After an engaging discussion in my history class today, I asked my students to draw how they pictured the “Kingdom of Maynilad” in their minds. Two of my students came up with these drawings.
I was so delighted when I saw these because they were able to creatively draw and express in full detail their ideas. This is rare among 8-9 year olds nowadays. 5 or 6 years ago, our gradeschoolers were engrossed in drawing, reading, and writing, penmanship wasn’t even an issue and writing simple journal entries, not a struggle at all. If we could just go back to basics, and mindfully replace our children’s gadgets with pen and paper so they can draw and write more, imagine what these little critters can create and do.
My students love to give me presents. They are a thoughtful bunch. But then, more than the material gifts, it is really their letters that I always look forward in receiving every year. Whenever I begin to question wildly if I am in the right profession or not…when I want to do little else but pull my hair out or throw my hands up in the air in frustration (yes, teaching can do that to you), their letters keep me sober and pull me back. Here are some of my favorite ones, from the most touching to the downright funny and insane…
In my students’ eyes, I have become a legend….
When I took this little girl under my wing a few years ago, I knew right away that she’s totally different. She was grade 2 then. For one thing, she can’t sit still or stay inside the classroom for long. She’s quite something else too. She had no qualms speaking her mind, didn’t care one bit about her classmates or teachers’ opinions, and worst she would cry and beg every morning for me to send her home because she misses her mom. She was like this for 3 straight years.
Her teachers would often find themselves at their wits end trying to figure out a way to make her sit, listen, follow, and focus in class. Her fourth year in school was almost the same minus the crying episode. While the rest seemed to have given up on her, her mom and I never got tired believing that one day, she’ll make a complete turn around. Faith, hope, and love, we gave her a lot of that.
And my dear Chloe, she did not disappoint. On our fifth and last year together as mentor-mentee, and on her final year in grade school, she made it happen. She managed to make herself be what her family and I hoped and prayed for her to be. Clearly not perfect but right enough to make the Lord equally proud and happy too.
My Chloe, she has since moved to high school. I thank the Lord that she made her different than the rest because through her I witnessed yet another one of those amazing miracles that would make me continue to believe that no matter how uncertain things may seem at the start, with faith, hope, and love, all shall be well in the end.
I get amused whenever I receive different reactions from people when I tell them that I am a teacher. Some would look at me with wonder, while some with pity and regret. I can only assume that this kind of reaction stems from certain misconceptions about the teaching profession, the popular one being that, teachers are the most overworked but underpaid workers. If we would look closely though at other professions, one can say pretty much the same thing about them as well. People often have the tendency to look at the downside of teaching without realizing that teachers would probably rank the highest if a survey is to be conducted as to who among the work force feel most fulfilled about their job.
I never dreamed that I would become a teacher. It was never part of my grand plans when I was mapping out my future in college. I had already set my eyes on becoming one of those smart yuppies that you can see walking along the sleek streets of Makati. And I must admit, I did live the dream for a while, up until the time that God finally put his foot down when he realized that I should be getting down to the serious business of touching lives. I often smile in wonder when I think of how everything fell into place like a thousand puzzle pieces that fit snugly and perfectly into a whole when I finally decided to give teaching a try. I never imagined that I would go this far and actually love it this much. I feel like I have finally found my place in the world.
I love being a teacher because there is so much room to grow in this profession. You would learn many things that you probably would not even think of trying before. When I started teaching in preschool, I can’t hardly carry a tune or would have two left feet when dancing. By the end of my first year as a preschool teacher, I can belt out a mighty “I am a Little Tea Pot” and can do the “Hokie Pokie’ dance gracefully. I love the fact that I can be just about anything and everything inside the classroom. I can be a motivational speaker who can effect change, a performer and director who can move students into action, a facilitator who can bring out the best ideas from my students, or a counselor and mentor who can inspire positive behavior from students.
