Stopovers and “Multiple Hats”
(My Journey As A Teacher – 2)
When I thought of a title for the series of essays I intend to write to mark my 30th year in the academe, I initially thought of “My Teaching Career.” But I know there is a title more appropriate for my experience of having taught in 8 different schools. It’s like moving from one place to another until I reach a final destination. So I ended with “My Journey as a Teacher.”
A journey has a final destination and the places where you stayed along the way are the stopovers.
I consider the schools where I worked in the past as the stopovers in my journey as a teacher. Not that my stay in those institutions were brief and meaningless but that I was not meant to stay there longer than I did. I moved out and continued with my career as a teacher. I did not stop teaching after leaving thus I consider them as stopovers.
Nobody knows if where I am teaching now is the final leg of my journey…my final destination. I’d love to if given the chance.
I worked full-time in 6 different schools in the Philippines before a South Korean university hired me as ESL teacher in 2013. I stayed in the said institution for only a year and decided to apply in the university where I am currently teaching both undergraduate and graduate students. I am on my 6th year in South Korea and 30 years in the academe overall.
Where I am teaching now is my 8th school. Some people consider moving from one school to another so frequently as negative. Well, that depends on the reason for leaving.
If a teacher keeps getting fired after spending a year in a school then something is wrong. But if a teacher decides to leave for valid reasons then it should not be taken against him/her.
In the first school where I worked I was a high school teacher. I taught English and Social Studies subjects. Seeing that students in the night session there were not very active in extra-curricular activities, I asked the principal if I could open a theater group for them. I was given the go signal and “Teatrong Pang-gabi” was born. Night students joined. That paved the way for me to become the moderator also of the school’s main theater group – “Teatro Teresiana.”
In 1990, I resigned because I was supposed to work at a supermarket in Oman. I was enticed by the salary offered which was 500% higher than my salary as a teacher then. But chaos descended on the Middle East when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. My mother and many more dissuaded me from leaving. I heeded.
From Batangas, I relocated to Bulacan when I was hired by a technical-vocational school. There I taught English and Social Sciences . I was also the marketing officer and was asked to do some administrative works at the same time. There I stayed for 4 years and had to resign when I focused on my dream to have a school of my own. Unfortunately, I was not able to convince the prospective partners to whom I presented my business proposal to invest.
If only I had rich parents or siblings. Not one of my relatives and friends too had the sufficient funds to finance my project then. If only the encouragement of my loved ones and friends could be converted to cash, I would have had the needed capital.
So, I set aside my dream of running my own school for the meantime and sought teaching positions in schools in Batangas and Bulacan. I got offers from schools in both provinces but I opted to accept the teaching job offered by a technical-vocational school that opened only that year (1994). That makes me one of the pioneers in that institution. I decided to work there for the simple reason that everything about that institution resemble the school that I envisioned and wanted to open in Batangas had I found a capitalist partner.
I was assigned the same subjects I have been teaching in the past years. After six months, the owners of the school realized that they need somebody to run the academic and student affairs office of the school. The President of the institution could no longer attend to those matters. Even if I have yet to finish my Master’s at that time, having learned that I performed some administrative works in my previous school, the President offered me the position.
I did not hesitate to grab the opportunity. As a result, I did not continue with my Master’s in English anymore and instead pursued a Master’s in Educational Management so I would learn more about managing schools.
In addition, I was also the marketing officer until I found (and recommended for hiring) a very capable individual to teach and at the same time take my place as in-charge of promoting the school. Nobody was willing to be the moderator of the school paper so I had to be it also.
Then I learned from a friend that a college run by one of the country’s biggest congregations was looking for somebody qualified to head their Education program. The salary was much higher and it just so happen that the said college was located a few kilometers away from the subdivision where we were planning to have our house constructed.
The most practical thing for me to do then was grab the offer.
So, I left that technical-vocational school after 8 years and accepted the offer of a Catholic institution to spearhead their Education program and help in the promotion of the school. That was year 2002.
While working as chair of the education program, I also taught English, Literature, Social Sciences and Education subjects.
The sister president of that college at that time told me that if I wish to remain as head of the Education program beyond that school year – I need to pass the national licensure examination for teachers (LET). I was surprised for I wasn’t told of that kind of arrangement before. But I just took it as a challenge.
