Thursday, March 5, 2009
Looking Back: The AMIS Experience (Part 1)
The AMIS Environment
Antonio Maceda Integrated School is like, let me quote Mariz Solano for this, "Banawe Rice Terraces". The school has elevated areas where you can stay just in case flood gets into the campus. It has 3 buildings. The first is the grade school building where you can find a tall wall that separates the school from the outside world. This wall however isn't tall enough to keep the students from cutting classes. Apparently, every ten to eleven in the afternoon you would see high school students in the elementary building trying to defy gravity in the struggle of getting outside the school through that "tall" wall.
Next is the science building. Amazingly, I haven’t seen the interiors of that place. I plan not to. What I do know is, most of the laboratory classes are held inside that building. They also have their old building and that is where you can find most of the offices for different departments. At the ground floor, we have the first year students and the two wash rooms that stink all the way up to second floor. At the second floor, you have the classes for second year and third years. To your left you have the Social Studies department, to your right is the Filipino department. At the top floor, we have math and English and the fourth and third years.
First Week Jitters
After months of waiting, my practice teaching started 7th of November. I had my first time to be introduced as a student teacher at Antonio Maceda Integrated School. I used to fear the students thinking that they don't give due respect to teachers. Until now, I have the same fear. In the morning there are 4 student teachers, namely: Mariz, Jem, Janerey and of course, me. We all have to start our duty at 7 and stay in the campus until 1 in the afternoon. It was Tuesday when we were given the opportunity to have our own cooperating teachers. Jem was given to Mrs. Tangal, a first year English Teacher. Janerey was given to Mrs. Maranan, who teaches in the second year level. Mariz was given to Mrs. Valerio, who teaches third year. I was so happy to be supervised by Mrs. Dasco, a fourth year English Teacher.
I thought everything would be alright. I was wrong. It was a Wednesday when my cooperating teacher decided to let me take over three classes in the fourth year level. It was pretty simple, since I just had to give a spelling test and to facilitate a silent reading activity. I felt so pleased because I can feel the students' warmth and acceptance.
Later in the afternoon, I asked Ma'am Dasco if I needed to do something for the students, like class records and school register records whatnot. She said, I would have to wait until December to teach. Why on earth do I have to wait until December? I just want to teach and learn. I just want to experience being loved by the students. I know that there's always a time for everything, but I won't compromise the rest of the time that I have with sleeping, staring at people and doing nothing. When I talked to Ma’am Lazarte about it, she consulted Ma’am Larce. To cut the long story short, I was scolded. No. I was hated by my cooperating teacher. It lasted for two weeks.
The Students of Four-Four
I used to handle 4th year students and as an initial thought it's supposed to be an easy task because at this year level, they should have been over the grade school phase in terms of attitude and way of dealing with people. I was wrong. I stepped inside the classroom of fourth year section four and I realized that it's really hard to control temper when you have students as unruly and as unbelievably energetic as them.
Students sit on the teacher's table, they shout at their classmates, they do a catch-me-if-you-can routine in the classroom and they play songs from their phones at a very high volume. If this classroom wasn't next to the faculty room I bet this scenario would be a lot much worse.
Once, I noticed that my students were really quiet. It wasn't my turn to teach just yet so I was just waiting inside the faculty room. I was amazed because they were really quiet, until I found out why. Half of the class was absent.
Everyday, I used to observe Ma'am Bustinera's class. Ma'am Bustinera is a Math teacher and she handles 4-4's first class. I really admire her way of imposing discipline. When she comes in, everyone is quiet and is really afraid of her.
However, they are afraid of her the wrong way. During those days when I was waiting for my turn to teach 4-4, I heard her say these things to my students:
"Kayo, kung ang mga utak ninyo ay tulad ng panty at brief na pwedeng hubarin at isoot, sa sobrang pagiging ulyanin niyo, pwede niyo ring maiwan sa bahay mga utak niyo."
Simple words like "engot", "walang alam" and "tamad" demoralize the students and as much as possible I struggle not to say these things, not because I don't want to hurt them, but because I don't want to be like teachers who say those things--I hate being like them.
There was another time when one student of mine said something in a Math class like: "One plus blah blah is equals to blah blah."
The same math teacher flamed for hearing "is equals to". Now instead of moving on with the real lesson, she gave an ENGLISH 101 on subject-verb agreement. Then, she said: "Sinu ba ang English teacher niyo? Bakit di niyo alam to?"
I was inside the department office and after hearing that, I felt humiliated as if I were one of her students. I was scolded for something which I failed to do. To add insult to the injury, Ma'am Larce, the department head for English retorted "Oo nga naman. Sinu ba English Teacher nun? Diba ikaw? Joke lang." Have you ever heard a joke that instead of making you laugh, it would make you cry so bad, you wish it hadn't been cracked?
I would never forget that day. It's through that incident that I realized how rotten the system can get and how stale the teachers can be. A simple lesson on subject verb agreement should have been taught and re-enforced in 4 years to high school students.
