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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Eat it Up and Spit it Out


OPINIONS. We couldn't avoid them, could we?
Every time I open a newspaper or a magazine, I couldn't deny myself from opening the opinion page. Away from those factual articles which, oftentimes, give me up-to-the-minute information, opinion-containing essays give me insights on how people perceive certain issues that confound life. Sometimes, the writers' opinions also invoke me to give out my own point of view of the issue and compare it from theirs. They often leave deliberations in my psyche which encourage me to rummage around for facts.
Lately, I have discerned that, indeed, life could never be separated from opinions just like a newspaper without editorial is not newspaper at all. As long as we do not isolate ourselves from others, we could never take fudge from those opinions which would either construct or destruct our characters.
Being an educator at a very young age, I often receive both positive and negative opinions from other people – my friends, colleagues, family, and superiors (as they call it). Naturally, I feel conceited when I hear positive opinions and inhibited when I hear negative ones. However, I always try to patch things up by not focusing on those things for I don’t believe the necessity of living an opinion-driven life. My initial reactions are just part of the so called sudden and instinctive human response.

However, people’s judgment biologically keeps on bombarding us as we live life from day to day. Seclusion could be a very good deterrence to those sharp gazes but we could not desert the reality that we are irrefutably created for one another – we live not for our own selves. The world is systematically functioning in which each one is conscientious for a particular mission.
Other people’s opinion would never stop bearing us down unless we look at it in a positive way. Opinions are away from our sway and we could never say that they’re right unless supported by facts or wrong just because they don’t coincide with ours. What the world needs is respect – an unfailing deference that would not necessarily buy other’s opinion but rather the one that could listen to others and understand how such things happen. We are uniquely created and so what works for me would not necessarily work for others.

As Stephen Covey suggested in his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” the first habit that we have to develop to become personally effective is the habit of becoming PROACTIVE. According to him, proactive people are driven by values that are independent of the weather or how people treat them.
Certainly, we have direct control over problems caused by our own behavior. We could solve it by changing our habit. However, we have indirect control over problems caused by other people’s behavior. We could not dictate them what to do and how to do. The best way in dealing all those perplexities in life is to set ourselves as examples – a model worthy of emulation. As an old adage says, “Win your enemies by making them your friends.”

Friday, October 31, 2008

Meaningful Learning from a Personal Experience


David Ausubel, in his theory on meaningful learning says that learners can only learn when they find the lesson to be learned meaningful to them. It’s not only true for elementary and secondary school students but it is equally justifiable to all learners. As for me, being in the field of Mathematics teaching, I find it more important and meaningful to learn Mathematics and teaching related topics than any other agenda. Teaching has been a part of my life and I do it everyday that is why materials related to teaching are so meaningful to me.

When I was in college, I hate this subject called Probability and Statistics. I don’t know whether it was because of my astigmatism which always attacked me those days or it was because of my negative attitude toward those copious data. Honestly, I feel dizzy dealing with those data which I deemed absolutely irrelevant. I could still remember how I stopped answering a certain statistical problem at the middle of the exam. However, I found out that Probability and Statistics is not really irrelevant at all. I did handle plenty of data when I had my undergraduate thesis and used statistical computations a lot when I was in an actual teaching situation doing the marks of my students. Later on, I started to learn statistics by my own for I knew I could not really escape from it. It seems like I am thrown into a lion’s den.

The experiences I had was just so useful in a lesson on Data and Probability I had recently with my fourth graders. The thoughts have helped me to think of strategies how to engage my students in data gathering and analysis. I knew that in their young minds, they would not be able to understand if I would tell them how important the subject matter is in the field of physical sciences, meteorology and business. They are ten-year old kids and lots of them are still up for cartoons, games, TV shows, online battles and all those childish things. So here is the engaging scenario: “I am a cartoon fanatic who wants to know if they also like the cartoon characters that I like. I want to gather data of their favorite cartoon character/s and from it we have to identify which cartoon character is the most popular and least popular among us.”

