The 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:
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 website also features the following section:
Most of the articles found in this section are my very personal reflections on education.
(A Personal Essay)
Each meeting with my students is important but it’s the first day that I consider very special – the most strategically important. It’s the day that I would attempt to accomplish one of the hardest things to do in education – to shatter the students’ image of the classroom as a prison cell, with them as prisoners and the teachers as nasty prison guards. It’s the day when I begin to lay the foundations of what every teacher should endeavor to forge between them and their students – a good rapport. The entire semester is a long haul and I know that winning their hearts – making them comfortable in my presence – would make our journey together as enjoyable and productive as it could be. If I succeed in making them trust me, especially since I am not the native speaker of English they were expecting as an ESL teacher, half of the battle is already won.
There’s nothing very special about the way I conduct my first meeting with my new students. It’s just a bit unconventional.
My introduction would always include telling my students the nickname which I adopted with the intention of eliciting laughter whenever I deliver a talk – Tonitonipoponibananananapoponinomimayfofoni. (That’s inspired by the song “Name Game.”) Amazingly, when I tell my students that and jokingly threaten them to memorize it if not they would fail in my subject, they would try very hard to repeat it after me and laugh at themselves if they wouldn’t be able to say it.
Then I would add, “Whoever could say my nickname correctly will get an A+.” I don’t mean it of course. Luckily, up until this time, no one among those who tried succeeded. It was me who would always succeed – in getting their attention.
From there, I would give them the necessary information about me as their teacher. The most significant of those information (as far as I am concerned) is the number of years I have been teaching. It currently stands at 30 years. The point I wish to drive home for highlighting to my students how long I have been teaching is – I wouldn’t stay this long in the academe if I don’t love my job.
The next part of my first-day-of-class script would touch the boundaries of philosophy.
I would be delivering something like an “eve-of-battle” speech. The way they do it in movies.
I would ask my first question: “Why am I teacher?”
Puzzled, the students would grope for an answer.
I would give follow-up questions after that – Would you call a woman a mother without a son or a daughter? Are your mothers and fathers mothers and fathers without you as their children?
Amid their “aahs” and nods I would then say, “I am a teacher because of the students. My reason for being a teacher is each of you. Without you I am not a teacher.”
That’s my way of telling my students that the most important stakeholder in a school are them. Schools exist because of them. School administrators and teachers have work because of them.
That’s my way of telling them that I exist (as a teacher) to serve their interest.
I would end that part with the following statement: “Thank you for having me as your teacher.”
After that I would show them a videoclip from the movie “Collateral Beauty” – that part where Howard Inlet, a character played by Will Smith, delivered a speech in a gathering of his employees at the beginning of the movie.
He said “What is your why? Why did you even get out of the bed this morning? Why did you eat what you ate? Why did you wear what you wore? Why did you come here?”
I would pause the video clip after each question and would ask them to give an answer.
Then I would ask them follow-up questions. (These were the only questions I asked when I was not yet using that movie clip.)
Why are you here in school?
Why do you want to finish your studies?
The last question I would ask – Why did you enroll in this class?
I never failed to ask the said questions because I want my students to understand that for them to succeed not only in their studies but in all their present and future endeavors, they need to set goals. They ought to know their whys. They must know the reasons why they do what they do, say what they say, and think what they think.
I would tell them also that the worst “why” to have for studying is to get A+ – that grades are not the be-all and end-all of schooling.
All of the foregoing would be finished in twenty to thirty minutes.
I would then ask the student to introduce themselves.
After all of the foregoing , that’s the only time that I would present the course syllabus – explain the course objectives, give the topics to be discussed weekly, and tell them what activities will be done in the class and how they are going to be graded.
It’s not surprising to see the students frown when they see the course requirements on the last page of the syllabus. That’s the time that I would deliver the last part of my “eve-of-battle” speech.
I would ask – “Is learning fun?”
As expected, majority would say “no.”
My next question would be – “Is work fun?”
Of course the students would say “no” again. And every time I would ask that, one or two would say “My father always complains about his job.”
Then I would go on and tell them the following:
“Nothing is to be given to you in a silver platter. You need to work hard to achieve your dreams. Studying and working would require effort – you have to exert mentally, emotionally and physically. But something could make studying and working fun – your attitude. Your attitude towards studying will be dictated by your whys. Your whys put together is your philosophy.”
I would spend another minute or two to explain something about “personal philosophy.” At the end I would tell them that each teacher has a personal teaching philosophy and mine is as follows:
“The classroom is my playground. The students are my playmates. The subject is our toy.”
How surprised they would be whenever I say that when I come to class I don’t work, I play. Work is hard. Play is fun.
And that’s how I found joy in teaching – to not consider it as just another job. It works for me.
As we end the first meeting I would tell them, “Come back next week and let’s play.”
Just imagine – I play and get paid handsomely for doing so. The remuneration is just the icing on the cake. Which one is the cake? It’s the happiness; the happiness that I derive from doing what I love doing – teaching.
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.