Category Archives: Essays on Education

On Education and What People Achieve and Become

For education to be meaningful, it should be holistic having as its ultimate goal the development of the whole person. Holistic education helps an individual to grow and develop in all dimensions: emotional, psychological, creative, social, imaginative, physical, intuitive, and spiritual as well as intellectual.1 The focus is on the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and values not for the sake of getting the best scores in standardized tests but to prepare them to engage in the real world. Holistic educators seek to engage students in their real-life worlds to the greatest extent possible.2

Have the schools of the 21st century  been approaching education holistically? Do they deliver the kind of education that enables their students to achieve their full potential? Are children in schools trained merely to be a worker in their chosen fields or prepared to take on the multi-layered challenges they have to contend with in real life?

Answering the foregoing questions definitively is difficult. The ones in the best position to answer them are the graduates themselves. It is only after a few years after completing schooling that  people can really evaluate whether the education they receive is meaningful or otherwise.

In the process of evaluating the value of the education people received, the question they need to answer is – “What have they achieved and become through it?”

What education allows people to achieve determines only half the value (or even less) of that education. The other half (or even more) lies in what people become through it. It is not enough that people succeed in their chosen careers – either by being gainfully employed or by having a business of their own – to say that their education is meaningful.  What have they become as persons needs to be examined as well.

Psychologists have identified the different aspects of the personality as physical, emotional, social, moral/spiritual, and intellectual. It is all in these areas that the evaluation of the process of becoming should be anchored upon.

Tests such as Big Five Personality, HEXACO, Myers-Brigs Type Indicator, and Core Self-evaluation can be used to determine the dominant personality traits a person has. In China, they have their CPAI (Chinese Personality Assessment Inventory). These tests can somehow help people analyze what have they become (or what are they becoming).

There are only two ways to classify personality traits or characteristics – they are either positive or negative. The HEXACO model of personality structure, for instance, is very specific in describing people in the honesty-humility (H) dimension – sincere, honest, faithful, loyal, and modest/unassuming versus sly, deceitful, greedy, pretentious, hypocritical, boastful, and pompous.

What people become can only be labeled in two ways as well – good or bad. There are no gray areas. Ethics (as a branch of Philosophy) established clear guidelines in determining what is good and bad, right and wrong.

It is of paramount importance that education should not only help people prepare for a career but guide them into developing positive traits and the right attitudes. A child is not only a future employee or businessman. When eventually a child becomes an adult, there are other roles he/she has to play in society – as a citizen, as a community member, as a fellowman, as a neighbor, as a friend, as a family member. Life is not all about work. The workplace is only a small part of the world where the child lives.

Achieving is the process of succeeding in one’s chosen career or business – of enjoying the fruits of one’s labor. Becoming is the process of developing into the best person one is capable of turning into – physically, emotionally, socially, morally/spiritually, and intellectually. The person a child becomes would directly impact the way he/she would perform in the workplace, community, and society.

The process of achieving enables a person to have the means to earn a living.  But earning a living is different from living life. It is the process of becoming that empowers that person to live a life beyond work.

Education should be considered functional only if it succeeds in guiding the child in the processes of achieving and becoming.
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* (1 & 2) Andrew P. Johnson, Ph.D. Minnesota State University, Mankato
andrew.johnson@mnsu.edu

On Finding A Better School

Each time teachers or school administrators resign but expressed intentions to continue with their career in the academia, their colleagues would tell them this – “I hope that you find a better school.” I heard that several times because I also moved from one school to another – 6 times in the Philippines and twice here in South Korea – in the past 31 years.

Hiring committees in the academe consider “school-hopping” as a red flag. Some (if not most) people in charge of recruiting  teachers or  school officials think that when an applicant for an academic position has moved from one school to another several times, hiring them is a risky proposition. To this, I disagree.

You may disagree with my disagreement but I think that depriving applicants of the opportunity to get hired because  they “hopped” from one school to another is b—s–t! Recruiters who subscribe to the notion that transferring from one academic institution to another is an indication of an attitude problem on the part of the applicant think that they are morally better than anyone else – holier-than-thou. They should not forget that there are justifiable reasons teachers and school officials may do so. Of course it’s a different story if the hopping is due to an applicant getting fired from their position for whatever reasons and there are ways of determining if that’s the case.

