Teachers and Teaching

The teacher’s role is help create a fun, safe and loving environment that facilitates wonder, curiosity, learning and tenacity among the learners. Or better, collaborate with the learners to create this kind of environment. The teacher is not the sole dispenser of knowledge, solutions and answers for the learners. Instead, the teacher empowers his/her student to investigate and solve problems in the world. A teacher plays different roles in varied width and depth but one main role of the teacher for me is to listen and to learn from his/her students as much as they learn from him/her.

On a personal level, teaching for me is a venue to get to be in touch /know the people of the future (children today) which I consider a concrete mechanism for me to remain positive and hopeful about the future. Through experience and self-correction of a generation, the next ones hopefully could learn and become better. Teaching is an exchange/sharing, it is also a necessity in living to our full human potential. It does not mainly happen in school but happens naturally in all aspects of our lives. Teaching is also learning, and we don’t always need another person to learn –we could even be our own teacher. When teaching/learning stops, there will be no more challenge, possibilities and ‘life’.

The teacher must take responsibility in planning and preparing lessons (diagnostics, considering flow and development of topic, relevance to real life etc, making teaching tools, use of media etc.), delivering lessons (communicate, facilitate discussion, observe learner’s response etc) and creating/administering assessment tools for both teaching and learning. The teacher must work together with the learners in identifying the road map of learning.

A professional environment is an open and honest environment where teachers are safe to share about their concerns/suggestions also with a shared responsibility over issues that happen in the school. A good professional environment continues to challenge teachers to constantly improve and develop, learn from other professionals and be able to empathise with each other. It offers a working condition that is safe and has no threat to the teacher’s physical and mental health.

For most institutions, the curriculum is already formulated and finalised and teachers have the least of power to change these ready made products. Most of the time the school administration is resistant to change (esp if it mainly profit driven) and learning among their students would not be their priority. Teachers can share and voice out their concerns, but it doesn’t mean action will follow.

Main problems would be relation problems. Relations with school administrators, fellow, teachers, parents and most of all students. To be able to teach effectively and happily, a teacher must share the same ideals with the institution where he/she works. Or else, he/she would not find it meaningful and worthwhile as he/she might be in constant resistance/compromise. Next, fellow teachers should be professional, inspiring, collaborative than competitive and trustworthy. Or else, it could affect working relations, create division and unnecessary stress. Parents and students create big emotional impact to teachers, teachers could take it out on themselves when their students are not doing well, they could be deeply affected with students behavior etc. There’s a lot more issues teachers face and to end this, I’d like to point out how teachers are not sufficiently paid given that this profession requires a lot of physical, mental and emotional energy. teachers should be able to take care of themselves in order to continue taking care of their learners.

 

 

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Matters Beyond Intelligence (Part 2)

Creators vs. Consumers, Emotional Intelligence and Critical Thinking

Technology and the Internet are useful tools accessible easily at this age and time. But how many parents feel antagonized by technology as they witness addiction to games and the virtual world among the youth? How many children are engulfed in keeping up with the latest gadget, fashion etc? I think it is the best time to develop Emotional Intelligence and Critical thinking among the youth. More than academic excellence and measuring IQ,  it is Character that is most important. A truly intelligent person is one that has morals and ethics. If we teach the youth Self-awareness, Self-Control, Social Awareness, Emotion management etc, we help them become better persons (as siblings, friend, etc) not merely better students. We help them become thinkers (for themselves) and empower them to make responsible choices. Many parents are unable to trust their children so they always want to be in control of their lives but if we recognise that children are individuals capable of thinking for their own and developing self-control and be able to nurture that, then parents would not be as paranoid. In Public school,we could do less with lectures and instead engage students more in debates and dialogues. It’s a shame that some students tell me they just copy things from their blackboard for their class period. How can these method develop critical thinking? Finally, in the present day ‘Cult of personality’ and rampant consumerism, it is easy to be caught prey by the wave that makes us measure ourselves (and other people) by “have” and “have nots”. The dangerous thing is that when we consume more and more, we become passive and uncreative. Instead, if education leads us to an active life, we would be creators and be able to self-actualize for the benefit of ourselves and others. We would focus, not on material wealth but development of our character and other potentials.