The students became so excited to tell me who is their most favorite cartoon character. Everybody is raising their hands! The atmosphere became so active and everybody is engaged in the classroom discussion until we reach to the point that we have to analyze the data we have gathered. After the students have learned the ways to gather and organize data, they conducted a survey of their own. They were the one who chose the topic. The following period, they presented the data they have gathered and shared their analysis. They did exactly what I want them to do although there were some problems in the use of language.

It should be a realization of every teacher that teaching is not merely sharing to the students what we have got. As teachers, we should be cognizant of our students’ nature and needs. We have to be aware of their interests. Our students would learn more if they know that their teacher is for them and not against them. What the world needs right now are teachers who have genuine interest to their students. Living in this world is very remarkable and it is even more remarkable when we teach.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Pedagogue’s Fondness

Standing in the hub of the throng,
In a horde which I mull over as life
Nurturing their infantile and inventive psyches,
Taking them to greater heights
Where they could be in a paradise.

I hear unpretentious words from them
Which I appreciate and tweak.
Yet I have to be careful as I preach
Because they are fragile and special
To me, their understanding is vital.

They’re like lilies blooming in the pond,
Unique with each one’s beauty and stance.
Forty of them are individuals.
Forty thoughts, forty feelings, forty dreams
Oh! How lofty am I to come to grips with them.

Pedagogy is life and I live with it
It’s like drizzle sprinkling the lilies in the pond
Making them grow into magnificent bloom
Teaching is endowing the learners a feeling of being special
Shaping an edifice of trust for themselves and for everyone.

My Speech During the Recognition Program of Dagohoy High School


The following is the speech which I prepared and presented as guest speaker during the Recognition Program of Dagohoy High School last April 1, 2008 at Dagohoy Cultural Center, Dagohoy, Bohol.


To the OIC-School Principal− Mrs. Virginia R. Macul, guidance counselor-designate− Mrs. Teodora D. Salces, to the Federated Parents, Teachers and Community Association (FPTCA) President− Engr. Ranulfo Sepe, to the teachers and non-teaching staff of Dagohoy High School, parents, students, visitors and guests… my warmest greetings to all! Maajong buntag kanatong tanan!

First of all, I won’t miss this moment to express my heartfelt thanks to my Alma Mater− Dagohoy High School for giving me this opportunity. As an alumnus of this institution who is now a fledgling member of the family of educators, I found this chance as an honor and privilege. It is my honor to be back to my Alma Mater to inspire our dear parents and students who will soon bring pride and glory to Dagohoy High.

My dear parents and students let me share to you this short and simple story which has been my source of inspiration and guidance for years now. While maintaining the simplicity of the story, let me use our very own dialect as I relate it to you.

(This story was spoken using the Visayan dialect. Visayan is one of the dialects in the Philippines spoken by most number of Filipinos in different parts of the country. The language is more prevalent in the central region.)

There once a fisherman fishing with his grandson on a very fine day. There was a high possibility of catching good fish that day because the weather was so pleasant.

Without any thought, the fisherman immediately threw the hook unto the water and after few minutes he got a big fish of good quality. But the fisherman removed it from the hook and threw the fish back into the water. His grandson just looked at him with bewilderment. And then, the fisherman threw the hook again unto the water and the same thing happened− he got a big fish of good quality. He did the same thing again and again and finally he got a small fish in which he kept in his boat. His grandson was not able to stand what was happening anymore. Puzzled, he asked his grandfather, “Lolo, I really don’t understand what’s happening! We’ve got big fish earlier but you threw all of them back to the sea. Now that we have a small one, you would like to keep it.” And then the fisherman answered back his confused grandson, “Don’t you know? Our pan is so small. How can we cook those big fish?”

My friends, that story might sound very funny but it tells us very important lessons in life.

How many times have we thrown our big fish away? How many times have we neglected the blessings which life has offered us because we have been so unthankful and preferred to focus on our resentments? We might have or have not noticed them; we wake up each day with abundant blessings in life. The fact that we have another day to keep our life going and to keep building on our dreams is more than enough reason to be thankful.

