Monday, September 20, 2010

DepEd banning homeworks on weekends: A teacher's point of view

A recent memorandum circulated by the Philippines' Department of Education (DepEd) ordered all public school teachers especially in the elementary level to refrain from giving take-home assignments especially on Fridays. Accordingly, the learners should spend quality time with their family during weekends but due to loads of homeworks given to them, children tend to become burdened on weekends. Such memorandum, of course, has stirred negative reactions from a couple of educators in the country who seem to have been ignored when the policy was planned. 

Where should I stand to such memorandum? As Filipino educator, I couldn't just say that I could ignore it. Personally, I have been fond of giving homeworks to my students especially during long holidays and I never meant to  give burden in the part of the parents and the learners every time I give some homeworks. Instead, I instill to the learners that learning could be as fun as doing other chores and that spending the entire holiday playing would not do good to them. Of course, I know the capability of my students and I would not give bunches of homeworks which would only cause them to spend their entire holiday doing homeworks. In fact, I advocate in providing a learning equilibrium inside and outside schools, thus, providing the learners a friendly and natural learning atmosphere where they could personally explore that learning and fun could actually interplay provided that they possess a positive attitude.  

As for the parents, they need to understand that education is a collaborative process and that the burden should not be solely given to the teachers. Parents have to spend as much time as possible  helping their children showing them a positive attitude towards learning. We all know that most of the parents are being bombarded with lots of work-related loads during weekdays and spending quality time learning with their children is almost impossible. Weekends could be a good time for them to spend some time doing few school-related works with their children.

I believe that the said memorandum from DepEd only instills negative connotation for homeworks to the learners. It adds fuel to the existing phony perception that homework (and so learning) is burden -- a struggle which must be endured by every learner. Having parents spend time with their children doing homeworks is the best way for parents to show affection and interest towards their children's education and that it encourages them to gain more positive insights towards learning. I strongly adhere to a personal proposition that what needs to be done in our public schools is not to suppress teachers from giving homeworks to the learners. Instead, teachers should be equipped with enhanced professional knowledge on the principles of learning and the giving of homeworks as well as the provision of holistic development among every individual. Meanwhile, parents should also be informed that their children do not have to spend weekends doing special classes in some tutorial centers or having individualized lessons but rather spend a portion of their time during weekends preparing for their lessons the following week. It's in the parents how they teach their children to manage time especially when they're home. 

The world is now moving towards the creation of a knowledge-based society. If we want to cope with the current trend of the society, then we need to instill in the minds of our learners that genuine desire to learn at any time every time. Homeworks have never been and will never be designed to cause burden to the learners but to encourage them to learn more whenever possible. 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

They'll learn: With or without me

Rains were heavily falling in Bangkok during the past days. Those crystal drops seem to have penetrated the innermost of my bones causing a bit of poignant effect to my body. Although raindrops continued,  I was still happily devoting most of my times with my students when a piece of melancholy  struck in my heart leaving an effect similar to those crystal drops of rain. I gazed at my lesson plan, checked the school calendar, tapped my iPod to learn what day was it and then I found out that I only have two last meetings with my kids. 

I happened to tell one of my classes to be prompt in sending their works as I would only be staying until the last day of the month. There were some questions raised and some were almost answerable but one question stood out from the rest. A tall guy in my Grade 12 class asked if I would be gone forever to which I answered, "No, I'm not dying yet." Of course, I knew what he meant but I was just trying to cover some emotive thoughts that might have overflowed during that time.

Telling myself that I would not miss my students is a great lie for they've been precious stones who adorned a couple of supposedly dull moments in my life. There were times when they made me mad but they've always been parts of the challenges that I really loved. I would surely miss those times when a smile was given instead of homework. I would miss those days when a command of silence would mean a horrendous noise. I would miss those moments when I entered into their classroom stared and was ignored like I was bringing bunches of burden for them - like being a Mathematics Teacher, I was looked at as an advocate of eternal suffering and nonsense puzzle. I would miss those simple things which seem to have been ignored over time but in the end, meant a lot for my own and my students' personal progress.

And now the time is getting near for me not to say goodbye but to leave them with an inspiration and an expectant mind that someone and something better would come in their lives and that something would also come into my way. I am a teacher yet learning has never been confined with my presence in the classroom. I trust and I believe that my students could still venture for even wider learning opportunities than what I have given and shared with them.          

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Not everyone who lives exists

I love integrating some basic philosophies and life principles in my mathematics class and that's perhaps the reason why I tend to stick to a particular topic longer than it could be probably studied. 

Recently, I have been discussing about limits with my Grade 12 class and learned that a certain variable could approach to a particular number in either ways. It could start from the left or it could start from the right. For example, x could get nearer and nearer to  2 either from values which are less than two or from values which are greater than two. I mentioned that there are some instances that a variable could approach a particular number only from a single origin and we call that one-sided limit, that is, the limit from the other side does not exist. The word EXIST became the tipping point of a profound philosophical discussion I had with my students. What does "exist" mean and when can we say that a particular body exists? Is existing the same as living? These were some of the baffling questions we had in our math class.

In a thought-provoking manner, I told my students, "Not everyone who lives exists!" 

Etymologically, the word existence came from the Latin word  "existere" which means to "stand out." Drawing connection from the etymological meaning of the word existence, we could simply say that existing is far more than just living. Existing is all about finding meaning for one's life and making life meaningful. As Sartre puts it in, "man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world – and defines himself afterwards."  To exist is to believe in one's personal judgments and values and not in the arbitrary values of the outside world. To exist is to accept one's personal responsibilities and act upon them. 