I firmly believe that Education must make the essential things matter and help benefit the community we are in. If we nurture love of learning, emotional intelligence and critical thinking, the future for Filipinos would definitely be brighter. And instead of us asking the youth what they would like to be when they grow up, maybe we better ask them what problem they would like to solve?

Matters Beyond Intelligence (Part 1)

In a developing country like the Philippines, Education serves as a ‘ticket’ out of poverty or to a ‘good’ convenient way of life. It constitutes a means for an end which is ‘survival’. Having a college graduate in a family means increased income, economic capacity and social mobility. Thus, families pride take in their graduates especially with earning titles as Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers etc., which are the top earning profession in the country as well.

This is very understandable in our culture that puts a lot of value in hardwork and filial duty. Situations like these indeed bring out true virtues of Filipinos — selflessness towards family. However, there is a threat when Education is considered merely as a means for an end. If overlooked as an end in itself, Education can be corrupted, manipulated and worse, serve wrong purposes and have the youth suffer from it.

Grades, Competition, Fear

Following Education as an economic means, education is thus seen as a form of investment. The return of investment is expected as soon as the student finishes school and starts to join the work force, or when they start to generate income for the family. As a result, ‘Schooling’ is a stage to figure out ‘what we want to be when we grow up”, to get the most out of school, to be trained and to be ready for ‘competitive world of work’ in a distant future. As soon as one is enrolled in school, it is undeniable that the pressure is there for one to gain proper skills, earn good grades and other credentials that will prove one as worthy of being ‘employed’ in the future. Filipino parents (middle and elite class) do not just pick random schools but make sure their kids are among the top schools for them to be the “best among the rest.” As early as this stage, it is a world of competition and survival. But should this be the case?

The short-sightedness of this perspective sends the wrong messages to the youth. Instead of loving learning itself, exploring the world, making experiments, committing mistakes, creating new things, the focus is to create a flawless grade record and outperform classmates. As a result, students get motivated to get better grades and rewards, not because they want to know the world or be able to solve problems in it. Why don’t we bring back the love of learning? When we learn because it is fun, challenging and expands our understanding of the world? When we learn because we “love to” not because we “have to”? It is sad when sometimes I ask students (especially those with the highest ranks) what they remember learning in school in the previous year and they reply to me that they barely recall what they have learned. This shows how we fail to learn in depth and how putting more importance in grades divorce us from the true purpose of learning. The most dangerous thing this could lead to is when we think that learning ends when school ends. The world constantly changes, ideas evolve and new things are discovered. The natural way is for us to continue to learn or be ‘life-long learners’. It is sad that in most cases students cannot wait to finish school because it isn’t fun, but is a burden! How do we bring back the love of learning?

Fear, Drop-outs, Public Schools

It is a shame now that student fear to commit mistakes lest anyone judge them as stupid or having ‘no future’. If students live in fear, creativity would not be possible and the system will just be producing mediocre people. There are schools who constantly rank their students and rely mostly on standardized exams that do not really measure the learning of the students. Students and sadly even parents, rely on these not very authentic measures of intelligence and learning. Also, it is tragic that in our culture, there is a stigma on drop outs. We always consider those who fail school as hopeless and good for nothing. But then, what if the schools systems are the one that failed them? I have been working with out-of school children for years now and I could say that the school system failed them. The schools for one do not understand the needs of these specific children. In Payatas, tuition could be free but add in the cost of projects, payment for classroom electric fans and maintenance stuff, field trips (where grades are based), payment for exam papers, it creates a lot of unnecessary cost! A very funny story I have is about one of our scholars who came to me one day and asked me if she could use her money to buy an Encyclopaedia. I suggested she just borrow encyclopaedia from our library because the cost would deplete her budget. She agreed but I got curious and ask her what would happen if she doesn’t get to bring one. She said they will be sent out of the classroom if they fail to bring an encyclopaedia. I think this is an example of an impossible demand from public school. Imagine 30-40 children bringing 30 -40 individual encyclopaedias when these families cannot even buy decent textbook book. I told her to be honest with her teacher and explain that it is expensive and impossible for her to buy. The next day, I asked for an update and she said that her teacher realized that “Encyclopaedias are expensive”. From this, I urge local Public schools and teachers to be more sensitive to the needs of their students and the community at large. If we do not understand them, how can we help them?

