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Category Archives: Teaching

When Students Don’t Learn

studentsOne morning, I witnessed how  an English teacher masterfully discussed the intricacies of the English language. It would take a paragraph or two should I explain in details the things he discussed. Let me just say that he is every inch a native English speaker. His knowledge of the phonemes, morphemes, lexemes, syntax and context is impeccable. He dissected the language so skillfully  and the way he did it almost made me envious.  I was reduced to being a listener uncertain whether I just wanted to make sure not to miss anything new (something I don’t know yet) from what he was saying or I have nothing more to share because he had everything covered about what he was discussing. I wasn’t really sure what prevented me from saying anything. Maybe I was intimidated by his evident mastery of grammar, semantics, and pragmatics or I just did not like to gatecrash into his moment to showcase his brilliance.

That teacher held court in that conversation. He had the attention of everybody present. It was difficult to judge the intentions of my colleagues whenever they (unsolicitedly) share their expertise like that. Was it to impress upon us (their co-teachers) that they know that much or they simply would (good-naturedly) like to help us learn more about the subject (English) we’re teaching.

Later that day, I changed upon a student  who attended my English class in a previous semester. That student was one of the best in my class. Like me, he was heading out of the campus. After the exchange of greetings, I asked “Who’s your English teacher this semester?” The student already started responding before I recalled that I have previously made a promise to myself never to ask any of my former students that question for the reason that a few of my previous attempts led to the opening of “a can of worms.”

But it already happened – I asked that stupid question again.

The student named the teacher – he was the one I heard deliver an impromptu lecture about the English language earlier that day. After that, the student heaved a sigh and said, “We could hardly understand what he’s teaching.”

I looked at him seriously and all I could say was “Really!?”.

He nodded and said one more thing, “He is also very serious.”

Before he could open wider that “can of worms,”  I told my former student to give that teacher more time to adjust since the semester is still a long way to go. Then I quickly redirected our conversation to another topic after that.

What’s amazing is that the occurrence – of me one day hearing a  colleague deliver a brilliant impromptu lecture but later that same day (or within the week) I would meet one of his  students (who used to be my student also) claiming that they, in the class, could hardly understand what he is teaching – did not happen only once.  If my memory serves me right, that’s the fourth time.

It finally made me reflect. That’s the reason I wrote something  about it.

It made me wonder also how my former students rate my performance as a teacher. What do  they really think  (and how they feel)  about me as their teacher?

Students evaluate the performance of their teachers every semester. It’s hard to tell how reliable and valid are the results of such evaluation. Whether or not the results is a reflection of the true professional and personal qualities of the teachers is a matter of debate.

But valid or not, reliable or otherwise, it’s hard to ignore what students say about the performance and behavior of their teachers. Teachers get to read what students write in their evaluation. They could either agree or disagree with the results of their evaluation.  But what the teachers would not know is what students say about them in informal discussions. Only the most naïve among teachers don’t know that students talk about their teachers.

In gatherings, teachers do talk  (or should I say gossip) about their students – their performance and behavior in the class. Conversely, students do the same. They talk (or gossip) about their teachers. There are only two possibilities – they either praise or curse their teachers.

One of the  most unacceptable things that students could say about a teacher is – they do not or they could hardly understand what he/she is teaching.

Witnessing first hand an English teacher discuss with ease the complexities of the English language and hearing a student claim that he and his classmates could hardly understand what that teacher is teaching is quite paradoxical.

So I asked myself this question that night – Which is true… my impressions about that English teacher or that of his students?

What could have gone wrong?

My former student said that their current English teacher is very serious. Is that the problem –  good rapport does not exist between him and the students? It is no secret that teacher’s personality is correlated to students’ academic performance.

I tried to think of other reasons.

Then I recalled my teaching demonstration when I was applying for a job right after my graduation. When the high school principal called me to her office to discuss the results, she told me I did great. But she said there was a problem – I explained things in a way that only students enrolled in a graduate program could understand.

Could that be the reason?

If that teacher carry out discussions in the  class in the same way he explained the grammar topic to us in that gathering earlier that day then that exactly is the problem. You cannot discuss a grammar point to students trying to learn the language the way you would to teachers teaching that language. I think that is not a rocket science.

