Missing Teaching

I filed for a vacation leave so I could submit my documents in applying for a teaching position in senior high school. Unfortunately, half of my day did not turn out well.

The process of applying for an NBI clearance had improved since the first time I applied for one. The thing was, I got a hit. My initial reaction was Weh? Someone has the exact name as mine? Take note that I had three names plus my middle name and my surname.

I decided not to submit in one of the cities I hoped to apply for since I lacked an NBI clearance. I proceeded to the division of Pasig, and tried to submit my application; but the person in charge said that I should submit it to the school where I wanted to apply for. I looked at google maps and saw that it would take me 40 minutes to go to the school without traffic. Due to time constraints, I opted not go anymore and proceeded to my top priority.

The taxi fare was 302 Php, but I did not mind. What’s important was I must reach the division of Quezon City schools before 4:00 PM. Besides, the heat was devastating. Upon submitting my documents, I saw the notice on the window that the deadline of submission was on first week of February. I did not lose hope and still asked if I could submit my documents or if I could submit them on the second semester, but the woman said that I should just try next year.

With grief and disappointment, I texted my colleagues and friends that I was not able to make it to the deadline. I was teary-eyed while walking by SM North, but lost it while I was inside the comfort room.

But I knew, my day would still end well. My last stop was at the school where I taught for two years.

with the Grade 3 teachers
with the Grade 3 teachers

I peeked into one of the Grade 4 rooms. When one student saw me and shouted, “Teacher Jessa!” my students just came out of the room, squeezing and pulling me into a tight hug. I surprised myself by calling them by their real names. How did I even manage to remember all of them? I thought. They were so excited to take a picture with me that only my bangs were captured in the photograph.

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At 6:10, I went downstairs and waited for my 3-Dela Cruz students. Students who knew me either took my hand (nagmano) or embraced me. Many were surprised, and most were delighted that I was able to make a visit.

Glenn Mark was stunned to see me. He was well-groomed, though he admitted that he had to take summer classes.

Mark Las-ay stared at me for a long time. He couldn’t believe I was there.

Desiree would not let go of my hand and told me how she could still remember our voices.

Kenli charged toward me and hugged me for minutes.

Lash, after exiting the school, went back to give a mano.

All of these… I knew my visit was worthwhile.

I chatted with some of my students. I kind of miss that at-the-end-of-the-day routine where my former students would go to me and tell stories about how their day went.

“Teacher, magtuturo ka ba ulit dito?”
“Si Teacher Gian kailan po bibisita?”
“Si Teacher Carlo din po kasama niyo?”
“Andito po si Teacher Sofia dati.”
“Babawi po ako sa fourth grading.”
“Miss na po namin kayo.”
“Wala po kasing top sa bawat subject eh.”
“Wag po kayo bibili ng smart bro kasi hindi gumagana yan eh.”
“Teacher lagot kami kapag tinanggal ni Mateo sapatos niya!”
“Perfect po siya sa test.”
“Siya yung sinasabi ko sa inyo! Magaling magturo yan!”
“Teacher wag ka magagalit ah… Baka umulit ako eh.”
“Nagpapasa naman po ako ng project pero mababa pa rin po grades ko.”
“48 nga siya sa exam eh!”
“Nagpapasaway kaya yan teacher!”
“Lumipat na po si Lexxina sa ibang school eh.”
“Ay magkwento nga daw hindi daw magsumbong!”
“Ganda ng teacher namin no?!”
“Add niyo po ko sa Facebook!”
“Crush niya po siya!”
“Quiet lang kasi mag BUHOS student kaya kayo!”
“Bumalik na po kasi kayo sa pagtuturo. Sa Grade 5 naman!”

I definitely miss teaching.

This is why, after all the misfortunes, I could say that my day still ended well.

LMC/DM Realizations

I would like to start by thanking Teach for the Philippines for the opportunity to learn at the Asian Institute of Management. It was a week full of wisdom, and I am very grateful to have completed the 9th Leadership and Management of Change for Development Managers (LMC/DM).

We were taught bridging leadership, appreciative inquiry, systems thinking, stakeholder analysis and engagement, and others. We discussed cases essential for the above-mentioned topics, and we were even able to present and discuss an action plan as an application of the lesson we have learned.

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Let me share with you what I learned by summarizing it to three key notes:

1. See the Structure Instead of the Root Cause

I was trained to solve problems using cause and effect. My thinking goes like “educational inequity leads to poverty,” “education is the key to a good government,” and “education is the solution to unemployment.” And as part of the youth, I always get to be idealistic, and I wanted to solve problems by attacking the root cause immediately. Given the following, it made me realize that one of the driving forces to pursue  the education field was because I believed that education was the root cause.

