Passion for teaching

Passion for teaching

by UA&P News Desk on January 11, 2011 - 10:40 am

from UNIVERSITAS  March 2009 issue *

by Mr. Rogelio Opulencia, MA Economics Education

Classroom Chairs by James Sarmiento

I was not sold on teaching in the beginning.

Like my parents who were meat vendors, I ventured into selling meat after graduating from high school. I had saved about P3,000 from my P2.00 daily allowance, and this was enough to start my own business. In two months, this had grown to P20,000. At night, I pursued a college degree. My notebooks would get soiled because I studied whole doing business.

I initially majored in Mathematics but subsequently transferred to History. Meanwhile, my business was giving me P1,000 to P2,000 a day.

It was during those days when I heard former Education Secretary Isidro Cariño say over the radio that teachers, in truth, are compensated when their students graduate and contribute to society. That was it. I told myself, I told myself that teaching was for me.

Mixing teaching with business

Bent on getting a degree as soon as I could, i finished after just three-and-a-half years. After graduating in October, I started teaching in November. I clinched the job quickly because I had to pinch-hit for a teacher who suffered stroke. But I would still attend to business in the morning. All of the six months of teaching, I wasn’t getting my pay because I figured that the students couldn’t learn much from my short stay with them.

When he learned about this, the president of the school thought that I found the pay too low since I was getting more in a day from my business than I would in a month of teaching. My business was expanding and I even hired somebody to sell for me. But my father insisted that I put my heart in my teaching to fulfill a dream that both he and my mother had harbored.

Gradually, I fell in love with teaching. I joined a private school–Laguna College of Business and Arts–where I first handled night classes composed of household helps. I was challenged to keep them motivated to sustain their interest in their studies. I saw myself as an inspiration and I felt that if I left teaching, they would lose hope. And so, although going into full-time teaching would mean tremendous opportunity cost, I opted to give up my booming meat business. Later on, I realized I didn’t feel bad at all about letting go.

Full-time teaching

Soon I accepted a scholarship for a Master of Arts degree in Teaching. From some classmates I learned about how the public school system worked and heard unfavorable things. So when the District Supervisor asked me if I had no plans to teach in a public school, I told him that I am hesitant because of what I had heard. He asked me whether I had any firsthand experience of the allegations and challenged me to see for myself. I thought he had a point.

So, with nothing to lose, I consulted my department head, who readily agreed with my move to a public school because of the financial returns and opportunities. Soon after submitting my application, I got a call from the division office and eventually was asked to proceed to Los Baños National High School.

So there I was, not 100 percent sure of wanting to transfer because I was happy where I was despite my small pay. Teaching in a public school was overwhelming at first. I would teach from 8 am to 11 am, then from 2 pm to 8 pm. Being new, I handled lower sections with 70 to 90 students (in private school, I handled classes with only 20 students). After only two days, I lost my voice.

Mystery guest

A guest once observed my class. He came in at 6 pm. I continued to teach with increasing gusto for the guest’s benefit. He talked to me after class and expressed his hope that I would stay on because male teachers were needed. Later on, I learned that he told our principal that he thought I had potential. The principal congratulated me and only then did i learn that my observer was Department of Education Secretary Ricardo Gloria. I understood why the others were anxious, glad I didn’t know who he was; otherwise I would have been very nervous.

Because I was new, I was given many responsibilities, including taking charge of the student council and training students for inter-school competitions. I accepted all these assignments willingly, even if I had to go to work at 6 am and come home at 10 pm. Sometimes I even worked on Saturdays. I had come to enjoy these tasks because students were learning a lot and were winning contests.

First UA&P lesson: Do the ordinary extraordinarily well

I first came to know UA&P when my principal asked me to attend a seminar that launched the National Culture of Excellence in Lipa, Batangas. Among the participants I was the only teacher; the others were supervisors, superintendents, or principals. During the seminar, there were presentations by Dr. Rina Villegas, Dr. Antonio Torralba and Mr. Efren Elane.

