Many would ask, “why are you visiting each one of them? What’s your purpose?” Some would even question, “how do you fit that in your schedule? How do you do that?”
But actually, the real question is how do THEY do that?
On the 19th of August, I created a blog post entitled “The Child Inside“. It was a product of my depression and exhaustion with the way things turned out; it was as if I didn’t love teaching at all. I felt that I could no longer do the things I loved to do before this came.
I could remember how I sighed and cried as I wrote the post. Questions never stopped entering my mind, while answers never came in.
How could I be in the system without being swallowed by it? When would they realize the sentiments of both the parents and teachers? How could I do my part as a teacher without my morals being tampered?
How could I persuade the parents to invest in education? How could I know their situation if they don’t even show up during report card dates? Why is it okay not to show up when I call them?
How could I make my students love the subject I loved the most? Do they realize the importance of every subject I teach? When would they realize that learning, and not just education per se, is important?
How could I teach these students and do paper works without sacrificing my personal time? How could I do the things I loved to do before? Why am I even doing this? Is this for myself? Is this for my country? Is this for the organization I applied for? Is this for my kids? Is this for all of the above? If it is…
How am I sure that I am doing my part?
I ponder on these questions every waking moment of my life. There was no time that I would not reflect on them.
My class started with fifty-six students. One transferred out, another disappeared; both happened in September. I just heard the news that my students saw the latter in Fairview… smoking, drinking and playing basketball. Even when I tried to find him, fate wouldn’t just let us meet. I honestly thought that I failed being a “transformational” teacher that the people who knew the organization hoped to be.
And thus, the announcement.
In the morning of October 22, I made the announcement in class that I would visit them one by one randomly, starting the next day. There was no backing out since I would not like to be the adult who would not keep my promises to my own children. If you could only see the excitement in my students’ eyes. They clapped and shouted, and I even have to chant 1-2-3-eyes-on-me just to get their attention again.
My journey of visiting their homes started from October 23, 2013 and ended on March 18, 2014.
I could not express all my feelings in a summary. I was terrified, excited, depressed, and hopeful at the end of my journey. Most of them lived beyond secret passages arising from eskinitas and esteros. Some had to sleep on a floor approximately ten square meters, yet they were five or six in a family. Horrifying stories of the death of their loved ones scared me, especially that the criminals may be one of the people walking on the streets. I could not even think on how they could survive working for more than ten hours a day earning minimum wage or less.
This made me realize why some of my students roam around the room like crazy… why some of them could not read… why some of them could slap a classmate without even justifying why… why some of them could not resist hugging me at the end of every day…
This made me realize life beyond the life I knew.
Honestly when I was a kid, I really thought our country had more middle-class citizens who can afford at least a black and white phone. To quote someone who I had a ride with in a jeepney, “Sino pa ba ang walang Facebook?” But this adventure proved me that, yes, most of us still do not have Facebook. Indeed, being exposed to their environment made me want to strangle my youth.
I was blind for twenty-one and a half years.
I know I can never save any of my students from poverty, and all the problems that the world had to face. But as I quote my favorite blog about teaching written by a co-fellow, Regina Pasion,
At the end of the day, they smile, wave, and bid me goodbye with all the love and innocence of a child. They’re teaching me more than I am probably teaching them. To be honest, it’s bittersweet to think about those moments. Maybe I am doing something right. But at the same time, I know they will walk away and move on. They will grow up. I can only hope, then, that I’ve done enough for them to grow up to be good people.
Putting these into writing started with the reason that I simply wanted to document every visit like a diary. Anyone would know that feeling of putting your thoughts into writing especially when things get overwhelming. Another was to start writing again. I wanted to write something… something very different from a romance novel. A new genre perhaps. And maybe, this was it.
As I write these experiences from my memory, readers of my romance novels began sending messages privately, which surprised me. I soon figured out where I could use my love for writing. Again, I could not lift them and their families through writing my visits. I could not give them houses to live, money to buy food, their baon everyday just to go to school.
I can teach them.
I can teach them Math. I can teach them the basic operations so they will know that all that is too less or too much will never be good. So in the future, they will learn how to share and save. So in the future, they will learn not to give in to graft and corruption.
I can teach them Science and the art of questioning. I can teach them how wonderful our planet is, and that we are responsible to take care of it. I can teach them to be curious by asking ‘why’ questions. Because one day, I may not know, that one of these kids will be a scientist.
I can teach them English. I may not be able to deliver everything technically, but I can teach them respect. I can teach them how to say ‘good morning’ or ‘sorry’. I can teach them that through language, we are able to communicate and share thoughts we want to share.
I can inspire teachers to do the same.
I can make the youth see a glimpse of a world they’ve never seen. As stated a while ago, I was ignorant for so long, and there’s a possibility that some of them are too. As someone who could influence young adults through writing, I wanted to share these encounters to make them aware in detail. I may not know that one of them would be joining an education sector in our country, or that they would be business executives who will invest in education.
I may not know.
I may not document every success I had this year, but I guess all I have to remember was that once upon time, I gave my best to teach these kids to prepare them for grade 4, and maybe for life. That once upon a time, these students gave it a shot for grade 3.
This, to summarize, is a way to remember my why.
A quote about teachers says, “A good teacher is like a candle – it consumes itself to light the way for others.” But do we really have to be candles? Do we really have to consume ourselves? I think good teachers aren’t candles because good teachers know how to conserve their energy.
Because in teaching, it’s not you, the teacher, alone; nor them, the students, alone.
Both of you matter.