Do you exist?

Gmail Priority Inbox: A time saving feature

I have just signed up for a Gmail account last year and since then, this giant electronic mail host never failed to amaze me with its never-ending commitment to upgrade its services for their clients. Aside from a huge mail capacity which enabled me to receive large files, there were lots of features in Gmail which increased my efficiency in this electronic world.

Lately, Gmail introduced the Gmail Priority Inbox which automatically finds and sorts important e-mails. This is especially helpful to people who got plenty of electronic subscriptions like me. Since I got wired, I have been subscribing for web logs and pages which were worth reading. Therefore, I have been constantly bombarded with those e-mails containing content updates and sometimes annoying and irrelevant offers from their sponsors. At times, instead of opening all those mails which would surely kill my time, I just browse for e-mails which I needed to address immediately and it would usually take me time especially if there have been a couple of mails lined up in my inbox. There were times when I accidentally deleted some important mails which usually ended up with a soft argument with some of my students who insisted that they already submitted their project/homework through my e-mail. There were also times where urgent works requested by some of my colleagues have been neglected and some other important inquiries were left unanswered like what happened to a recent e-mail from a parent. Well, those things might come to an end this time with the help of Gmail Priority Inbox. 

To learn how it works, watch this video.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Diaz: Cebuanos could hardly speak English and Tagalog

"When you think about a Cebuana can hardly speak English and, of course, Tagalog so maybe she should answer in Bisaya." That was the comment of former Miss Universe Gloria Diaz which stirred negative reactions from most of the Cebuanos and even prompted some Cebuano lawmakers to draft a resolution condemning such banter from the former beauty queen and declaring her as persona non grata or an unwelcome person in Cebu. Such remark was given by Diaz when asked about her comments on having an interpreter for Filipina beauty queens joining in international beauty tilts. This was after the major major answer of the Philippine representative to Miss Universe 2010 Maria Venus Raj who landed fourth runner-up in the competition.

Instead of apologizing, Diaz went on defending herself against the rants on her belittling statement against the Cebuanos' ability to speak English. She said that such interview has been edited and that some statements were omitted and that she was only misunderstood. 

Looking at how Diaz reacted on a Cebu Solon's demand for public apology, it could be said that Diaz even gave another accusation that Cebuanos are not only incapable of speaking English or Tagalog but in understanding the language as well. In my own point of view, Diaz was not misunderstood. Her statement was very clear and it's unquestionable that she ignited the undying issue of racism in the Philippines where some ethno-linguistic groups are being stereotyped as low-class individuals especially in their ability to speak another language like English. What is being misunderstood in the statement "A Cebuana could hardly speak English and Tagalog"? Yes, it might not be her intention to discriminate the Cebuanas' ability to speak English and Tagalog but the statement itself is a clear form of discrimination. 

If a public figure like Gloria Diaz, a supposed to be advocate of beauty for unity, could arrogantly pose such ugly statement against ethnic groups in the Philippines and would even deny simple gesture of apology to the anguish Cebuanos, then how can we expect a greater scale of national peace and reconciliation? We all need to understand our cultural differences as a country and that involves understanding the different linguistic features of our spoken dialects. Not because there are Cebuanas who could hardly speak English or speak English with a very distinct variation, then Cebuanas would be stereotyped as incapable of speaking good English.  Diaz has just polarized an issue which we supposed to work on for convergent perceptions towards national progress and unity.

Ms. Gloria Diaz, I believe, was not misunderstood by the Cebuanos. In way, I would have believed her if she said that she improperly conveyed her message  of making everyone realize that each one has to speak in language he/she is comfortable with. And considering that such interview was meant to address a "gaffe" which happened in the recent Miss Universe, no one could avoid that citing Cebuanos as examples could be associated to some gaffes Cebuanos commit while speaking English which is a phony stereotype.   

Friday, September 10, 2010

A New Beginning

A big box in the corner of my flat has been gradually crammed with some stuff I gathered in the past four years and they all prompted me to accept the truth that my days in Thailand are almost coming to a close. 

It’s been four years already but time seems to be very swift to let those moments pass like a flashing monsoon.  I used to feel a mixture of excitement and some pieces of melancholy but as time went by, everything became fine and traces of regrets and doubts could never be found in my part. I believe, this decision is the best that I could ever have this time. Now, allow me to look back those times when I was only starting to work here in the Land of Smiles.

Thailand has been my first destination abroad and I started my journey here as young educator last September 2006 when I luckily landed a teaching job in a government school in the country’s smallest province. Life seemed to be very tough in the beginning. I had to do a couple of first-times and I also had to deal with plenty of embarrassments caused by my ignorance to the culture of the people whom I have been dealing with. They all became parts of my life and in one way or another; they have shaped me into what I am now.

After eighteen months of working with the young kids in the province, I then started to trudge a new road in the country’s capital city where I taught Mathematics to primary students in a newly offered bilingual curriculum for teaching and learning Mathematics in a prominent Catholic school. After one school year, I then went to the secondary level and taught Mathematics to Grade 8 and Grade 11 students. This school year, I was tasked to teach one level in the lower secondary and two levels in the upper secondary. Working with those teenage students who could be very wild at times was really challenging yet equally fulfilling. I learned a lot from them and they shaped a huge part of me.  

I would always look back with a grateful heart to those years I had in my life where I got to work with people who defined some pieces of me. Meanwhile, I would also be looking forward to the many possibilities that I would have back home. It’s not goodbye. It’s welcome to a new beginning.