On Becoming a Teacher
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” I have asked this question multiple times to my students now as a teacher. As a student in the past, I have answered this question multiple times to my teachers, and my answer is always the same. I want to be a teacher. This is the dream that I know I am sure of.
“The best legacy parents can give to their children is Education – it is our weapon against the challenges in this world.”
I was born in one of the poorest provinces in the Philippines. My parents are not rich either. Growing up, I was aware of how precious education is. Although education is our right, not everyone has the capability to send their children to school, and if they can, quality education is questionable. I always consider myself blessed that despite the fact that my parents were only earning money to sustain our daily needs, they worked extra hard for me and my sister’s education. They sent us to one of the best school in our province (elementary to high school) and in the Philippines (college).
If my memory is not mistaken, my love for teaching started when I was still in Kindergarten, 4 years old. In my tiny room, I had a blackboard and a small cabinet filled with children’s encyclopedias which my mother paid through monthly installment. On my own, I would play pretend to be both the teacher and the student. I would read a line or two from the book and explain it to myself using broken English but often times I would give up and speak in dialect. Then, I would give myself a test either through oral recitation or written test. I remembered my father laughing at me when he found one of my self-made written tests. “You gave yourself a test? Why didn’t you give yourself a 100% mark?”, he said. I wasn’t embarrassed, I felt proud still. I had never liked playing with dolls; this is the kind of play I enjoyed.
When I reached high school, people who knew about my dream discouraged me: telling me how little a teacher’s salary is, and that I should go for better-paying profession. The more money I will earn, the happier my life will become. I decided to stay silent, but in that silence I become more eager to fulfill my dream. I am moved by stories of students who would walk across mountains just to be at school. Children from poor families whose only wish is to graduate inspired me.
Without a doubt, I took Bachelors in Elementary Education Major in Special Education at the University of Santo Tomas. College marked another story in my life. Being with people with special needs changed my perception of life. My interaction doesn’t limit to kids but with adults as well. These people opened my heart and ignited my passion for teaching. This is the time I decided that I don’t just want to be a teacher who teaches but a teacher who affects not only the mind but the heart. Teaching them made me realize that life is not about who comes first or who does it best because life is neither a race nor a competition. Life is a journey in which every day is a hope, and the teacher uses that hope and turns it into a possibility. Life is also about celebration success. As the movie title goes, “Every Child is Special”, the success of a child is different from the other. Their talents and needs differ, thus their success may differ. It may be as simple as being able to dress oneself independently or being able to count from one – twenty. These may seem very little but celebrating these little things makes life joyful.
“Teaching is everyone's bread and butter but only a few cups of tea.”
At the age of 19, I tasted my first mouthful of bittersweet reality - I finally became a teacher. I was a kindergarten adviser and was assigned to teach all the subjects. I was assigned to teach Grade 1 – Integrated English and Science wherein I taught two lessons (one for English and another for Science) at the same time. This first mouthful of bittersweet reality brought great impact in my journey on becoming a teacher, it taught me valuable lessons that I didn’t learn at school. I learned to listen not only to my students but to other teachers whose skills were honed through time. I was able to see clearly how important the role of the teacher in the development of the children; how a single praise could mean so much for a child that it could greatly affect his confidence. However, the greatest lesson that I learned was the sacrifices of a teacher. A teacher cares for her student, even if she has so many she still cares for each as if they were the only one she had.
After a year of teaching in the Philippines, I decided to fly to Thailand hoping to continue my journey to becoming a teacher. This journey brought me to Sathingphra, Songkhla where I taught Mathayom 1-5 students English. Loneliness was not the hardest part because I am already used to living far from my family. Adjusting in their culture was the challenge especially since I couldn’t speak a word from their language. Like any adventure, this was filled with lessons to learn. I learned how to relax and not to pressure myself too much. I learned to value myself more. Little by little I started to understand and appreciate the bitter taste of reality. Slowly, that bitterness became sweet.
As I continued my journey, fate made me stumble upon Phuket Has Been Good To Us Foundation’s website. Reading about them in their page, I fell in love with their mission. I was reminded of how I dreamt to be not just a teacher who teaches but a teacher who makes a difference. I was aware that leaving my job for PHBGTU would be more challenging because most of the kids I will be handling are from underprivileged backgrounds but my heartfelt excitement when I was offered a job in the foundation. Even when I had been working in the foundation for only about 3 months, I was able to appreciate every effort of the Foundation in nurturing the students, especially the residential students. At a very early age of 6, kids are left to live at school away from their family. It is a joy to witness how the students are very excited to join in our activities. They would always rush in front of our office to see the list of activities prepared for them. Sometimes, my students would ask me excitedly, “Teacher, where is coconut club?”. The best experience I had working with the foundation is the Birthday Party. Seeing the students smile, playing in the pool, and being grateful for the gifts they received is heart-warming. Through every activity that we prepare for them, both in and out of the classroom makes our students feel that they are not alone. They have their teachers who truly care for them.
My experience with the foundation feels like I have only just arrived, but it is always meaningful when I see what I have accomplished. I can’t wait for more adventures with the students, co-teachers, and volunteers.
I would also like to extend my gratitude to the Foundation, Kay and Andy Hunter, and The Chava Resort of Surin for supporting me, and my English programme classes for the year. It makes such difference in everyone's experience.