Rejoice! Celebrate every little achievement that you have in life even if those achievements are not worth of a celebration for other people. Maintain a thankful heart. That way, we are maintaining a healthy image of a healthy person ready to face all the challenges in life. There’s so much more reasons to smile than to frown and smiling are much easier than frowning.

We won’t be happy if we always feel sorry for ourselves for not being to do something we have expected. Life is life and what is past is past. No matter what, life goes on.

Another inspiration which we could get from the story is the inspiration to dream. Our power to dream is limitless, thus, we should enlarge our vision. Let’s not be limited by the size of our pan. Whether our pan is small or big, we can cut the fish into small pieces. It’s the same thing in life. Let’s not let our meager resources be a hindrance in dreaming big things. We can attain those dreams little by little until our pan would feel sorry for us. Anyway, we can buy bigger pan afterwards.

I believe, it is in this principle that my parent stand through in raising their five children. I am very proud to say that I have been raised by two people whose income is so fickle to support the education of their five children. My father is a farmer and my mother is a plain housewife. But even though, they did not mind their meager resources in pursuing their dream to send their five children into college. And true enough, they were able to produce five professionals out of their very little income. HOW? I think they dreamt of it.

Students, there are so many ways, if we only explore, in order to attain our ambitions in life. All we have to do is to believe that we will be able to do it and one day we will be standing triumphantly. Parents, I am very sure that these students here have their own aspirations in life. You don’t really need all those money to send them to college and realize their dreams. All that you have to do is to guide them, support them and inspire them to achieve what they are able to achieve. After all, each one of us is capable of achieving something.

Presently, I am teaching in Thailand and I am sharing my expertise as a foreign teacher abroad not because of an accident. I have dreamt for it and my parents gave their all-out support ever since I conceived that dream in me. What I have and what I am right now might not be an achievement worthy of a celebration for other people but for me, it is something that I could dream somebody at my age can achieve.

Thank you very much…

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

SEMESTRAL BREAK IS COMING



Few days more to go and semestral break is here. As a teacher, I am doing the usual end-of-the-term-rush. Plenty of papers to evaluate, projects to check, test papers to make, and a whole lot more which keep my life as a pedagogue going.

This week, I will be conducting listening, speaking, reading and writing tests to my 2nd graders and will be doing a lot of checking afterwards. Good that I was able to finish the test paper and the marking rubrics last week so everything would be very fine this week. I have got not so much with my 4th graders for I won't conduct any formal test this term. I have been using authentic evaluation techniques to assess how they have been going in terms of listening, speaking, reading and writing in my Mathematics ESL class. Things might be eating me up in few days but for sure, I won't be out of breath.

This time, I am planning to keep myself away for a while from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. Although I am in the outskirt of Metro Bangkok, I can feel it as I see the traffic jam inside the school every morning and afternoon. The traffic officer's always whistling. It even woke me up at times. I think I should retire from hearing those whistles sometimes. I should find time for myself so I could reflect on the things that had happened in the previous semester and think of ways in improving it fot the second semester.

SEMESTRAL BREAK is coming... but I couldn't think of a lengthy break this time. But at least, I could start ticking my calendar now.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Leadership Towards the 21st Century Education


Our world is now entering into the age of globalization. Schools and other educational institutions are expected to provide globally competent individuals who could survive in the ever-changing landscape of the industry. Hence, a new and modified breed of leadership that would meet the demands of our society is needed to suit our present educational needs.

The following are the leadership features which I strongly believe would successfully drive our educational institutions in the 21st century.

1. Excellence-Driven Leadership. At this age, competition is getting higher and higher. We might not want to accept it but the reality is we have to strive and survive to keep ourselves alive. Mediocre leaders are outdated in the educational arena. We need leaders who believe the value of excellence in all aspects of the educational setting. We need leaders who believe that excellence is not beyond their reach. In short, we need visionary and competent leaders. Imagine a school in a competitive society driven by a mediocre leader.

