“Hinga Lang” (Just Breathe)

Nung unang linggo pa lamang, napansin ko na kung gaano kabilis magalit, mag-away, magsuntukan at umiyak ang mga estudyante namin. Pagkalipas ng isang linggo ng pagkausap sa bawat estudyanteng umiyak, nakipagaway, nanuntok at nanakit, nagdesisyon akong kausapin ang aking buong klase isang umaga.

Tinuruan ko silang huminga.

Ikinuwento ko na minsan narin akong nakaranas na maging pikon, palaaway at madaling umiyak. (“Oo umiiyak din si Teacher dati.”) Ikinuwento ko kung paano ko nagawang magbago at nag-umpisa iyon sa isang munting paghinga.

Pinapikit ko ang kanilang mga mata. Sabi ko “Sa oras na mararamdaman mo na magagalit ka na, na tutulo na ang luha mo o na gusto mo na suntukin ang kaklase mo, ipikit mo ang iyong mga mata.” 

Pumikit ang mga bata.

Sabi ko: “Huminga ka ng malalim. Sabihin mo sa iyong sarili na “Hindi ako magagalit.” Sabihin mo ng sampung beses. Huminga ka ng sampung beses.”

Huminga ang mga bata at binulong nila sa sarili nila paulit-ulit na “hindi ako magagalit.”

“Buksan niyo na ang inyong mata at ngumiti.” 

Dumilat sila at ngumiti. Iyon na siguro ang unang pagkakataon na nakita kong nakangiti ang lahat ng aking estudyante.

Hindi naging madali at mabilis ang pagbabago. Mayroon paring nag-aaway, nagkakapikunan, pero napansin ko na bumabawas na ito kumpara sa dati. Ngayon, makalipas ang dalawang buwan, ay bihira na ang balitang may nag-away sa mga estudyante ko.

Noong nakaraang biyernes, may lumapit sa aking estudyante at nagsumbong: “Natapon po ang pagkain ni Ben.” Pumasok sa isip ko na nangyari na ito dati, at nung panahon na iyon ay nagwala at umiyak si Ben.

Ngunit pagpasok ko ng aming silid-aralan ay napansin ko na tahimik lamang si Ben at tinutulungan pa niyang linisin ang natapong pagkain. Walang bakas ng luha o galit sa kanyang mukha. 

Lumapit ako at tinanong si Ben: “Okay ka lang ba?”

Sabi ni Ben: “Okay lang sir!”

Sabi ko: “Mabuti hindi ka umiyak.”

Sabi ni Ben: “Hinga lang sir.”

Nagulat ako sa sinabi niya at napangiti. Nagawa niya. Yung batang dati ay laging umiiyak, nagagalit at napipikon ay marunong na huminga at pigilan ang kanyang galit at luha.

Doon ko rin naisip na kahit ako rin bilang guro kailangan kong huminga. Kailangan kong huminga sa tuwing kumukulit ang mga bata, kailangan kong huminga sa tuwing nararamdaman ko na ang pagod, kailangan kong huminga sa tuwing may mangyayaring bagay na hindi kanais-nais o di inaasahan.

Kung mayroon man akong maipagmamalaking, isa na si Ben sa mga batang ito. Minsan kong naituro sa kanyang huminga. Nagawa niya. At higit doon, siya pa ang nagpaalala sa akin, sa kanyang sariling guro, kung paano huminga.

Hinga lang.

To the First Student I Ever Met

August 15, 2013 1 comment
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Grade 3 Narra

Meet Engineer Ryan – an 11 year old third grader.

Look at him and you’ll see a typical third grader – a boy who loves to laugh, plays pranks on people, run, crack jokes, draw, play games, laugh and play even more games.

Look closer and you’ll realize that you have a student who takes his studies seriously – who can easily separate work from play unlike many his age. He quiets down when classes begin, takes out his notebook, recites frequently and gets freakishly high marks.