There are two things I learned before I officially began my teaching career – adapt my strategies and materials to students’ levels and simplify my language.

The problem is there are teachers who have a “one-size-fits-all” mentality thinking that educational processes and approaches to teaching and learning are standard and could not be tailored to meet individual needs. They wouldn’t buy into the idea of differentiated learning and teaching.

They will never accept responsibility when their students don’t learn.

Their standards are as immovable and high as Mt. Everest. The students have no other choice but to climb their Mt. Everest.

For them, it’s the fault of the students when they fail.

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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.

 

How and Why I Love Teaching

teacher

How do I love teaching?

Let me count the years… thirty!

Yes, I have been a teacher for three decades now. I began my teaching career at a basic education institution in Bauan, Batangas (Philippines) in 1988 and served  my 30th year in the academe at a university in South Korea. I will be returning to that same school for 2019 (and beyond… God willing) to continue my journey as a teacher.

Despite the not-so-good comments I heard  about teaching as a profession when I was young, I embraced it and I don’t regret having done so.

It is both surprising and amusing how lowly teaching is regarded by some people. It is one of the least popular jobs anywhere in the world.

Parents in the culture where I grew up would tell their children graduating from high school to just take up an Education course and be a teacher once they find out that their children are of average intelligence.

To some professionals, teaching plays second fiddle.  They would seek positions in the academe as teachers when in their chosen fields they could not get job offers. Many native speakers of English who had difficulty finding jobs in their own countries are working as ESL teachers in countries like Japan, China, and South Korea. Luckily for some of them, even if they are not graduates of Education courses or are not trained as teachers, there are schools who would hire them only because they are native speakers of English. I consider this a disservice to the teaching profession.

I love teaching and I do take my job as a teacher seriously. I sought employment in the academe upon completion of my bachelor’s degree knowing that I am qualified to be a teacher. I became a teacher not because I have no other choice. I became one by choice.

I know that teaching as a profession requires a lot and I made sure I am apt to the task. I went to graduate school, attended conferences and seminars, took certificate courses (like TESOL), and studied by myself the application of technology to education. I also keep reading books and journals related to both my subject area and pedagogy. All of the aforementioned  I did  (am doing) in order to  ensure that I could cope up with the demands of the profession and to give nothing but the best to my students. This is my way of respecting my profession as a teacher.

Why do I love teaching?

Search for the 25 best-paying jobs (or make that 50… or 100) and it’s very unlikely that teaching is included.  This is what makes the teacher’s job not-so appealing. Teachers get paid low and on top of that –  they are overworked. They work way beyond office hours. Such is the reality that I fully accepted. I never whined about it.

But for me, it’s never been the pay. It’s the happiness and the sense of fulfillment that teaching gave me. That’s what I love about this profession.

I enjoy doing the things that teaching requires me to do. Teachers need to read and write a lot. And those are my hobbies. Teachers have to do a lot of talking and leading and I so happen to love public speaking. I love the feeling of being in front of people… talking to them, making them laugh, and leading them to action.

Teaching allowed me do the things I love doing. It actually honed my skills and improved my knowledge in the areas where I could excel. It developed in me values that guide me both personally and professionally. It challenged me to strive for excellence and pushed me beyond my abilities. It made me believe in myself and it strengthened my faith in God as well.

As Jim Rohn said, “True happiness is not contained in what you get, happiness is contained in what you become.”

What I have become because of teaching is just amazing.

And the rewards for becoming what I have become are equally amazing.

The rewards – both intrinsic and extrinsic – are just awesome.

Don’t tell me that teaching is not financially rewarding. Teachers can be paid handsomely if they play their cards well and push the right buttons. It’s a matter of how they handle their career in the academe, how they build up their reputation, and what stuffs do they have in their professional portfolios.

Here is my advise to teachers like me, most especially to the young ones – don’t teach for the money. Become first what you ought to become. Be the best teacher you could be. Don’t be contended with your Bachelor’s degree. Aspire to have a doctorate. Attend all the seminars and training you could attend. Be certified in your field. Invest on yourself… not on gadgets and other material possessions. Plan well your career in the academe and make the right decisions.

If teachers would love their job and treat it with utmost respect, they will get the rewards they richly deserve.

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