Of teaching

       It all started with a call. One day shy from an interview at a business process outsourcing job in Manila, my former dean called me. I found myself accepting the teaching opportunity she offered. Ten years after that phone call, the work experience I had made me realize my passion for teaching.

       At the young age of twenty one, I committed myself to a field that is oft-neglected in my country, the Philippines. I was the only person among our high school class of forty-five who ended up teaching. Most of my classmates devoted themselves to either the Sciences or allied medical profession.  I was, at some point, questioning myself in my first few years in the field of education. To help me in my journey as a teacher, I finished a master’s degree. I assured myself that doing that might help me. And it did. But at the same time, it also paved the way for hardships and challenges as I worked to try to become the “best educator”. I have realized that to get there, my work needed to depend on many factors such as my students’ vision, the academic institutions’ goals, and my adaptation techniques among others.

       One of my favorite techniques in teaching was using research writing as a requirement for an English subject. The research topics were latched on to the students’ fields of specialization. For example, I assigned second year General Engineering students to develop a prototype-based research proposal as major output for their Technical Writing class. Meanwhile, a couple of second year Bachelor of Science in Psychology classes were given the same requirement for their finals. To fine tune it to their course, I asked them to write case studies. All those groups were asked to defend their research proposals and case studies. While writing them, some of them approached me for consultations. They made remarks like “the requirement was somehow difficult because we are not writing majors”, but that the idea of a research in-line with their future jobs made the experience rewarding. To support them in such activity, I shared with them some rubrics for writing research. Majority of them found research writing activity a tool to prepare them for their thesis writing and for their actual work. I realized how useful it was to include activities that helped the students engage in concrete and relatable outputs. The students built a connection between their school activities and the real world they would face as professionals. I met some of them years after their graduation. What an amazing feeling it was seeing them land their dream jobs in different countries in the world.

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       My experiences in teaching English, ESL and EFL, Literature, and Introduction to Journalism courses provided me with various strategies essential to students’ success. Students found it comfortable expressing themselves on activities which contexts were familiar to them. For example, students in Literature classes exhibited attachments to texts closer to their own experiences. While they showed appreciation of other cultures and traditions, they manifested empathy to stories and activities closer to home. To my Filipino students, I have given them token literary texts on the life stories of Filipino-American authors like Bienvenido Santos and Jose Garcia Villa. To Korean students, I have used a clip from an online newspaper. It talked about the effect of pop culture on the study habits of college students. To Vietnamese students, I have used several Viet Cong songs written in English and let them cull post-colonial and reader-response perspectives from them. As a teacher, I helped them have affinity with the texts. Through that, students talked with pride and enthusiasm. It gave them more confidence to express themselves and to collaborate. I am grateful to my former employer for it gave me the chance to teach in other countries like Vietnam and South Korea, through its global partnership program. The exposure to students of different nationalities and different learning backgrounds served as a platform to develop authentic teaching materials.

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       In order to integrate classroom instruction with the demands of the industry, I devoted some time to attend research conferences and write and present some papers. My attendance to those conferences were helpful in such a way that I discovered other areas of growth and expertise. For example, a textual analysis of student newspaper editorials served as one of the materials in teaching argument and voice in writing. They also helped students understand that textbooks were not the only materials for learning.  The exploration of other possible teaching materials diversified students’ views and outlooks. Research made that possible. It was not easy to write and publish research. And it could be costly to go from one country to another to present research without funding, but they are beneficial to both teachers and students.

       Many events have transpired since that phone call from my former dean. One of the reasons why I accepted the teaching job was because I believe that being in the academe would make you credible and intelligent. I kind of laugh at myself now. The superficial reasons I used to ascribe to being an educator were now replaced by a sense of urgency and a renewed level of commitment. I still a have a PhD to pursue. Papers to publish. All that and new sets of students and peers and colleagues to work with. It would be my first shot at teaching in the US, if I would be given the opportunity. While I am aware that I have a lot in my plate now, I am excited about the experiences coming my way. I am positive that this is another venue for friendship, collaboration, and learning.

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