At the  very least, the applicants described must be given a chance to be interviewed and afforded  the dignity to explain themselves. In my case, I tell you, if you would know my reasons why I left the last two schools where I served as a school administrator (where I stayed only for a year each), before I came here to South Korea, I could almost hear you saying “that’s the best decision to make” and that  you would not have second thoughts doing the same if you were me. 

There are a thousand and one reasons why teachers and school administrators resign. Some of them are justifiable, some are not. Reasons could also vary from professional to personal, sometimes both. But for those whose reason, specifically, is to find a better school, there is one question whose answer you should carefully contemplate on– “Does a school better than where you are presently working (or where you were previously employed)  exist?”

For those who like me “hopped” from one school to another – Did you find a better school? What about me? Did I find a school better than the previous ones that employed me as a teacher and as head of a department or of the school as a whole?

Before I, or any of you who, like me, moved from one school to another, at least once, answer the questions aforementioned (and before those who might also be considering leaving their current academic positions to find a “better school” make their final decision) there is another question that should be answered also:

 “What, FOR YOU, would make one school better than the others?”

Yes, I emphasized the phrase FOR YOU because when you look for a better school you will definitely be using your own standards to guide your choice. Only you know whether the personal norms you will be using agree with the existing (and research-based) measures used  in judging whether a school is good or bad. Only you know what philosophy, if any, informs those benchmarks that you will be using.   

For you, probably, a school is better when it is paying higher and giving more benefits. Nobody would fault you if that’s one of the bases, or it could be the primary basis,  you’re using to judge the worthiness of a school. As I said, I don’t blame you. Who would not want to graze where the pasture is greener? Who would not want a pasture where there are waterholes bursting with fresh water?

But there are other things that should be taken into consideration. In that school, you may be satisfied with the compensation package but what about the organizational climate and working conditions? Will you not consider those things? Would you not check first if behind the bushes in the pasture lions or tigers are not lying waiting to devour you? Would you not check first if in the waterholes submerged are crocodiles and snakes ready to bite you?

Will you not try to find out if it is a school wherein people, from top to bottom, treat each other professionally and humanely?

Is it a school that has benevolent administrators and ideal teachers?

Is it a school where while you are enjoying the pay, you would also be happy and peaceful?

Is it a school where you could grow personally and professionally?

Is it a school where you don’t disagree with the policies because they are perfect?

If the answer to each of the foregoing questions is a yes, then it means you have found a better school. Congratulations! And I think you found not just a school better than your previous one but THE PERFECT SCHOOL.

But do you honestly think you can really find a school that would answer yes to all of the questions above?

I hate to disappoint you but the answers is — NO!

Believe me.

And why you should believe me?

I have more than 3 decades of experience in the academe as a teacher and as a school administrator at the same time – transferred to different schools several times in the Philippines and here in South Korea and worked with teachers from different parts of the world. I have seen the best and the worst in the academe from both sides of the fence – the employers (school officials) and the employees (teachers). I can tell you with all honesty that there are demons and angels in both sides of aisle.

Believe me that no matter how good the compensation a school will give you, you will not be contented. You will always wish that they give you more… you will always want  more. Humans are hard to satisfy. If you say I am mistaken, that you are satisfied with what you’re receiving now then you are not like most of us. You are probably not human. You are a sentient being… an angel.

Believe me also that no matter how good the school administrators (or owners) are,  some people in the organization will always find something wrong with them. That’s just how people are naturally wired. They are programmed to find faults and trained to see what’s wrong. I am not saying all have that kind of attitude and tendencies. And I sincerely hope that you are the exception.

But what about you? Are you nor really like that? Don’t you have the mindset that those people holding offices are born to make things difficult for their subordinates – that the policies they implement are making your life difficult?  If yes, I tell you this, you will never find a better school. In your next school, with that kind of mindset, you will see the same problems and you will hurriedly pack your things again and leave after a year or less.

