Last March 21 was our school’s Commencement Exercises. It also wrapped-up my first 200 days in the public school.
Just like any other things we get involved with, the first teaching experience is always novel. I had my very first year ever as mentor in the public school way back in the 1980’s, S/Y 1988-1989. That was ages ago, in my hometown elementary Alma Mater. Then I transferred and stayed in the private school for more than twenty years. So now, this immediate past school year turned out to be another first.
I happened to apply in a public school (of the Department of Education) via a social networking site, chanced upon a former college classmate who amazingly turned out to be the school principal. Through our FB chats, I was guided to submit employment papers. To cut the story short, I was able to apply and with good luck, after the interviews, teaching demonstration and all the tests needed, I was permanently hired. I finally took the oath as a professional and devoted public servant and teacher.
My first months in the school were strange for me. It was a different environment from the private schools that I was used to like the students’ behavior and demeanor inside the classroom, the materials used in our classes, and the classroom itself. I couldn’t help but make comparisons.
Still half-dazed and suffering from culture shock, I faced my work bravely. Soon the experience being in the public school system began, again.
I was assigned in the Grade Six English classes, a big challenge, it turned out. Reading and Language are two separate subjects offered in the private schools but lumped into one in the public under the subject English. The first adjustment was to be bilingual. I was never allowed in the private school with strict enforcement by the English coordinators. But here, I had to or I won’t be able to reach out to my students. It was too early to say but I have to. The children need a lot of help in English language class. A better teacher is one who speaks the language straight but also being able to translate the whole thing in Filipino. A must in the current setting very much appreciated by the students, I found out later.
With my communication approach finally decided, my next problem was the materials to be used. I was used to having three to four kinds of books but currently, I had two old books published five to ten years ago or more. It was a sad thing the books could be hardly of use in the class. The stories and other reading materials in the reading textbook were far beyond the comprehension level of the students. I found myself reading the text in English and translating the whole thing in Filipino. Sometimes I felt guilty having explained the whole thing in Filipino. But I thought it was the smartest thing.
More observations I have noted here:
1. The conduct of the PHIL-IRI tests or the Philippine Informal Reading Inventory tests.
There were two types; the silent reading and the oral reading tests. I have been a reading teacher for years and I know it when a student can read or cannot read. The results of the oral and silent reading tests in my class came as a challenge as it showed that the children were slow readers. They were in the reading level lower than what they’re supposed to be. Such was the greater challenge. Students have poor understanding of the English subject because they’re not good in reading.
2. The behavior of the students in class.
They lack interest and focus. This, I understood since our school happen to be in the area where there was a huge number in the poverty level. I missed my previous quiet, attentive students. Discipline was a big problem. With the Child Protection Policy in the public school, I needed to control myself from scolding unrully, many unattentive, students in my class. I do not want being accused of verbal abuse by parents. Haizt…I should be careful with my words even now. (Editor: No worry at all, well taken cared of on our end.)
But it wasn’t all that bad, after all.
I am thankful I was given the chance to teach in the public school. The security of tenure is something to be appreciated versus in the private schools. The best part of it is, I learned so much in my first two hundred days in the system.
Now, I have the whole summer to prepare for the next school year. Already, I have started with plan for positive interventions, such as spelling contests to arouse the interest of the students. I will do better next school year. I now know what to expect from my students.
Faced with the gloomy prospect of old books in the classrooms, some parents who may not have time to assist children in their studies at home, and students who did not show appreciation of the education given free by the government, we, teachers aim to teach that the “mute might speak and the blind might see.”
I remember Ms. Anne Sullivan, the mentor of Hellen Keller. Ms. Sullivan was a “Miracle Worker”. We, teachers in the public schools, are miracle workers in our own ways. Miracle workers indeed.