Like any other profession, teaching can be just as demanding. What probably sets it apart from others is that despite the endless lesson plans that need to be submitted and executed, the many papers to be checked, and grades to be computed, I still find enough time and energy to appreciate and enjoy the many simple yet extraordinary things that bring me so much joy every day. Burnout and stress are fleeting, and are things that can be cured by something as simple as a drawing from a student with a little note that says, you are the best teacher in the world. Though the pay of a teacher may not be as high as that of a salesman or businessman, the rewards are just as great, like seeing a wonderful transformation in a student happen right before your very eyes.
I am glad that God led me to this profession. I often imagine what I would say come judgment day when God would ask me to enumerate the things that I have done that would make me deserving of that one way ticket to heaven. I imagined that the architect beside me would eagerly volunteer that he built the world. The police officer at my side would be proud to admit that he purged the world of bad guys. The doctor across from me without a doubt would declare that he cured the world from sickness. The lawyer, who arguably would be the smartest looking among all of us, would most likely insist that he made everything right in the world. When I reach that moment when all eyes are on me including God’s, I imagine myself saying with all my hear t and with so much conviction that, I not only taught these people the necessary skills that made them the best in their fields, I showed them how to love and inspired them to care. And these are what truly move people to change the world for the better. For really, that’s how a teacher leaves a mark, that is how a teacher touches a life. That is also what made me love teaching, so much so that, I succumb to the call of this vocation without thinking twice.
You know what I like about teaching? It’s that part where you sometimes get stunned by the unexpected things that students do. Those “wow’ moments. I had a lot of those moments this school year. That is why even though I keep telling my students I wouldn’t miss them and I’m glad to send them off to intermediate, there is still that part of me that is just a bit wistful, a bit sad actually, for I will truly truly miss their craziness.
No matter what they say, there will always be one or two students who will take those soft spots in every teacher’s heart. In my case, there were actually two. One is a toughie who was at the start a bit wary of me. She didn’t trust me right away like the other girls, instead I had to win her trust. She was a bully in the making and the self-appointed class leader. She was not afraid to challenge authority. She was and still is quite a handful. But I discovered that underneath the toughness is a kid who often needs reassurance and a boost in her confidence. The kind of relationship that we had is one that I will never forget. She is my toughie who is actually a softie. The other one is the classic problem kid, she was somebody who had been marked and branded as the hard headed one since first grade. She came to my class a spitfire. She was so damned honest she often leaves her classmates bleeding with her sharp tongue. She always sends someone crying to me often last year. I guess my patience and blind faith in her paid off, because when classes resumed after Christmas break, she was a totally different kid. She is my stone who is actually a jewel.
For the last quarter we were talking about rights, citizen’s roles and government. For my student’s last project, they had to come up with a law based on a problem that they observed happening in school. One of the reminders was not to make the obvious ones like no-littering or anti-noise pollution laws anymore. While I was checking their project, I can’t help but laugh at a few. Here are some…Anti-Gossip Law (no blackmailing, no back stabbing and no teasing, those who will violate this law will clean the bathrooms for several weeks)… Anti-Rumor Law (you should not make someone look bad, you should not believe in rumors, you should not mind rumors, you should not make rumors that no one will enjoy-hahahaha, all rumor makers will take the place of auxiliaries (cleaning ladies) for one week). ..No Showing Off Law (no bringing of fancy stuffs, no bragging, no flipping of hair—where did that come from,hahaha, those who will violate these law will have to donate the fancy stuffs to Gawad Kalinga)…No breaking of Promises Law (this law prohibits students from breaking their promises, students should not ditch, curse or forget their best friends at all times–there’s bitterness somewhere here-hahaha)…Sitting Properly Law (all should obey this law, no crossing of legs, putting feet up, slouching, sitting on top of the table and removing of shoes inside the classroom, those who will violate this law will sit in an electric chair)…Well, we can definitely learn a thing or two from kids.
