I’m an alumnus of Teach for the Philippines, an NGO that enlists some of the country’s most promising young leaders to teach for two years in public schools throughout the Philippines. This is an account of how the two-year journey began for me.
I will be teaching Science to five sections with 50 plus students. The good thing about this is I would just need to prepare one lesson plan. But I may get bored of repeating the lesson five times a day. Well, I guess that’s the least of my worries. Heck, I’ll be dealing with a big group of kids cramped in an overcrowded and poorly ventilated room… Bring it on! Challenge accepted!
I enter the classroom well-prepared as I could be. I can see it. I will charm them with my creative and engaging approach to teaching. And they will listen, learn, and have fun! A few minutes into the day and all my plans got thrown out the window just like that.
We learned about lesson planning, classroom management, child psychology, and everything that could possibly equip us to be effective, transformational teachers. But it’s totally different once you’re in the real world – the real classroom.
After my first week as an elementary public school teacher, all I have is renewed respect for teachers especially those in public schools. I can’t imagine how they do it. And now I’m wondering what I got myself into.
I have pulled my hair in front of the class. Literally! Banged my head against a cabinet, even. Out of frustration, helplessness… hopelessness? How can these kids have so much energy?!
It could be that this is their only chance to be playful. Life at home may not be that ideal. They may live in the slums, raised by a single parent who could barely make ends meet. They may have to resort to scavenging for recyclable scraps which they could sell for a few coins. They may have to skip school to try to earn a living for their family.
Come to think of it, their noise is not that bad. But multiply that soft chatter to 50 and you have the whole room practically falling apart from all the ruckus. And so I transformed to the non-smiling, strict, disciplinarian teacher. And it worked. I mean, I could quiet them long enough to actually be able to teach something.
A friend visited my classroom one time and asked me, “What happened to you? You don’t smile at all.” Yes, I’m the serious type but I’m normally cheerful and I definitely smile. I was even told that I was too kind a teacher. Wait ‘til they see me now. The thing is, if I become the light, happy teacher, the kids think it’s a permission to be rowdy. I want them to be happy in the classroom but that would make it so much harder to handle them. It boils down to the excessive number of students in the classroom.
“Happy birthday to you!” my students sang as they greeted me during my birthday. And without cracking a smile I said, “Thank you, sit down!”