Before our 2015 Summer Institute started, we were asked to read a few books and articles about Teaching and the state of education here in the Philippines. One of them was Steven Farr’s Teaching as Leadership. It was actually the first time I heard of the concept or the view that teaching was seen as a kind of leadership. Now that I’m 7 months into this teaching fellowship, I am now starting to understand bits and pieces of this perspective and why this fellowship program is not just about teaching but leadership as well.
First, it’s actually self-leadership. When you’re out there in the field and the context you are in seems so far from what you have envisioned or imagined it to be. You have two choices: remain frustrated at the reality or change what you can change and accept what you cannot. It actually begins with what is inside of you. I heard a preacher say “a king will make a palace out of a cave while a pauper will still think that a palace is a cave.” The choice is in our words, our thoughts and the actions that follow our words and thoughts. What is inside us will always manifest in the physical realm.
Second, leadership means having a vision and having your team or your group buy into that vision not because of ambition’s sake but because they know it’s good for them. So this brings me to the classroom. For the first two and a half quarters in the field, I wanted a new class. The class I wanted. Or something near to what I saw as an ideal class. I could not see the gold right in front of me. But once I began to see my kids and their different gifts, their willingness and enthusiasm to learn and the resources that they bring inside the classroom, my class and my perspective changed. Miss Val, my manager, was right. Our students are our greatest resources when it comes to our lessons.
As a teacher, you share the big picture or the vision that you have with the class and let them see why it is good for them. They have to see it or they won’t buy into the vision. I will always remember my former pastor’s words telling us “you push the ones above you higher and the ones below you, you pull them up.” That, in a nutshell, is success for me. Helping others succeed.
A teacher is also a manager in the classroom. Out of the “chaos” and jumble that we call kids, we make a system and come up with routines and procedures to help facilitate learning. This is a skill that is not just applicable in the classroom but also in the corporate and development sectors. One makes a classroom system that is based on the culture and abilities of your students.
A teacher fellow is also a manager of resources and when I say manager it can mean that you facilitate the movement or flow of resources to and from your class. Yes, when I came into class, I saw LACK. There is a lack of materials for instructional materials, a lack of books. My class does not have books or the Learning Materials from DepEd because we were an additional section. I ran out of storybooks for my kids that we kept repeating the same Pilandok story. But it does not have to end there.
The world has a lot of resources. All it takes is for you to knock on the already-open doors and channel those resources into the classroom. They say there is always PROVISION in the VISION. Yes, I lacked story books in the first quarter but today, I have more than enough story books for my kids to read and for me to read to them. A lot of people in my network helped me provide books for my kids. It is amazing how social media allows one to channel those resources even across the miles. Distance is not an obstacle nor a factor. Today’s technology has enabled even the people in other parts of the world to help a class here in uptown Cagayan de Oro. And that is what amazes me.
As a leader, you not only work with your kids and parents, you also get to work with those who want to help these kids allowing them to share what they have with those that need them the most. A book, a piece of biscuit, even a candy is already a seed of change sown into the life of a kid. A kid who loves learning because doors were opened for others to reach out to them. A kid who loves reading because someone from Cebu, Manila, Switzerland, Canada or New Zealand, perhaps, bought a book or some school supplies for them.
I don’t see these as dole-outs. I see these gestures as catapults. Catapults for kids to dream big, love learning and school and love reading and books. I remember Teacher Sabrina Ongkiko’s words telling our cohort that we need to be bridges between our kids and our network.
To close, I’ve learned that one important aspect of leadership is being grateful for what you have, working with what you have (instead of complaining) and channeling what you need into the context you are in. It’s working with the resources that you have and creating waves of change out from the context you are in. It’s being resourceful, innovative, creative and content with the things in your hands and with the ones that you have been given.
I am grateful for Grade 2 Banana. At first, I thought that the class was a punishment for all my antics when I was a school girl, now I see them as the ones that taught me the most about love and teaching more than any graduate subject and education courses combined. They taught me about love, commitment and grit. The lessons I sorely need to learn in this season of my life.