The employers and employees, like the administration and opposition parties in the political spectrum, are seemingly locked in an ancient struggle we call the battle of good and evil. As to who’s who – good or evil –  nobody knows What I know is that employees are naturally positioned to think that they are always at the receiving end of the bargain. That policies are inimical to their interest, that they are given too much work but are paid less, and — they think that they can do better than their school administrators. Come on girl! I dare you put up your own school and let’s find out if you would not become the school owner/administrator you hate.

Educators – you teachers and administrators – will definitely find a new forest but one thing for sure you will be the same animal there and don’t be surprised if you’ll find the animals in that forest as very much like the ones you left in your former forest. I will bet my house and savings that the problems and issues  you experienced and had in your former school will be the same you will encounter in your next school. You know why? Human beings are the same where ever you go. And you? Believe me, you will be the same person where ever you go. Unless you decide to change. And that is the prerequisite to finding a better school or a better workplace. You will find out why if you read on.

Oh… so you decided to read on. Thanks!

So, what happened to my quest for a better school?

First, here’s what I found out.

You searching for a better school – one better than your former school – is like Vladimir and Estragon waiting for Godot… who never came. I used this analogy hoping that you are familiar with Samuel Beckett’s existentialist  play entitled, “Waiting for Godot”. For all of you thinking that you can find that school somewhere – that one better than your previous – imagine me as the boy telling Vladimir and Estragon that Godot will not be coming tonight and I will return again tomorrow to tell you the same thing – that Godot is not coming… that you will never find a better school.

Why?

Because that better school we are searching is an abstraction –  an ideal. That school exists nowhere but in our minds and in our hearts. We don’t search for the better school but we make the school where we are better by becoming a better educator.

We create the better school when the pursuit of our pedagogical functions as educators is not predicated on the material gains we get in return for the efforts we exert. The efforts you exert, from the creation of  your lesson plans (setting your objectives, designing your learning activities, constructing your tests, and what have you)  to their execution in the classroom is a priceless endeavor that can not be valued monetarily. Its significance is intangible.

When at the end of the month  you exclaim that your pay is not commensurate to  all the efforts and sacrifices you put up in the classroom (and at home because most of the time you have to bring home work you could not finish in school), it is an indication that you may might have embraced the wrong profession. The solution is not to find a better school that gives higher compensation and less work but to search for another job that would give you what you value more – MONEY.  And hey, I’m not saying that’s bad. Me too likes money… lots of it. But if earning as much money as you could, the academe is not the right place for you. You should stay as far away as possible from the academe. I advise you to try becoming an entrepreneur. Who knows you might be the next Jeff Bezos or Warren Baffet.

Those who fully embraced teaching and acknowledging that it is not purely a profession done to earn a living but a vocation at the same time that has to be pursued for a higher purpose – that of preparing young people for life and to become the best they could be – find their pay envelopes bursting  with both money and sense of fulfillment. They receive intangible benefits – happiness and contentment. They are the teachers and school administrators who found a better school – it’s in their hearts and minds. They found joy in what they do.

We make the school where are better when we begin to acknowledge that we are in the academic institutions where we are  not for ourselves, not for our colleagues, and not for our school administrators.

For whom then that we are in a school and why are we teachers?

It’s sad if you don’t know the answer.

STUDENTS.

Yes, the students are the reason why you’re in school. The students are the reasons why you are a teacher. The students are the ones that gives essence to your being an educator.

Just like a woman that could not be called a mother if she has no son or daughter, adopted or biological.

Right? She’s just a woman (and a wife), but not a mother, if she has no child or children.

And would you call yourself a teacher  without a student. I think not. Those buildings in campuses of schools would be referred to only  as structures, collectively they could not be called a school, if there are no students.

You can make a school better when you acknowledge that you are there for the students.  It is important that you nurture your relationships with your colleagues and administrators but the more important relationship that you must nurture is that with your students.

The school becomes better when you realize that you are there to perform your functions as a teacher and not as  a critic waiting for the slightest mistakes from your colleagues and the leaders of the institution so that you will have  a topic to discuss (or shall I say gossip about)  with  your friends or an issue to hurl against the people concerned.

