliated before she stomped out of the kitchen, leaving my father staring at the tiled kitchen floor, and me sobbing. In front of me was a platter of rice, a bowl of tinola  and fried galonggong – everything that Mama cooked for what could have been our last hearty dinner together. “

Posted in Teacher's Life

What a Teacher Must Do: Be a Transformational Leader

Each style of leadership has its own strengths and weaknesses. But if I were to pick which of these will always be appropriate, it would be Transformational Leadership.

It allows for remarkable permutations to happen in the lives of everyone involved – the leader’s and the followers’. First, it is a must for a leader to set a good example, to become a role model for his subordinates and he can’t do that if he doesn’t possess positive qualities. Thus, he needs to get rid himself of evil ideas, motives and habits so he can effectively direct his followers. Second, followers are more inspired, more motivated and more elevated for they are being provided with the accurate information, support and encouragement. Their ideas are being heard and given importance. Their needs are considered. Their skills are being enhanced. Their weaknesses are not being ignored but are being eliminated for the prime concern of their leader is for them to change for the better. They are being trained to become leaders as well in the future. Third, the entire group has a better chance at succeeding for its members are not working just for the pursue their own interests, neither are they working just to get valuable things for themselves.

As a teacher who oftentimes need to take the lead in a class, I have observed that students would at times have to depend on you and at the same time would want to try doing things on their own but still yearn to hear positive remarks from you. Whenever I give my students tasks to do, I don’t merely ask them to do it and leave them. I make sure that I am there to watch how they are going to complete the task and offer help whenever such is needed. When they failed on a task, I don’t play God and decide on my own how to prevent such mishaps from happening again. I seek for their opinions about why they failed, what they learned from it and how they can avoid failing the next time they are asked to work on a task. I do not usually make rules for my students. Instead, I ask my students to help create rules which we all have to abide whenever we are in the classroom. And I have found this practice effective for my students feel disobeying rules will be tantamount to cheating on themselves.I do not also use my power as a teacher to violate the rules we all created. As the leader, it is a must for me to set a good example.

I do not use my phone whenever I am in class because I also do not want to see my students doing such especially during class discussions. I come to class on time for I also want my students to do the same. I do not utter profanities for we had an agreement that profane words are a taboo in our class.That way, I can gain my students’ trust and respect.

I make sure that at the end of the semester, my students will become better than the person they were the first time they entered my class.And I have realized that this form of leadership is effective.
Being authoritative and being lax will just move my students to hate or even curse me. Be authoritative and you will only instill fear in them. They will obey you because they are afraid of you. Give them unrestricted freedom and they will only learn to depend on themselves and they will detach themselves from you.

But try to be with them especially at times when your guidance or mere presence is needed, make them feel that they too can win and succeed, persuade them that there is nothing noble about being mediocre, instead, they need to be better than the person they were before and help them improve and they will obey you; and this time with a willing heart and deep respect.It is only through transformational leadership that you can touch and change people’s lives.

Posted in Teacher's Life

Post exam Blues

Quizzes, group activities and long exams are regularly being given to:

1. measure the knowledge students have acquired,

2. determine how well students understood the lessons presented to them and

3. see how the students would apply these lessons.

I give exams not because I want my students to suffer. I don’t even bask in the complaints they make about how difficult the exam is (like some teachers do) and neither do I feel happy when I end up giving them low scores when I check their papers afterwards. In the first place, when students get low scores, the students aren’t the only ones to blame. Such situation should prompt a teacher to assess himself and the teaching methods he employed in presenting the lessons to the learners. Such should prompt him to examine the things he did and didn’t do which probably had contributed to his students’ failure to perform well in the exam.

We just had our first long exam this semester and though some of my students managed to pass, I couldn’t help but say that I’m still far from being elated.

I usually give ‘Modified True or False’ during exams. I do not only ask students to identify whether a statement is true or false; I also ask them to explain or justify their answer. I also give them a chance to explain some concepts and discuss how such things could affect their lives as students by asking them to write short essays. The way my students would answer such types of exam would help me see whether they clearly understood the things we discussed in class. Moreover, it would also give me the opportunity to predict whether they would care to apply such lessons in the future.

I am not expecting my students to understand or remember everything considering the fact that they aren’t perfect and the way they perceive my subject would to some extent affect their receptiveness to what I am teaching them; but to get them to react on something they have learned in class means a lot to me and I don’t care whether they would agree or differ with such lessons.

Giving a response, I think, is an indication that they are willing to learn; and learning, I believe, would only happen if my students have already managed to incorporate new concepts they acquired from class discussions to the ones they already have. And I don’t expect them to have such kind of response to everything. Quality is more significant than quantity I suppose. If they could find it in their hearts to accept one lesson and apply it, then that would be fine with me.

But it’s an entirely different story when students leave some or all items in the exam unanswered. Apart from the fact that they don’t give me something to check, such wouldn’t offer me any glimpse into the thoughts they may have on the lessons I discussed with them. I would have to give them a zero (0) on the parts of the exam they refused or failed to answer but I wouldn’t be able to say whether they really learned something or otherwise. ‘No answer’ doesn’t always mean ‘poor understanding’ or ‘zero knowledge.’ The thing is, a paper with no answers in it is worse than a paper full of wrong answers.

I give exams not because I want my students to suffer. I give exams so that I would know how I could help them. Exam results give us not only numbers that would eventually lead us to our students’ grades. Such help us ascertain our own shortcomings as facilitators of learning and make it possible for us to improve or modify our teaching strategies making them more suitable to our learners’ needs.

So if they wouldn’t be giving me anything during exams, then I would forever be in limbo, feeling iffy, not sure of what to do next. If I want to help my students, then that’s the kind of predicament I should never be in.

(This was first published in Tumblr)