An excellence-driven leader will never be outdated because he knows how to adjust if not adapt the society where he is living. An excellent leader never stops learning for a reason but continues to explore for personal and professional world. An excellent-driven leader does not retire from the world but the world retires at him.

2. Values-Driven Leadership. We cannot lead people by just our mouths but we lead them best by example. An excellent 21st century leader has strong interpersonal and intrapersonal values- he is clean inside and out. A leader cannot expect those people in school to practice the values he is promoting if he himself does not practice those values. A values-driven leader who is suited to the type of education in the 21st century believes and practices integrity, honesty, equality, respect, responsibility and all other values which our learners need to have.

3. People-Driven Leadership. Leading people does not mean letting them follow you but making them feel important to you as a leader. A style of leadership which would surely survive in this era is the “I-know-it-all” kind of leadership. As educational leader, one must be very sensitive to the needs of its constituents and not just make decision according to what he believe is right and what he thinks is good and to what he feels better.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

THE IMPORTANCE OF LEADERSHIP


History itself has proven that leadership is inseparable to mankind. Since the inception of society before the dawn of civilization, leadership has been a very important aspect.

Needless to say, we are living in a very unique society where individuality is the only thing common among every people. People tend to have different attitudes, traits and characteristics due to the upbringing of the community where they live. Diversity is found in every level and every corner of the world that even the smallest of the smallest society enjoy it. Different we might be, we cannot deny the fact that this world is meant to be a world of happiness where everyone enjoys while in harmony with each other. Whether we are in Asia, Europe, South America, North America, Africa, or Australia; we are one and we should work as one. In order to do this, we need leaders who possess strong leadership attitude to guide and inspire every people in the society.

Leadership is needed in every corner of the world. Leaders are important in every organization. A world without leaders is like a ship without lighthouse. It would work yet it would be undirected and possibilities of naval accidents would be very high. In a society, a leader is of equal important to the lighthouse of navigating ships. Without a leader, fight against each one’s principles and philosophies would be more rampant and misunderstanding would be more prevalent. A sound leader is needed to create a sound society and the good thing is we can all be leaders. We can all be leaders of ourselves by possessing strong leadership attitude. We can all be leaders by leading our inner self and leading others by example. We can all be leaders by taking initiative every time needed, by being proactive to every situation, by taking part in the solution and not the problem, and by taking responsibility in our actions. Everybody is meant to be leaders. Leadership is very necessary. Even the jungle animals have their lion king and the colony of ants has their king and queen; how about, we, people?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Why am I teaching?


"Why am I teaching?" As a teacher, have you ever asked yourself such question? Why do you keep on coming back to school after long years of going to school? I remeber the responses of my classmates in college when interviewed on their experiences during student-teaching. Most of them were happy with what they were doing especially that most of them, considered teaching as their first-hand experience in handling individuals.

For me, teaching was out of my plans when I was in high school and about to go to college although it's been a part of my ambition when I was yet a small kid. When asked what course I would like to take in college, I usually answered Political Science or Mass Communication but ended up as Mathematics teacher.

Anyhow, I don't have any regret for not fulfilling my dreams for teaching became a profession and career of my own. Being a teacher, is a poetic fulfillment of the dreams that I have for me and my family. Although many negative tags are attached to teaching and to the teachers, teaching will always be the noblest profession but I always keep on coming back on the question as to why I chose this profession? My life as a teacher would never be complete without molding a philosophy which would guide me through the years of molding dreams.


MY PHILOSOPHY
I believe that learning is a life-long process by which learners acquire knowledge and skills necessary for living. Knowledge and skills can be best imparted if learners are given reason as to why they need to learn a specific task or material. Hence, meaningfulness should be provided. Meaningfulness can be provided if students recognize connection/s between the materials to be learned and their own needs and interests.

