It’s been two years now. Ever since the time when I, together with a bunch of misty-eyed young people decided to take a chance and be a public school teacher as a fellow of Teach for the Philippines.
I was naïve, passionate, and hopeful. Overconfident, if I may add. Then reality blew up in my face. Of overcrowded classrooms, of kids coming to school with empty stomachs, of students with behavioral problems acting out in class. Add to that the unmotivated learners, and the non-readers, and the list just goes on.
I decided to put on the mean teacher mask. I became super strict and tried to employ a military style of classroom management. But I was like a mad man as I switched from the non-smiling disciplinarian to the overly enthusiastic persona when delivering a lesson or a story.
Oh and there were occasional bursts of anger but admittedly I was really angry most of the time. Angry at the system, angry at myself, angry at parents who don’t attend to their children’s needs, angry at these kids for being their rowdy selves which I couldn’t blame them for because, well, they ARE kids!
Despite the challenges and frustrations, there are moments when I felt like I was doing something right. When I saw the sparkle in the eyes of my students when they learned something new. When I observed behavioral changes and academic improvement. When I witnessed these young individuals demonstrating creativity, optimism, and kindness.
Fast forward to now. My former students back in Third Grade are finally graduating from Elementary School. I don’t know why the occasion brought so much pride and joy to my heart as I look at these faces and think about the ups and downs we went through together. They made it. They’re a step closer to their dreams.
It’s a bit conceited to think that I contributed to their success. It’s of course mainly brought about by their own will and perseverance. But then again, maybe I was somehow a part of it, being the positive influence that I wanted to be.
A parent told me that her son could still remember the words I said in class about dreams and working hard to achieve one’s dreams. That right there reminded me of my why. I do it not for myself but for the kids. After all, it has always been about them. And I may not be a teacher now but the experience continues to motivate me to strive to add value to people’s lives in whatever I do.