I don't want the blame to bounce back on the teachers that should have taught all these things from the start. What I'm trying to say is, these students would know better and would not have made these mistakes had you given emphasis on this, since the time they started in the first year secondary education. It's unimpressive of teachers to pass the shame to us who would only teach these kids for only four months.
Anyway, that didn't stop me from changing everything.
That same day, in my class, I posted 10 examples showing grammatical errors. The highest score that they got was 8. Not bad, I said. I told them "and they are telling me you do not know anything about grammar?"
You see, when I did that to my students, they already had the idea that I was trying to cheer them up, to convince them that they were good and that they deserved more than being humiliated for something which wasn't their fault in the first place. When I gave the last example with the phrase "is equals to", they already knew what was wrong. They all laughed.
I was teaching a class about bibliographical entries and the noise was beyond control. Everyday, it’s like going through the same vicious cycle that you can no longer put up with. You remind them to give respect and they give back noise.
They were just too noisy it’s like they were the teachers and I was their student. I had to listen to them and wait for them to stop discussing their own lessons before I do mine. It wasn’t supposed to be a good method as it consumes time, but what could I do? I didn’t want to lose my voice.
So I said, "Hindi na ba talaga kayo marunong rumespeto? Respeto naman o. Hindi tayo naglolokohan dito."
That was the first time that I spoke in pure Filipino in front of my students in an English Class. All the ideals within me, all the expectations, the enthusiasm, the hopes and goals--all went down the drain. Everything faded because of one loss. In a system that depreciates highly in value, in a system that needs to uplift its status, we need force to apply gradual progress.
This force must be strong enough to reach, even tap the inner desire of its elements to move and change. In this system, we have elements that have been used to becoming immobile, much to the chagrin of the force. I am a part of this force, and I have realized that I slowly lose my faith in the strength that I have. I need their part in making this work.
It's easy to say you love a class, para mong sinabing nagmamahal ka ng grupo ng mga batang mga inampon mo. Pero mas mahirap panindigan. Madami kang ibibigay pero di ka siguradong may babalik sa yo. Siguro ganun nga talaga yun.
Things are certainly learned the hard way.
If you look at the system that the school has, you'd say it's not enough. Students are dying to get out of the campus. Guards tolerate the students' bad habit of cutting classes. Teachers shout at students so they would shut up. Implementation of rules is not strict enough. Life there just gets so pretty boring sometimes.
Sometimes, I smile when I’m reminded of how I looked like when I was in high school and what my students look like now that they’re in high school. There is a big difference. The students in my school never point dirty fingers at their classmates. They never curse at the corridors and they always act on their own will when they want to clean the rooms. Why did I say all these things?
The students in Maceda fight even in front of the teachers. They curse, shout, throw things, even pillboxes at classrooms and at students. They curse the guards and they don’t give value to cleanliness.
Once, a student shouted at me, “Ma’am Betty”, like the one in a soap opera in Channel Two. I just laughed and asked myself: “Do I really look like Betty?”
The curriculum for the fourth year students is not something I would really like to use once I formally get into the field. The curriculum shows series of repeated lessons, irrelevant discussions and uninteresting topics which are not even read by the students even if they have their own books. Ideally, a curriculum is good if it is interdisciplinary. It integrates various fields into the study of a specific topic. My only point is, why do they only have to focus on science for the whole fourth quarter? I mean, if the scope is technology, they should just select the topics which are interesting so the students would be able to read it. Other science topics should also be inserted. These topics should be selected so that technology in relation to other subjects would be inserted. The sentences are about science. Nothing wrong with that, but how are you going to make sentences about science if you can’t even make basic sentences about yourself?
In my opinion, they should start with focusing on the mastery of the lessons before targeting the ability of the students to relate English from one subject to another. They could only do that if the school provides good educational materials.
The problem with the textbooks that they are using is that the lessons have inconsistency in rules and grammatical and typographical errors.
There was a time when I asked my students why they didn’t want to bring their textbooks at school. I laughed at what they said: “Ma’am, wala namang kuwenta yun eh. Mas matututo pa kami sa inyo kesa dun.”
I handled 2 second year students for the tutorials. This was done to prevent the repetition of the totally humiliating drop of rating in the National Achievement Test for this school year. They were both nice. I would always remember Red for his charming finger nail designs and Marvic for his focus on what he’s doing. Both of them have different personalities. Both of them are bright in some ways. Add the fact that they’re both from section two, it definitely makes one think that these kids did not deserve to be given tutorials. Apparently, at the start of the service, I found out why it was important.
When I gave them an activity for phonics, they had very low scores. I was surprised because the lesson should have been mastered by these students since they’re already in the second year level. From that point, I started teaching, using the book entitled “Enhancing Reading Skills 4”, which means it is a book used to enhance the reading skills of grade 4 students. To think that they’re already in the second year high school level.
As for other topics, they were able to move up from simple topics to more complex ones. They are good in using locational skills and they are also good in identifying the main ideas of the texts. They kind of remembered me for the activities they had in the entire period rendered for tutorials. That’s why every time they’d see me along the halls of second floor, they’d wave their hands at me and shout so they’d be sure I heard them.