I strive to live within my belief that the students’ engagement to life-long learning can be achieved if the students have positive attitude towards learning. Therefore, reinforcement of the positive learning attitudes must be provided at stake. This can be done by understanding the students’ emotional and social needs. If learners show negative attitudes and behaviors in the learning process, thorough investigation must be done in order to identify the cause/s of such dilemma and to provide immediate solution. Students must be given a sense of responsibility by involving them in every-decision making task and making them accountable of their own deeds. It should be understood that students have limitless capability to generate ideas for the advancement of mankind. Therefore, creativity should be highly-favored in every teaching-learning experience.

Providing eagerness to learn among the students means inspiring them to learn by showing untiring passion for teaching and learning with them. A teacher must be willing enough to go beyond the horizon of traditional teaching-learning process. The best thing that a teacher can do to a learner is to inspire him to explore his own potentials and encourage him to be the best of himself and that is teaching students how to live.


P.S. This philosophy was crafted during my course on Curriculum and Instructional Development at St. Theresa-INTI College in Bangkok, Thailand. I give credit to Dr. Edward Roy Krishnan for his utmost desire to develop every teacher as he struggle to design a healthy system of education where every learner is given importance. Thank you for the inspiration!

Friday, July 4, 2008

A LIFE OF PURPOSE


Going abroad is a dream of almost every Filipino. Millions of Filipinos are scattered in every part of the world working in different fields. I am one of the millions who tried to find greener pasture in a foreign land.


After knowing that Thailand is opening its doors for foreign ESL/EFL teachers, I confidently crammed up my things and headed to the “land of smiles”. At first, it was very hard to decide since it would be my first time to stay away from my family. However, as I glimpsed on the brighter side of working abroad, I cannot help myself but to deal with my passport and book a ticket going to Thailand.


Things happened promptly that I woke up early one day joining the buoyant applicants in the field of Teaching English as Second Language (TESL). I really thought that things would happen as easy as facing a school director and hearing, “You can start teaching tomorrow.” But it was the other extreme.


Contrary to what I believed, seeking a job has never been that easy in Thailand. I had to hurdle every hump along the way and cling on to my faith that someday, I would be facing Thai students inside the classroom. I have encountered so many unlikely incidents along the way such as the slur of not being entertained because you are not a Caucasian and the number of hours browsing for jobs in the web and finding nothing but the famous slogan, “ENGLISH NATIVE SPEAKERS ONLY”. Looking into possible teaching jobs in the schools around Bangkok, bringing “Thai Phrasebook” to communicate with the people but left dumbfounded for not being understood is such a funny experience. I even tried my luck in the remote areas of the provinces where nobody understands why I was in their school. Those were funny and discouraging experiences which make me feel the sweetness of having a TESL/TEFL job in a school where I am regarded as a first class educator and not as a second rate brown man.
After being turned down by a number of schools for various reasons, (i.e. no vacancy, they need English native speakers only, etc.) I tried my luck in the province thinking it might be more feasible to find a job there. I never heard of Samutsongkhram province before and I never thought of that small settling in the mouth of the Maeklong River. It was my friend who brought me to this province, which is actually the smallest in Thailand. I am thankful for having dropped by Anuban Samutsongkhram School where the head of the English department was eager enough to talk to me. I told her that I was looking for a teaching job and I wanted to know if there was a vacancy in her school. I thought that she would turn me down when she said that they have two English native speaking teachers from Canada and England. However, I got an accolade from her when she said, “You speak English well,” and she was sounding like she wants to hire me.


