Dear 2015 Fellows,
Fun, messy and, beautiful – that’s exactly how I would describe the past two years of my fellowship. Maybe you’re feeling excited and anxious, but before you jump in and think about how you’ll be changing the world, allow me to share what the past two years have been like.
Me: Ano ang globe sa Filipino? (What is globe in Filipino?)
Student: Load! (referring to prepaid card credit)
Me: Ano ang clear sa Filipino? (What is clear in Filipino?)
Student: Shampoo! ((referring to a shampoo brand)
Student: Wow! Ang ganda! (Wow! It’s beautiful! – on kaleidoscopes)
Another fellow and I were exchanging stories one day and we realized how much fun teaching is! Imagine, we come home (maybe a tad exhausted) with several stories to tell. Some good, some bad, some funny, and some heartbreaking – but how many jobs can allow you to experience what we go through every day? Indeed, kids say (and do) the darndest things. There’s hardly any boring day in this job!
On the other hand, people seem to think that much of what we do is simply play with the kids and be kids ourselves. Ironically though, this is one job that does require you to be the adult all the time. You cannot imagine how many times you would have to be the “bigger” person inside the classroom! No matter how annoyed you get, you just simply cannot lose your cool all the time. They’re the kids and you’re the adult. Many times during the day, I find myself reminding myself that.
Messy would also mean confusing. You come in thinking that you know more than you actually do. Well that’s the newsflash: Admit it, you hardly know anything about Philippine public schools. Reading about them does not mean you understand them. Trust me. Many of us had to learn this the hard way, myself included.
Sure, we can complain and gripe about the Philippine education system. But really, how much of what happens do we really know? The system is not perfect and I admit being challenged by certain situations. What has become my saving grace is the ability to shift perspectives, which I’ve only been able to do by reflecting and talking to the other fellows with me. Many times we talk about our personal beliefs, our values, our struggles and how all of these interplay with each other.
“Bulok sa public schools. ” (Public schools suck.)
“Hindi okay ang mga teachers dyan.” (The teachers there are not good.)
Some of these statements are beginning to hit me personally. The funny thing is that most of the time, it comes from people who barely spent any time inside a public school. I somewhat understand where these people are coming from. I have been judgmental myself. But the longer I’ve stayed, the more I find less reason to complain.
“You’re doing a noble job.”
“They need someone like you there.”
If I feel a bit hurt with the previous statements, the latter makes me feel a bit ashamed and guilty. I cannot count how many times people have patted me on the back for doing a “good” job. The truth is, I am where I am for two years. My co-teachers have been there for more than ten years. When I leave, they stay. And many of them stay for good reasons. They help students and they try to teach well despite the flaws in the system.
But amidst the mess, you feel humbled. And if you allow yourself to experience humility, then that’s when you start to learn and do better.
The fun and messy bits all come to one thing – a beautiful experience. I feel that I’ve actually grown into a better teacher. I couldn’t have done this without my co-fellows and co-teachers. I’ve met amazing people and have created wonderful relationships. All of them have allowed me to see myself and my place in the education sector a little bit better.
“Do you feel a bit more jaded?”
I probably feel more tired than jaded. Many times we have been warned about the system eating you up. But the truth is, after the two years of seeing the good and the bad inside public schools – I don’t feel jaded. I’m leaving with more hope than when I started.
So if you’re truly thinking of pushing through with the fellowship, please do not just do it because you want to give back to society. Or if you just want to feel more fulfilled. There are many different reasons why you can possibly choose to do this. You’re not sacrificing. You’re not simply being noble. This experience, I believe, is a privilege. Consider yourself lucky. Learn what you can and be kind when you can. After all, the opportunity to be a part of these children’s lives is a gift.
***My personal views do not necessarily reflect the views of Teach for the Philippines.