I had no chance to enroll in a review center. My plate was full. I had to work from morning till late afternoon from Monday to Friday and had to pursue my PhD studies on Saturdays. But I was confident I would pass because the subject areas covered in the LET were the subjects I have taught in the past years.
So, in 2003 I took the LET (Major in English) and passed.
My first seven years in that Catholic institution were my best years in the academe. The sister president that time was the one of the best (if not the best) school administrator I have worked with. She influenced me in so many ways and squeezed out the best in me. I learned a lot from her. Well, I could give her name… S. Viri.
It was unfortunate that the congregation would allow a religious to head their school for 3 years then they have to be transferred to another school. There were times that they allowed an extension of 3 more years.
So after 6 years, S. Viri bade us a tearful goodbye.
I had it so great in that institution that I told my wife that I would see there all my hair turn gray and my hairline recede… or so I thought.
The next sister president of the institution made me realize that God had other (and better) plans for me. This I articulated in one of the essays in this series – “The Decision.”
It was in that “stopover” where I stayed the longest. I really thought it was the final destination in the journey.
From a string of private institutions, I was given a chance to work in a public school – a city college. I was hired as a College Dean, the highest academic position I had. Educators from private schools were transferring to the public schools because of the salaries and benefits becoming better. I was glad to join the exodus.
But there I spent the worst school year in my career. I had encounters with two people that I never thought I would have in a place where supposedly educated people work.
I was warned by the teachers I was supervising and the non-teaching personnel about those two people. I told them about my experiences in my previous employment and they said greater are the challenges I would be facing.
Having heard that, I became very careful with everything that I do and say. I stayed away from school politics and just focused on my job.
I held two positions in that city college – College Dean and Dean of the Education Department. I gave my all, I always do. I always make sure that I would deserve every cent in my pay. I strictly adhered to the tenets of professionalism.
The first and only time perhaps that I lost my cool was when I asked the College President to allow me and one of “the two” to have a dialogue in front of her. I told him nicely to review his job description and not to intervene in my duties as College Dean.
That proved to be my undoing. I just locked horns with one of the President’s dearest allies. I prepared for a possible consequence.
At the end of my first year in that city college, after I secured the government permit to offer BSED – Major in Mathematics, I was informed that the following school year I would still be Dean of the Education Department but no longer the College Dean.
They could not provide me with a valid reason for the demotion. They could not present an official document showing the results of an evaluation that would show I fared poorly. I said that had I performed poorly as an administrator why retain me as Dean of the Education Department.
The writing on the walls were very clear. I should not stay in that city college a minute longer. I resigned the following day. I’d rather go unemployed than work with those kind of people.
To my amazement, amusement, and bemusement, I was told later by one of “the two” that the announcement about my demotion was just a test. They were just trying to see how I would react. They wanted to see what stuff I am made of specially that they were about to inform me that my “item” (that would make me a regular public school employee) from the government was already granted.
That was the worst joke I heard.
I wasn’t treated professionally.
(If ever those people would come across this article, they are free to refute what I wrote here. My colleagues and friends in that city college could attest to the lack of professionalism of those people.)
From that city college, I became the principal of a basic education institution ran by Pakistanis who own a network of schools in their country and some parts of Asia. That school gave me the highest salary I had in the Philippines. They were about to send me also to Pakistan at that time for the training of their school heads. It would have been all-expense paid. I declined because we were preparing for the FAPE re-accreditation. I was familiar with the accreditation system for tertiary institutions but I never had an experience doing it for a basic education institution. I figured I could not afford to be out of the country for a month. I needed to spend those times for the paperwork and legwork for the re-accreditation and for studying the accreditation policies of FAPE, DEPED guidelines, and the school system that my Pakistani employers wanted to implement. It was something new for me.
We passed the FAPE re-accreditation.
What my unfortunate experiences in that city college and the amount of work and adjustment I had to do in my new role as principal, particularly at that time that we needed to pass the FAPE re-accreditation, did was make me experience BURNOUT. Those two years were emotionally and physically draining. It did not help that it came at a time that I was also having a serious “personal problem.”
Suddenly, I began to dislike my work as school administrator. I just wanted to teach… to write. I no longer wanted to do any administrative and supervisory works.
I needed a break… a change in environment.
I pursued seriously my application as ESL teacher abroad at the turn of 2013.
My dear God listened to my prayers.
On March 2, 2013, an Asiana Airline plane brought me to South Korea to have the fresh start I badly needed. I had a reboot of my career as a teacher.