Although the head of the English Department of that school responded positively to my application, I never expected too much since I also heard the same from the schools that turned me down before because they did not have a vacancy. I was just surprised when somebody called me up and asked if I could report to Anuban Samutsongkhram School for a demonstration lesson and an interview. I was so glad but a problem sprouted when I realized I did not know anymore how to get back there! That day, I immediately called my newly found Thai friend and asked her how I could get to that province. She eagerly gave me the sketch. The following day, I dressed up well and appeared at the school the earliest time possible. I had visual aids and a lesson plan with me and was so ready for a twenty-minute demonstration lesson but they asked me to teach on the topic they prepared earlier so it was an on-the-spot lesson. I tried my best to impress the crowd who were Grade two pupils and English teachers of the school. After the demonstration, we talked about my teaching experience in the Philippines and my perception towards teaching Thai students. I did not have much to talk about Thai students since I did not have teaching experience in Thailand yet. Anyhow, I assured them that if given a chance to work in their school, I would do my best to showcase the ability of the Filipino teachers. Much was discussed and to make the long story short, I was hired! The following week, I signed the contract and processed my NON-B visa and work permit with their assistance.
Things might have turned as easy as I would want them to be right now since I got the job already but this is really just the beginning of the real battle. Forgetting all the possible obstacles, I had to run the race with dedication as I have to stand true to my words. I won’t turn my country down as I won’t turn them down.Way back in college, my training was not on handling small children. I graduated with a degree in Secondary Education, major in Mathematics. I am not an English major but I am tasked to teach English to Grade 1 to Grade 3 pupils and expected to design and execute activities for the English Club in Grade 4 to Grade 6. I have two English native-speaking counterparts in the school but I don’t know why the task is given to me. Providing a right perspective, I thought that something must be in me that is not in them and that something must drive me to work well as what the school expected.
That time, I started to browse ideas in the web regarding language teaching and ESL activities for young children. I looked back on the strategies I learned in college and modified them. I also borrowed resource materials from friends who have been teaching ESL in Thailand for years and assesed my students’ needs. I did everything possible to make my class more interesting and interactive. Trial and error was one of the ways I learned from my mistakes and I dug into the deepest of myself to find the right perspective towards teaching young learners. I have to undergo great adjustments so I kept my mind open and became so susceptible to new ideas. My students knew whenever I felt disappointment at their mistakes and fostering a friendly environment where teacher-learner interaction is evident became my focus in class. I tried to mingle with them every now and then and showed interest on what they tried to share to me [their language, culture, interests, etc.].


In the end, I understand the real value of education from my young Thai students. I am able to look at education with a greater perspective because of them. They may not understand what I am saying sometimes but I know that they understand me little by little. The happiness is incomparable when I see my English Club students performing a variety of speeches in front of the huge crowd and my Grade 2 and Grade 3 students delivering simple speeches. I learned that teaching is not more on mere feeding of information but it’s more on inspiring the students to learn more and making them feel confident of what they have and what they are. As an education student, I learned so many learning theories from different philosophers, psychologists and educators but realizing how those theories work is much more fulfilling.
My students made me feel that I am existing. They defined my purpose, which I have been searching for. They let me feel my worth as a human being and gave me reason to stay on the track. As I look at the difference I made in their lives, I never thought of my main reason in coming to Thailand for I get more than what I needed.


The following school year, my school hired another Filipino and they never hired English native speakers anymore. I felt that I was not only successful in teaching them but I became successful in letting them know that they never had a mistake in hiring a Filipino and we are more than what they think we are. I learned so many lessons from my experience and I just want to share it to my co-Filipinos out there who are so discouraged for they think that Filipinos are not welcome to teach English in Thailand. Just remember that behind those schools posting “WE WANT ENGLISH NATIVE SPEAKERS ONLY” are great schools, which believe in the ability of Filipino teachers. Know yourself, define your goal and work for it. I was 20 years old and turning 21 when I decided to join the TESL fore in Thailand but my age did not hinder me to pursue that elusive goal- to teach Thai students and show them what I’ve got.It is not your age, your degree, your nationality or your appearance that would make you successful in a certain field.
It is your attitude towards it that would make you find yourself to the place you want. Never think that because you are a Filipino, you are not qualified. Posses a positive attitude and always exert an extra degree to every effort you’ll give for that extra degree of effort will make all the difference. Funny it may seem but in life, we often get the best if we refuse to accept but only the best. I will be celebrating my first great year in Thailand on September 6 but I know that something more is yet to come.