Look deeper and you’ll see an intelligent little boy who dreams of playing in a real football field and whose only ticket to a successful future is to perform well academically. (Not to mention that he’s one of the most promising players in the Football club I started in our school)

Look again and you’ll see a boy who wants to and can really become an engineer in the future.

I met him over the summer even before school started when he helped clean our classroom. I distinctly remember how shy he was and how silently yet tirelessly he worked to wash all the windows and mop the floor. I remember thanking him for all the help that day. I remember how he simply nodded his head and gave me a small smile.

He was the first student I ever met.

He’s an orphan.

I’ve always known that he was an orphan but I’ve always been afraid to ask; that’s until circumstances compelled me to really find out what his story was. Finally, over 2 conversations, I uncovered his story.

Scene 1: (I heard some classmates laughing at Ryan for being in a “bahay ampunan” and for “running away from home”)

In that 5 second moment, I saw classmates laughing and I watched as Ryan simply ignored them and just continued drawing in his seat. I asked Ryan to accompany me and help me bring my stuff to the next class and in the brief walk asked him how he was.

Me: “Okay ka lang ba?”

R: “Okay lang po.”

Me: “Totoo ba yung sinasabi ng classmates mo?”

R: Silently nods

Me: “Ilang taon ka nung ginawa mo yun?”

R: “4 years  old po.”

Me: “Asan na magulang mo?”

R: “Mommy ko po, patay na. Tatay ko po nasa probinsya.”

Me: “Gusto mo ikwento sa akin kung bakit ka umalis?”

R: Shakes his head in silence

Me: “Okay sige. Kwentuhan ulit tayo minsan. Basta sigurado ka okay ka lang ah?”

R: “Okay lang po.”

Me: “Salamat. Balik ka na sa classroom.” :)

That moment shook me to the core and it was the first time I shed a real tear while in school.

Scene 2: (One time after Football practice, I saw Ryan sitting alone in a waiting shed outside school)

Me: “Oh, di ka pa uuwi?”

R: “Inaantay ko pa po sundo ko”

Me: “Sige samahan kita mag-antay.”

Me: “Oh may utang ka pang kwento kay teacher. Ano nangyari sa iyo nung bata? Bakit ka naglayas?”

R: “Kasi po sobrang hirap po namin noon”

Me: “Saan ka nakatira dati?”

R: “Sa Bicol po.”

Me: (trying to hide my surprise ) “Paano ka umalis ng bahay?”

R: Umalis po ako ng gabi.

Me: “Paano ka nakapunta dito?”

R: “Nakisakay po ako sa tren”

Me: Tapos nung nakarating ka sa Manila, ano ginawa mo?

R: Naglakad at naglakad lang po hanggang nahanap ako ng taga DSWD.

That second conversation had me in a daze as I thought about Ryan and what he had to go through.

Imagine leaving your house as a 4 year old – running away in the middle of the night. Imagine boarding a train without any money, with no idea where you’ll go or where you’ll end up. Imagine getting down from the train and walking for miles, without food nor water, just to get away from the poor life.

Maybe that’s why he’s all business when it comes to his studies. Maybe the experience taught him to be humble, to be thankful and to ignore the rest who ridicule his status as an orphan. Maybe the struggles have kept him grounded and focused on having a better future for himself.

It’s been a tough 11 years for this kid. I just hope that he realizes his dream of becoming an engineer one day.

If ever you get to read this, Ryan, know that you will never be alone. That beyond this school year, you can count on me and I’ll be there. You’re one of the best kids in our school.

I believe in you,

Teacher Miggy

Nagbago si Juan Tamad

This is an actual story written by my 3rd grade students in a public elementary school in Quezon City. The text is raw and typed as it was written by the kids themselves with minor revisions done with some (not all) punctuation marks. 

Story by Footballer Jervin and Engineer Ryan

 

May isang bata ang pangalan niya ay Juan Tamad. Tinawag siyang Juan Tamad dahil napakatamad niya. Minsan inutusan si Juan Tamag na bumili ng isda sa palengke.