For me, to set foot in the University was an immense honor, because the program was meant for administrators to implement policy. I used what I learned there in my classes. I took seriously the need to seek excellence in everything. One idea that stood out is that we should “do ordinary things in an extraordinary way.” This became the basis for the way I would do things. I would add something extra in everything I did. In my lesson plans, these “something extra” would be in strategy, readings or pictures. The students appreciated them, and the teachers emulated them.

In 2000, I was asked to attend a national seminar of the Department of Education as a last-minute substitute. In that seminar, I was the only Level 1 teacher among regional or division supervisors and master or head teachers. We were to prepare audio lessons on Social Studies for out-of-school youth. We had to create a curriculum and write a script of the lessons. During our presentation, my work was berated. I was challenged and vowed to myself that I would not rest until I came up with the output that met their requirements. Thankfully, my presentation passed their rigid test.

A UA&P Scholarship

Right after the seminar, my Regional Supervisor informed me of an available scholarship in Economics Education. Although my major was History, I was told to try just the same and go to the Central Office to submit my application the following day. I took the exams in Economics, although I absolutely had no units in that subject. The test was in parts–they allowed you to take the next part if you passed the first. Then there was a panel interview. That same day, I found out that I passed.

I had to request the help of other teachers to take on my teaching load so I could attend the training. Fortunately, they agreed because they understood the situation and were, in fact, proud that one of us won the scholarship.

The coursework was so heavy, I hardly had time to relax throughout the 14-month course at UA&P. It was rigid and stressful, but it taught me many things. Productivity and quality of output was always underlined. There were also many critique sessions, which could be disheartening but were really valuable. I learned the value of outside reading for further knowledge and as added resources for teaching. Best of all, I think I developed not only as an educator but also as a total person–as a husband, a father, and a member of the community.

Applying lessons learned

When my training in UA&P ended in April, I went back to work right away, although we were not expected until June. I was so excited to share what I had learned. I immediately proposed a teachers’ training program. Unfortunately, there were already other programs lined up for the training season. Then I proposed an instructional materials project; unfortunately again, nobody could join me. When I attended another seminar with people from the Central Office, I brought up the possibility of facilitating teachers’ work by providing activity workbooks for students. Too bad, there was a policy that this kind of project is left to private institutions. Luckily, someone from the Central Office who published books learned of my idea and was willing to public the workbooks.

Even with loads of work, I started writing a workbook on Economics for 4th year students. Then I did two other, for 1st year and 2nd year students. They were a big help for the teachers because they were simple and easy to understand even without a textbook. It was inspiring that those books that were done with minimum effort would benefit people. After that, I was tasked to be an evaluator of books.

Next project–teachers’ cooperative

I was next involved in our cooperative, which is my advocacy. I believe that we, teachers, could not survive on our salary alone and need an organization through which could pool our money and put up a profitable business. I became a board member and, since my thesis was on savings mobilization, I was able to implement some programs like tapping students’ savings. With the help of Landbank, which provided technical support, we operated like  a bank. I invited people from the Philippine Federation of Teaches and Employees Cooperative (PFTEC) who were impressed by the amount of money we were able to put together.

PFTEC told us that for our funds to be maximized, these should be used to put up businesses. We did a survey to find out what businesses would be best for us. PFTEX offered to lend us what we needed (which was beyond their maximum) because the concept was worthy of its support. Almost all the teachers took advantage of the loan. Unfortunately, the success rate of their business was low, because the teachers lacked technical knowhow and financial discipline. Nevertheless, we were able to pay back PFTEC.

What I really want to do is to make the teachers feel financially secure; otherwise, they cannot focus on forming students. On the students’ side, on the other hand, if they start saving in a nearby bank, they won’t have to be taught to save.

Why teaching should be loved

Teachers should love teaching. As Dr. Torralba said, teaching is about crafting the future. To teach poorly is to rob the students of opportunities. For me, the paycheck is momentary; minds and hearts you have formed are more important and are a lasting legacy. We, teachers, should fulfill our role, however small it may be, because we can drive change in society. If all of us together do our small part, then we have contributed something significant to our country.

I am very happy for the opportunity to make changes in society. While I am in the Division Office, we are doing things which, although they require extra time and effort, will redound to the good of the country.

* The UNIVERSITAS Rewind section in features insightful, timeless stories previously printed in the publication.

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