Monday, July 20, 2009

The Teaching Profession

When I was in elementary, I was definitely not used to write on notebooks. My books were always highlighted and for me, taking down notes was the lousiest part of being a student. There was a time when my teacher instructed us to fall in line, in front, because she wanted to check our notes. She wrote two things on the board, two consequences which I had already known I would get before it was even my turn to have my notebooks checked:

1. A ruler slapped on my wrist and the left sideburn pulled up;
2. A letter to the parent.

The physical punishment was not the painful part of it; it was being told off by my parents without due justifications from my part. Until now, I can cite reasons for not taking down notes during that year. In sheer diffidence I just have to point this out: I was a consistent honor student in elementary, and I didn’t take down notes; I knew I didn’t have to. It frustrated me, that I was forced to do something which was not my style of learning. First, I highlighted important details in my textbooks, which according to my teachers that time was very “messy and disorganized.” Second, everything that was discussed was already on the books and the process of rewriting the textbook content on notebooks would be redundant and obviously unnecessary because no additional information was even discussed. Third, my notebooks only had assignments in it, because all the lessons that I needed were in the books. Fourth, I was never motivated to be THAT diligent in that class. It’s a shame that it was an English class, when I was in fifth grade.

Fast forward to the time that I was on my fourth year high school—I learned from the best teacher I had met back then. Every time I would see her, even until now, it’s like I’m barred from speaking the English language, not because she intimidates me, but because she effaces that idea that I know all that I need to know about English. She inevitably makes me feel modest, without even doing anything. Yes, she’s that good, and the best part about it is, she doesn’t brag—well, she doesn’t have to; it just shows. She became my English teacher during my fourth year. She taught us everything she knew about thesis writing, she educated us about grammar (what we know and should have known long before), she gave me a lot of opportunities to compete in and out of the campus, and the most wonderful thing about it was, she inspired me to be like her. Surprisingly, she graduated from the same university that I’m in right now. She was even a Cum Laude.

By and by I was pushed by my parents to take up nursing, but I ended up taking education because I have always wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to change things. It may sound radical these days for a teacher to say that she wants to change billions of lives but I know that it’s still possible. Dr. Hicarte was my high school teacher’s professor when she was still in PLM. My high school teacher said she was also inspired by Dr. Hicarte. With the way the influence was passed on, I can’t see the impossibility and the superficiality of changing youth’s lives.

A year from now, I’ll start teaching. Hopefully, I’ll be given a jumpstart in a special public institution. When I heard that the first task in “Teaching Profession” was an essay on personal philosophies of teaching, I felt great, not because I knew what to write, but because I had to know what to write. I thought, for three consecutive years, I have always known what philosophy pragmatically means.

First, although there are other reasons for a student to flunk a subject, the teacher still has a major part in the blame. At the end of the day, a teacher can say “well, that student is not really good and I can’t do anything about it”, but to me, there will always be guilt—a feeling that I have not really achieved my goal. That’s why when I teach I always make sure that everyone understands the lesson. This leads to my second philosophy.

Patience is really a virtue. Sometimes no matter how repetitive the lessons have been taught, the students still can’t understand every word of it, and your part is to discover ways to teach and re-teach the lessons. Impatience breaks a lot of abilities in a teacher. It breaks creativity, interest in teaching and relationship with students. It’s sad that when a teacher snaps a nerve, she does the unthinkable like throwing books, giving unjust deductions and such, but sometimes, under reasonable circumstances I know that a teacher should always try to keep her composure.
Third, I firmly believe that the bigger part of learning in the class should be for the students. Everything should be geared towards their improvement. In my mock teaching during a class with Dr. Hicarte, I used to talk a lot then I realized that my students should do the major talking. Same goes when I already move out of PLM. I know that my class should be student-centered and I just have to motivate them to talk and freely express themselves.

Fourth, I believe in reinforcements, but not in verbal and physical retributions. Bruner is right when he said most of the time, something stimulates a person to act or react depending on the situation. In a class, a student would do better and would always strive to get better grades if he gets praised for having a good performance at school. Now if it goes the other way around, I believe in subtle reinforcements like pairing the student with the top of the class, or giving him second chances during recitations. Punishments would only cut the student’s remaining interest with the subject. Likewise, I have always believed that intimidation will never do a student any good.

Finally, the learning environment should stimulate the interest among the students. Imagine being inside the room with an air-conditioning unit turned OFF. Imagine having to fan yourself for the whole sixty minutes of the class. Think of a public high school scenario like this: 2 of the 4 fluorescent lights blinking, almost about go out, no curtains to block the raging heat of the sun and no decorations for students to look at. At first I kept on telling myself, being a class adviser will be the last thing that I’d want when I become a teacher, but every time I picture that same scene in my head, I’d always rebut myself.

Just this morning on my way to school I was a signage on another jeepney that says: “I never said it was easy. I said it was worth it.”

Indeed, teaching has always been a difficult profession through the years, but I know, hard work will always be paid off in more than a thousand ways. With these philosophies in mind, I know I can push through, and hard work will always be compensated through my students.

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