Thank you, Teach for the Philippines!

I’m one person who hates goodbyes.  I don’t like despedidas.  I prefer to simply leave, no words, no farewell hugs and speeches to save the tears and the pain that saying goodbye brings.

But this March and April I have had to say goodbye not only to my kids but to my co-teachers as well. My co-teachers who have become my friends instead of just being colleagues.  In the midst of all the goodbyes, I waited for that familiar twinge of regret to hit me.  It didn’t.  And I wondered why I feel no regret but instead feel an excitement for the next chapter of my life.

I’m praying hard that I’ll have the chance to teach older kids again.  Only God knows if I will indeed have that chance.

The last 10 months felt like a rollercoaster ride.  Celebrating small wins in the classroom and at the same time battling frustration at teaching non-readers, slow learners and coping with the needed adjustments in teaching in a public school.  I felt like a fish out of the water.

But I survived.  Thanks to my co-teachers (my grade level teachers) who helped me until the end.  Thanks too to my friends and co-fellows, Teacher Tin Hernandez and teacher Jaa Cortez who helped me for several days with my kids who still struggled with learning the letter sounds.

One thing that hit me hard during my one-year stint as a Teacher Fellow was that I learned a hard truth about myself:  I am partial to fast learners and kids who get it fast.  And honestly it is NOT a pleasant thing to realize and learn about yourself when one is a teacher.  The kids who thanked me and told me I was a good teacher this year were the ones who really improved a LOT and who were very motivated.  But when I look at the 10 non-readers I still have in class, I feel a bit disappointed in myself that I did not work hard enough to make them read asking myself where I went wrong.

I’ve been taking this time this summer to think hard about this realization.  Teaching in a public school was the most difficult and hardest teaching experience I have had but it also made me see that I am called to teach. An irony I know.

If, for years, I have been denying the fact that I was called to be a teacher, ironically, teaching the slowest and last section made me realize that nothing makes me happy as being infront of the classroom sharing concepts and lessons with the kids.  But what makes me excited is this line: “‘Cher, kibaw na ko!” (‘Cher, I got it!)  Nothing makes a teacher’s heart happy as seeing a kid learn and seeing their eyes light up because they think they’re so smart because they finally got your lesson.

So as I say goodbye and thank you to Teach for the Philippines for giving me the opportunity to teach in a public school {even for just 10 months*}, I will forever be grateful to Grade 2 Banana and my kids for teaching me what it means to stand in front of the class even if you don’t feel like it, what it means to prepare for tomorrow’s class even if you don’t feel well and are totally exhausted. I learned that loving your kids is not a warm, fuzzy feeling but it means doing things that will draw out their potential, listening to them, spending time with them and getting to know them and their families. Love means doing the things you NEED to do instead of just doing the things you want to do.

Sabrina Ongkiko said that we need not pity our students but that we empathize and understand them and where they are coming from.  I now agree with her and see her point of view.  If we want to help the next generation get out of poverty, we cannot just stop with pity.  We have to give our time, effort and resources to empowering them.  I once used the word “catapult” to describe our efforts.  Our shoulders must be catapults for them to be launched into their dreams and destiny.

While I will no longer be teaching in a public school after April 15, I will still give my free/vacant time (weekends) to teaching Remedial Reading to streetkids and public school students.  I don’t know how or in what capacity but when I go back to Cebu, I will be contacting some organizations whom I know work with streetkids and public school kids.

I’ve come full circle.  I remember that in the past I have always dreamt of coming up with a  literacy program that will focus on streetkids.  At that time, I did not know how it will look like.  All I had was the desire and the vision.  Now, pieces of the picture are starting to fit.

Thank you, Teach for the Philippines!  Thank you, Grade 2 Banana!

parasabayan parasabata

*Note: The TFP Fellowship is a two-year program. Last March, I asked permission to leave the fellowship for personal and health reasons and was permitted.