My students fulfilled some of my wishes this year, that is for me to see clearly the good change I made in them and for them to change something in me for the better…I remember, the other day while I was checking the diary, my attention was caught by a small brass lamp that one of my student was holding, it was a prop for their role play in Language. While I was admiring it, I jokingly said, “Do you think a genie will come out of this thing?” They said ‘Yes miss, try it” and so I made a show of rubbing it and was surprised when suddenly my students laughed uncontrollably and pointed at my side. When I looked up, true enough there standing beside me was a genie… my student Jeannie Shin saying “Miss, your wish is my command” With these kids around you really don’t need a fairy tale genie, they will make your wishes come true if you just believe in them.:)
I’m gonna miss teaching for a while…not because I am taking a leave off from work but because it’s also vacation time for us teachers…this year I can say that I’ve never enjoyed teaching this much..I taught in pre-school before to four year olds and five years old, they are cute, cuddly and nice. They will adore you, you are the world to them and your word is the law. The parents will just say your name and ding! Their children will automatically follow… But nothing I can say beats teaching 9 year olds. I handled three sections of grade three this year, I absolutely had a grand time! Each section is unique, I had the brainy-section, the nothing-can-shake-us-not-even-an-earthquake section (which unfortunately is my class advisory) and the everything-goes section. I called the first section the brainy section because great ideas, opinions and point of views flow everytime I teach in this section. The discussion goes so smoothly that the three day lesson plan that I prepare gets cut down to just one day. In this section, you can find the girl with the wide-rimmed glasses often reciting facts straight out of the handout, the girl who is often not just there but when you check her test papers you will be surprised that she gets everything perfect, the girl who hates the world and so she creates her own world in her drawing pad and with her books, and the girl who in whatever she does she excels, and so her classmates absolutely hate and love her for it at the same time…For the nothing-can-shake-us section, I must admit I have to thank them for wringing out in me all the creative juices that I have to make my class an absolutely not! boring class, for they are hard to please. The great and exciting activities just fall flat with them. Not so much because they want to make it hard for you and they are just not interested but simply because they are looking out for more than what you can give sometimes, and so you exert an extra effort here and there until they warmed up to your ideas and join in. You will find here the girl who is too shy to recite but when she recites she has the brightest ideas, the girl who is simply intelligent with no effort at all, and the girl who needs your special attention because she just can’t understand everything on her own…you will realize for yourself when you’re with them that teaching is not simply enumerating facts but also bringing it to the level where they can relate and understand it better…Now, for the everything goes section, no teaching days are ever same with them. They are spontaneous, carefree and smart. A simple discussion can turn into a heated debate to them, a motivational game can turn out to be the best game of their life that they had to win and a simple “settle down girls” won’t do, you have to holler and scream to get their attention, and when you do that, they will holler and scream at each other to remind each other to settle down and so chaos begins. And when you step out of their classroom at the end of the period, you will feel like you’ve been teaching the whole day but even so you will suddenly realize that they made your day….here you can find the girl who is so emotional that happy or sad she will burst into tears, the girl who can’t seem to keep herself from blurting out the answers therefore making her classmates want to kill her for spoiling it for them, and the girl who is often taking her own sweet time in everything that she does making you so frustrated but because of her sweetness you forgive her for it…Teaching is not an effort when you do it for them, it is simply a breeze…I remember when I asked the girls to write a letter to the mayor , I can’t help but laugh at some of their works… one of my students after praising the mayor for a job well done wrote as a closing “..and I hope you die happy and holy..” and another one after criticizing the mayor for the projects in their community that didn’t work out, in her postscript wrote “..by the way, nice shot there in the billboard where did you have it taken?” and the most hilarious of all, my Korean student wrote “…Dear Mr. Aldrin San Pedro, good morning dear…”…Aaawww, I would simply miss the girls…I will miss their intelligence, spontaneity, spark and spunk… I will miss their drawings and little notes that say, “You’re the best teacher “, “Your so cool” or “follow us in intermediate miss, please”..I’m just so thankful and glad that for a year at least, I was able to make a mark and difference in their lives…