 

Bumili naman siya pero sabi niya sa mga isda, “Hoy mga isda tinatamad akong umuwi. Pumunta kayo sa bahay namin. Ituturo ko ang daan pauwi. Dumerecho kayo tapos kumanan kayo at may makikita kayong tindahan at katabi ng tindahan ang bahay namin. Oh sige mauna na kayo at maglalaro muna ako.”

 

Dumating na si Juan sa bahay niya. “Juan, nasaan na yung pinabili ko sa’yo?” Tanong ng nanay ni Juan.

 

“Ha? Hindi pa sila dumarating?”, sagot ni Juan

 

“Anong hindi pa dumarating?”, sabi ng nanay

 

“Inutusan ko kasi sila”, sabi ni Juan

 

“JUAAAAAAAAAAN!!!” ganon na lamang ang sigaw ng mama niya sa kanya.

 

Isang araw may tumawag sa kanya na isang duwende. Isinama siya sa bahay ng duwende.

 

“Wow ang ganda dito gusto ko sanang tumira dito kaya lang paano si mama?” Sabi ni Juan

 

Sabi ng duwende: “Kukunin ka namin kapag hindi ka nagbago.”

 

“Oh sige magbabago na ako.” Sabi ni Juan. Pagdating niya sa bahay at yinakap niya ng mahigpit ang kanyang mama at tatay.

 

“Magbabago na po ako.”

 

The end.

My Student Who Stands Taller Than I Ever Could

Meet Sophia. She’s an 8 year old grade three student.

In class,  she is well loved by both her classmates and teachers. She’s one of the most diligent and intelligent students in the entire section – always reciting, well behaved and she consistently gets high marks in tests and quizzes.

She loves to read. She’s updated with all the current events – from the most significant national news to the most trivial street chismis. She asks the most amusing questions too, the type of questions that can really make the teachers think.

She also wants to be a “diva” when she grows up – hoping that she can move people through her voice and change the world through her songs.

She’s the epitome of a close-to-perfect student.  Sophia can be any teacher’s favorite student and anyone’s best friend.

But Sophia can’t walk. She’s paralyzed from the leg down.

Every day, she goes to school. Her sister carries her up a flight of stairs into our room. During recess, her sister comes to bring her food and when classes end, her sister and mother come to pick her up, bring her down the stairs and put her on a checkered red wheelchair before they make their way home.

Ever since the first day of school, I’ve always wanted to ask her the story about why she couldn’t walk. This week, I had the chance to finally ask about it.

Our conversation went as follows:

*start*

Me: “Sophia, kung okay lang sa’yo sagutin, ano nangyari sa legs mo? Bakit hindi ka na makalakad?

Sophia: “Sir promise mo wag mo sasabihin sa magulang ko.”

Me: “Oh sige promise. So ano nangyari?”

Sophia: “Nung kindergarten  po, tinulak ako ni _________. May nabali po sa may paa ko, kaya ayun.” (I intentionally withheld the name of the person as he is part of the same class)

Me: “Ano sinabi mo sa magulang mo noon?”

Sophia: “Natapilok lang po ako.”

Me: “Hindi ka ba nagalit kay _______?”

Sophia: “Hindi naman po. Nakakainis lang siya minsan kasi ang kulit talaga niya.”

*end*

I was absolutely stunned. I tried putting myself in her situation and I would not have done what she did. I couldn’t have done it. I would have told my parents about how my classmate pushed me, I would have cursed or hated (at least for some time) my classmate had I lost my ability to walk because of him.

Within that short conversation, she probably taught me more than what I’ve taught her for the past 27 school days.

She never resented her classmate nor blamed him for what happened. In fact, we’ve all witnessed how she is the first one who comforts her classmate whenever he cries or gets upset in class. She actually genuinely cares for the student who took away her ability to walk.

