By: IMELDA CARAVACA FERRER
IT PAYS TO BE A BOOKWORM
When I was six years old, my aunt used a piece of cardboard to write the letters of the alphabet to teach me. The young scholar in me resisted and I tore it to pieces until a second one was procured and a thwack on my bottom taught me that aunts are to be obeyed. Three years after, the reluctant reader became enthralled with the contents of my mom’s bookcase and the very first pocketbook I read as a third grader was “The Dazzle in the Sea” by Flora Kidd. I was hooked and there was no turning back. In high school, I took the competitive exams for wannabe writers and I made it as literary editor. In college I became a writer for both the college and university papers. My course was A.B. Sociology and yet there I was, enamored with English.
Fast forward to 1984, I couldn’t land a job. My dear Uncle Rick gave me a choice to watch a famous play or enroll in PNU. I chose the latter and became a reluctant teacher. It was precisely my ken in English that made school heads take me out of teaching Grade III and transferred me to Grade VI so I could handle journalism classes. To date, I have garnered at least a hundred journalism awards for my school. This included our school paper being a semi-finalist in the 2006 Catholic Mass Awards. That pretty much made my year. I was ecstatic.
Despite being a reluctant teacher, I worked on myself to love my chosen profession. And love it, I did! To fellow teachers out there, reluctant or passionate, let me share what helped me along the pedagogical highway I have been walking.
1.I Bring My Own Passion Into Classroom When I teach, my neighboring teachers usually close their doors because I teach with much funfare. Since I am a music lover, I would play contemporary CDs and get my students to actively participate by relating them with their current experience. Being a devoted listener to Monster Radio Rx 93.1, I have likewise interested my kids to listen to Chico and Delle’s Top Ten during their seatwork. That usually gets my students more involved in our activities.
2. I Use My Creativity to Motivate my Students Valuing creativity I have jumpstarted a journal writing session by making my students listen to “Diary” with both the versions of Pink and Britney Spears. My students loved this. I likewise research on and use ice-breakers for my informal language lessons. For instance, I use the “Think on Your Feet” questions to kick off a discussion or a journal entry.
To better understand and help them, I read what my students’ preferred literature. For instance, my love for Harry Potter made me join Hogwarts Philippines and I likewise encouraged my students to join as well.I also blog so I could network with some of my students in Friendster (this dates me!)where I post letters, book reviews, and my musings on life, friendship and love. I also lend books to my students. Because of this, I get feedback like Christopher’s “You just don’t make us like English, you make us love it. “That was after I lent him my HP books when he was in Davao. This passion to discover and utilize resources has rubbed off on my students.
3. I Work to Equip Myself Such was my passion for making my classes interesting that I stopped at nothing to get properly equipped. When Adarna books used to be bought for a song, I would buy different titles from the profit of the “lugaw” (congee) we sell in the classroom. With that, I created a mini-library for my students. I even enrolled for an M.A. in Reading at the premiere university of the land. I was hooked all the more. I loved the engagement activities and the arsenal of reading strategies that I learned. The UP and FAPE libraries boasted a collection of books of sheer beauty and a veritable fount of information which I bought back to my classes.
4. I Do my Best to Make Learning Fun and Expansive for Me and My Class First day classes are usually staid affairs for most teachers but not for me. I play games with the kids. I want to show them that learning is fun. I research on my students’ interests and integrate them into various learning activities. Even my test would include items on Harry Potter, music, general information, scientific, encyclopedic tidbits, TV shows, popular ideas, politics and others
I want to widen the interest of my charges so I keep exploring ways to be more effective in expanding their views and prepare them for the nitty-gritties of life itself.
5. I Integrate Life and Humor in Everyday Classroom Activities I’m not know to shirk life. I teach more than the agreement of subject and verb. I teach life. I’m so passionate about life so I give very down to earth examples but always with a touch of humor. My students crack up whenever I tackle heavy issues with a light touch. I joke quoting lines from Snoopy and the like. I love to laugh and my students laugh with me.
I even have co-authored “Experiencing Powerful English” for SIBS Publishing House which is replete with stories of hope and a deep appreciation of life. I am proud to say that I have added a social dimension to our series by adding topics on sex education, abortion, child workers in our midst, teenage pregnancy and other topics pertinent to my students’ life situations.
6. I am a Friend Mentor and Counselor to my Students. To most, if not all, of my students, I am both a teacher and friend. They are free to approach me to consult about almost any concern. Just as I can induce laughter among my students, so could I move them to tears. To help them get in touch with their feelings, I make them draw their thoughts on a journal and tell me how they feel and think. I had students who cried to me about their problems. When this happens, I become a listening ear, a counselor-coach. If they need more help, I give them free telephone counseling numbers from Crisis Line and Dial-a -Friend . I even took counseling workshop to be more effectively equipped.
7. I focus on What can Empower My Students. As a committed teacher, it is my desire to equip and empower my students in every way possible by sharing my own talents. For example, as a copy artist, I love to draw so I share my passion for the arts by incorporating art in my lessons and bring my students to museums.
I have exposed my young writers to the Bantayog ng mga Bayani and made them write reviews of Lualhati Bautista’s Dekada 70, Fred Gipson’s Old Yeller, the music of Lea Salonga, martial law and a myriad of other topics as well.
8. I Serve within and beyond the Classroom As a “Gurong Kaakbay,” I have taught students format poetry writing and teachers more creative teaching strategies, held an Adarna book fair for a week that generated whopping sales and spear-headed a “Read-to-a –Patient” activity at the Ospital ng Makati. In my desire to reach those most in need of help, I handled the lowest sections in school. (We had 20 sections then.) I could still recall feeling a lump formed in my throat when a girl said “Paki turuan mo po kaming mag-Ingles.” They had barely three months with me and I wanted to give them so much. I knew I was competing with a lot of factors: TV, internet, computer games, malls, no study habits, no reading role models at home and I wouldn’t say I wasn’t daunted. But I had fun with them. I celebrated their little successes. I was so happy when I gave them opportunities to speak one by one and they were able to form sentences. They were silent no more. They were given the opportunity to speak.
What more could I say? Being a teacher blows me away. But I am not done teaching or should I say- I am not done learning to be an effective teacher.
And I take advance of every opportunity at any disposal, as in attending all the free Growth Sessions the Reintegration for Care and Wholeness Foundation offers monthly to better myself as a person. This is what I have come to realize that my best resource in teaching are what I have within me.
Next year, I’ll introduce my students to Shelfari. Com, a network of book lovers, poemhunter.com and all musical.com . The future is bright . I am in the zone. I’m proudly Pinay and proud to be a teacher. I am a reluctant teacher no more.
Written by: Imelda Caravaca Ferrer
Reintegration for Care Self-Care & Inner Wellness Magazine December 2008-March 2009 Volume II, No.2