The Out-of-school children I work with are the most hard working kids I know. They may have dropped out of school but they are not stupid, and are not different from other kids. I think it is the school that killed their love of learning. One child confessed to me that she no longer wants to go to school because her teacher physically assaulted her. Another tells me it is difficult to spend the day at school because it is very hot and crowded in the classroom, plus their teachers are always mad. Now we ask, is this a learning environment? When schools feel like torture rooms, we cannot blame the children for disliking it. In the end, it’s lose-lose situation– Students drop-out because Public School is not really affordable, and worse, it has killed their love of learning. Now, the vicious cycle of poverty continues.

 

That which is for play, is also for learning (vice versa)

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*This post was originally created on May 5, 2017 and is transferred from my other  blog to this new blog

Learning is such a beautiful process. Learning makes us realise our current abilities capacities and the possibility of going beyond all of these. The challenge for educators is to create the right environment to better facilitate learning and be able to engage learners in away that empowers them.

Learning should be fun and not divorced from every day life.

Here is a picture of my student who won a pogs tournament. During this time, our students were crazy about this game and I always see them holding their hard earned pogs. We were studying multiplication during this time and the best  learning tool is no other than what they brought everyday to our class. Pogs for life as they say!

Reflection on Learning

*This post was originally created on May 5, 2017 and is transferred from my other  blog to this new blog

Learning is a way of life and it is not restricted to take place in school. Learning happens wherever we are because we are alive and learning is what we continue to do. True learning is useful: being able to translate theory into actions that improves the lives of others.

I hope we are not sending the wrong message that learning is exclusive to schools.  And that if we fail in school, we are stupid and would not be successful in life. We always think students fail school but not that schools failed these kids.  I hope we continue to empower the learners and let them know that they could be their own teachers and that they are capable of learning in and out of the classroom and be relevant to the society.  I suggest we redefine success for the youth. Success should not merely mean individual success but something that benefits the rest of the society. We should ask not what our students want to be when they grow up but what problems they would like to solve.

There are numerous ways an individual can get educated without going to school. I can imagine how people ‘learned’ before the institution of formal education in the world.  But first, an individual must first admit to himself/herself  his/her ignorance, then, willingness to learn and openness to new experience must follow. Why? because many external things can take place to contribute/facilitate  but if the internal compass is not ready to recognize and navigate, no learning could take place. One this is established an individual can learn from the ff:

  1. Family members- As humans we learned to use language not in school but at home first! Language is just but one thing we can learn at home. Our mother, father, siblings etc in their own are rich in experiences and skills which we can learn.
  2. Friends – Through dialogue with friends coming from different background (Health practitioners, artists etc) we can learn a big deal from them. Moreso, if we watch them do their stuff, we can definitely learn something from the experience
  3. Community – If we look closer around our community, we can observe how people do their work and be able to learn from them. If they allow, we can be ‘interns’ and train under their guidance.
  4. Internet – A lot of information are available in the internet, from Farming to Cosmetology. You can learn by watching videos (Vimeo or Youtube), visiting DIY websites or enrolling in MOOCs.
  5. Nature – Observing nature can help us discover and learn interactions that happens int he natural world and more importantly the interdependence of everything
  6. Books/Journals – through books, one can travel in space and time. It can widen our understanding of the world. Reading different subjects, news, etc allow us gain knowledge about people, places, things etc.

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