But in systems thinking, we were trained to think differently. Instead of asking “what is the root cause,” we now then ask “what is the structure that is causing the pattern that produced the event?” Of course there are multiple causes, but what is clear is that there is no root cause. So in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world we are now living in, instead of attacking what is assumed to be the root cause, it is more appropriate to see our problems as a system consisting of reinforcing and balancing loops.

An example that was given was the problem of traffic jam in the Philippines. The more highways we have, the less traffic jams. But, the more highways we have, the more it is attractive to vehicles. And we know that the more vehicles on the road, the more probable it is to have traffic jams. The solution we came up with was to build more highways, but to make these highways unattractive—expensive parking lots, expensive toll ways—but at the same time, to make public transportation attractive. Now, the problem in the Philippines, as what our professor in Systems Thinking, Professor Antonio Perez said, the public transportation needs improvement and more planning to provide people a choice.

I am trying to apply systems thinking in analyzing the loops concerning educational inequity, but it seems that I need more space to draw the loops to see the bigger picture. As I get to the bigger picture, I realized how critical it is to analyze who thr stakeholders are.

2. Break up Your Stakeholders

Oftentimes we tend to list who our stakeholders are without “breaking them up.” In the plan of ending educational inequity, we ask, who are our stakeholders? We could easily list: students, parents, administrators, teachers etc. However, it is essential to break them up to avoid generalizing that they are all allies or all adversaries. What I learned from. one of my co-fellows, Christine Fua, is to do it in a quadrant form like this:

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Though we could break them up even more, this one is a good start in analyzing stakeholders.

I also learned how difficult it is to convene these stakeholders to your mission, and how people oftentimes focus too much on the result but take social outcomes for granted. In my two years in the public school system, I realized that it was only natural to ask “what is it for me?” And while this holds true, there is also this challenge on motivating them and inspiring them on remembering why they are doing what they do. It is becoming more natural to value promptness and rewards no matter the costs than honesty and integrity. You see, there’s the judgement here that the latter is more humane than the former. But who are we to force our values onto others if we have not been in their shoes?

3. “Impossible is temporary.”

The most painful and self-changing part of the five-day course was a session with Mr. Tobit Cruz, president and founder of Angat Kabataan. What I admired most was how motivated and eager their group was. They were so purpose-driven that they were able to involve and engage their stakeholders, most especially the community. The greater part there was they were able to answer the question “what is it for them,” ans at the same time, made the community realized “why they do what they do.” More than that, they acknowledged that their efforts became more meaningful because the community was a part of the solution.

It was painful because it made me reflect on how I see and do things. I dreamed big for the Philippine educational system. But when I was part of the system already, I got overwhelmed. As a result, I limited myself to the things I can do. But hearing Angat Kabataan’s story inspired me to return to my let’s-be-crazy-and-let’s-change-the-world spirit.

The five-day course brought me back to dreaming big. It challenged me to find my mission. I was able to ask questions to myself that I never asked before.

How do I bring other people to a place they have never been?

What is the current situation? What are the strategies that lead to our desired outcomes?

How do I make change orderly and predictable?

It made me reflect on who I really wanted to be and where I wanted to be. While it is easy to list all the problems in the world and list of solutions on it, the real challenge is how to make this happen and how to make it sustainable. In the words of Mr. Tobit Cruz, “Dream big. Start small. Scale up.”

The why is clear, but I still have many things to discover within myself yet. For now, I am grateful to learn the how.

Hope, Learn and Teach

I am still in disbelief that my two years in Teach for the Philippines has ended just like that. I still think that I will still be going to the same school and will be talking to the same group of people next year. Those years were the worst and the best years of my life that for a time, it almost felt like it would not end.

The years that I let go of hope and ran after it…

The years that I lost, learned to search and found myself…

The years that reality hit me hard that it almost killed me… and the years that purpose made me feel more alive than ever.

The first months for both years were tough…really tough. I could clearly remember students crawling under their desks while trying to escape the room, unexpected human waste that I had to clean myself, foul words bouncing across the four walls of the classrooms, and complaints and questions (that were half-funny and half-irritating) here and there.

“‘Cher si ano po nangangasar!”
“‘Cher ina-ano niya po ako!”
“‘Cher pinahid niya kulangot niya sa ‘kin!”
“‘Cher pwede umihi so bote?”
“‘Cher nagsusulat siya sa blackboard!”
“‘Cher hindi po siya nagsusulat!”
“‘Cher si ano po malandi!”
“‘Cher minura niya po ako!”