When you realize that changes being implemented would redound to the interest of the students being the most important stakeholders of the institution – the institution whose very reason for existing is to serve them – then you just made  the school all the more better. When you realize that such changes, and the corresponding adjustment you have to make are necessary, for the good of the student then you become a pillar of the better school where you wish to be.

Good riddance if the reason you leave the school is because you view necessary changes as too much, not too much per se, but too much as far as you and your standards are concerned. I hope that you are not so entrenched in your comfort zone that you construe the demand of existing and evolving circumstances for you to change and to learn something new as being unreasonable and disrespectful of your rights as an individual. That’s why you are at the verge of leaving your current academic position to look for a better school – and your idea of a better school is probably one that will not mind you not wanting changes to happen, one that will pretend not to see the badge of mediocrity displayed proudly in your chest.

The school where you are becomes the better school you are searching when you decide that even if nobody is watching, you conduct yourself within the bounds of professionalism and excellence that all educators are duty-bound to uphold. Your school becomes better when you make it a policy to never short-change your students.

Now, have I found a better school?

Eventually I did.

I found a better a school. It is where I am now. You cannot see it, because it is in my heart and in my mind.

I found it when I started to focus on the main reason I am a teacher – the students.

I found it when I decided to trust my colleagues and administrators that they know what they are doing. I trust that my administrators have got to do what they need to. I trust that my colleagues will do no less. My job is not to mind what they are doing because I have no control over those. My job is to guide my own students into becoming the best they could be and into getting themselves ready to live life when they finally leave school.

In that school, I found joy.

That joy make me not work, but play. Since then, school has ceased to be a workplace, but a playground. Yes, I play with my students. And for playing with them, I am given a reward everyday and every payday. Every payday – a well-deserved paycheck. Everyday – happiness.

My Essays on Education

educationThe year  South Korea hosted the Summer Olympics was the year I started my journey as a teacher. That was 1988.

Those many years I spent in the academe, 24 years in the Philippines and 6 years here in South Korea, taught me a lot about the teaching profession – more than those that I learned from undergraduate and graduate schools. My experiences as a classroom teacher and as a school administrator enabled me (and they still do) to look at issues, problems, and disputes using the lens of the one teaching and that of the one formulating and implementing school policies.  My having been in the position of  both made me understand how it feels to be in-charge of students and to be in-charge of both the teachers and students.

Those 30 years in 10 different schools in 2 different countries made the following very  clear to me: that it is not easy to wear the hat of a teacher; that teaching is not just another job; that teaching is not just a means of livelihood but a way to serve; and that everything schools, from the simplest activities to the most complicated policies, should be student-centered because the students are the reasons schools exist.

There were many times that I reflected on teaching as a profession and education in general. Those reflections resulted to essays and research works.

This is where I put them (essays I wrote on education and  some of the research works I have completed  here in South Korea) together. I added also in this section the dissertation and thesis I wrote as requirements for my PhD and Master’s degrees, respectively.

In the university where I completed my PhD and Master’s, the research papers  students are required to complete are called differently –  dissertation for PhD and thesis for Master’s.

The other studies listed in the subsections identified below (with links) include those that I presented in international conferences and were subsequently published in SCOPUS-indexed international journals. Papers published in international journals are usually longer that the versions presented in international conferences.

The following is my most recent research work:

English Proficiency of Tourism and Engineering Students in Two Asian Universities – A Comparative Study

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I presented this in an international conference in Manila earlier this year and is currently waiting approval for publication in an SCOPUS-indexed international journal.

Links to the international journals where some of the articles were published  as well as links to the websites of the conferences where they were presented are provided on the pages allotted for the papers.

This part of my website is divided into the following subsections:

My Essays on Education

Papers Published in Journals

Papers Presented in Conferences

My Master’s Thesis

My PhD Dissertation 

Unpublished Papers

My website also features the following section:

Personal Essays

Most of the articles found in this section are my very personal reflections on education.

 

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