“Isulat sa notebook at sagutan.”
“Teacher sa notebook?”
“Teacher kokopyahin?”
“Teacher isusulat?”

“Sige, itago na ang mga gamit at magquiquiz tayo.”
“Teacher, may test?”

“Isulat na ang pangalan, ang seksyon at ang petsa.”
“Teacher anong isusulat?”

Not to mention the forms and lesson plans that I had to do everyday, earthquake and tsunami drills that existed almost everyday, ticket sales in which I was obliged to pay because most of my students could not afford it, checking, recording and analyzing the test papers of a hundred (and more) students and being a human canteen and clinic.

Of course I had my own share of hardships in my two years as a fellow, but these made me stronger. I would not deny the fact that there were times when I asked myself what was I doing there when teaching college students was a hundred times easier. But whenever I go inside the classroom and see the eyes of these students who are waiting to learn, I would always tell myself: “Stay… Stay for them… Stay for your why’s.”

Stay for the student who sleeps in your class because he had to work last night.

Stay for the student who goes to school twice a week because he has to sell Sampaguita so he’ll have money for food.

Stay for the student who runs inside the room very often because the classroom is so much bigger than where he lives.

Stay for the student who hurts his classmates because he grew up believing that hurting was normal.

Stay for the student who is absent for the a week because she had to be with his brother who died of leukemia.

Stay for the student who grabs another classmate’s food because he has not eaten since yesterday.

Stay for the student who mocks his family. Be patient even when he mocks you. He needs more help than anyone else.

Because I, too, was surprised to find out that students are already thankful if you stay.

That learning something new is already fun even without the activities, games and rewards.

That they appreciate a teacher who teaches them well.

“‘Cher ang dali lang ng multiplication dahil sa Lattice method!”
“‘Cher ang galing ng kanta kasi nakabisado ko kaagad yung multiplication!”
“‘Cher tinuruan ko yung kapatid ko ng point, ray at line!”
“Sabi ko nga sa kanya ang swerte niya kasi naabutan ka niya dito teacher bago siya umalis.”



“Teacher…”
“Yes?”
“Pwede po bang paturo ulit ng division? Gusto ko lang ulit malaman.”

“Thank you teacher kasi tahimik kami tuwing nagquiquiz at nakakapagconcentrate ako.”
“‘Cher thank you kasi pumapasok ka sa amin.”
“‘Cher bakit hindi tayo nag-math? Gusto ko mag math!”

I would always remember the images of students giving letters of thanks and apologies, students stealing hugs and kisses from me, students shedding tears when they knew I was leaving, parents telling me that they would want their child to be under my advisory, co-fellows posing for awkward shots just to make things lighter, co-teachers and co-fellows conversing about life, co-teachers calling for a meat-ing, students asking me to go back and students asking me not to leave.

“‘Cher babalik ka ba?”
“‘Cher kailan ka bibisita?”
“Magtuturo ka rin po?”
“‘Cher may ibibigay kami sa’yo!” (gives gifts, leaves, and giggles)
“‘Cher bakit ka aalis?”
“Gusto ko nga maging teacher kita habambuhay.”
“Bakit kasi hindi kita pwedeng teacher hanggang grade 6?”
“Mamimiss kita.”

Mamimiss ko din kayo.

Mind you that not all of my students got the best scores, and I accepted that, but what I eagerly tattooed in their minds every single day was the importance of improvement, excellence and self-worth.

“What does Teacher Jessa like?”
“Listen. Study. Be a B.U.H.O.S. student.”
“What is our goal?”
“We will pass!”

They might not use math or science in their career, but I would want them to remember how they persevered for improvement every time they failed a quiz, how they submitted projects with excellence, and how they passed the subject believing in their heart that they could.

I could only hope that I have done my best in teaching these students that they would strive for excellence in everything they will do.

I could only hope that I have proven my earlier statement through my words and actions: that teaching is a profession worth going for; that the students of the Philippines are worth teaching for; that the Philippines is worth staying for. 

I could only hope that I have left my mark in the hearts of the students I taught and in the people who had been supporting me ever since I took the road less traveled. The two years might have ended, but not my hope for the next generation, not my hope for a better system, and not my hope for my country.

My experience as a fellow had been very fulfilling and fruitful. I have learned so much about the path I have taken, but I am still constantly learning… And that’s the best thing I learned in this experience: You will be tripped, and you will struggle. You have to crawl sometimes, but crawl as if you are designed for crawling. Never stop learning, and never stop hoping. But do not just learn and hope… Be involved; do your role, and leave your mark.