When she became paralyzed, she didn’t hate, she held no grudges. In the process, she actually learned to care and love more.  She learned to make the most out of what she had. That’s something we could all learn from; to think that she’s only 8 years old. While we dwell on hate and grudges and regrets, she dwells on love and caring and just simply making the most out of what life gives her.

Despite all these, I remain devastated and frustrated because I know that at this point, I cannot do anything to help her walk again. I remain frustrated because I know how difficult it could be for her and how much more amazing she could become if only she could walk, run and jump.

Still, I hold a glimmer of hope that someday Sophia will be able to use her legs again. When that time comes, the world better be ready for her.

I cannot yet make her walk – but I can write and tell her story.

(No actual photos were included to protect the identity of the children. These are actual stories from my experience as a grade 3 public school teacher in Sto. Cristo Elementary School)

The day my students taught me a lesson on opportunity

To some students, these are not snacks but "opportunities"

To some students, these are not snacks but “opportunities”

During one recess period in class, I noticed how majority of my class were gravitating around two of my students near the front – Superstar Bridgette and Stewardess Margarette. I left my chair and went closer to investigate and I found that the two girls were selling Pik-Nik chips to their classmates.

The following conversation ensued (expanded version of the story I posted in FB):

Me: Oh magkano benta niyo?
Stewardess Margarette: Piso po for 6 pieces (Php 1.00 for 6 chips)
Me: Ayos ah! Magandang negosyo yan. Magkano na ang benta niyo?
Superstar Bridgette: 89 Pesos po (with a lot of pride in her voice).
Me: WOW! Sige tuloy niyo yan magiging milyonaryo kayo balang araw! 

Me: Ano nga pala gagawin niyo sa pera?
Both of them: iipunin po. 

Me: Para saan?

Both of them: Pambayad ng kuryente

Me: Kuryente ng alin?

Both of them: ng classroom pag bumili na tayo ng aircon (then I remembered explaining to the class why we can’t buy an aircon unit because the electric bill is expensive)

Me: *Stunned silence* Can I take a picture of your chips?

Stewardess Margarette: Hala sir, bakit po?

Me: Para maipakita ko sa mga kaibigan ko at ibang teachers kung gaano kayo kagaling. :)

*end of conversation*

Reflecting on that simple and brief encounter, I can’t help but feel amazed at my students. They are absolutely wonderful and brilliant and I am blessed to have been given the chance to mold their minds and hearts every single weekday.

These kids see opportunity in the smallest things – in things that people like me have grown to neglect. In those two Pik-Nik cans, I saw snacks which I can consume within a few minutes; my students saw an opportunity to earn a few extra Pesos. In the money that was earned, I would have seen an opportunity to spend or buy something else while they saw an opportunity to save up for something important. In the fact that we cannot have an aircon because the “electric bills were too expensive”, I saw an excuse not to have an aircon while they saw an opportunity to save up to pay for the electric bills if only to have an aircon unit.

That day I probably learned more from my students than they did from me.

Still, there’s one opportunity that I’ve seen where I know I can really make a big difference – the opportunity to teach these kids and to help them become successful in the best way that I can. I know that I have the opportunity to deepen what they know, expand their knowledge not only of subjects but of the world and teach them values that will help them along the way and guide them beyond the year that we’ll be spending in the same classroom. I commit to making the most of it.

Teaching to Dream

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These stories are from my experiences as a grade 3 public school teacher. 

 

“Ano ang gusto mong maging paglaki?” (What do you want to be when you grow up?)

That was the first question I posed to my students on the first day of class. I watched as they nervously raised their hands to share their dream with me and I listened carefully as they answered in near whispers just because they were too shy to speak out on the first day of school.

Now, I have 11 doctors, 8 teachers, 6 police officers, 4 engineers, 3 dentists, 3 stewardesses, 2 seamen, 2 pilots, 2 singing divas, 2 superstar actresses, 1 accountant, 1 mechanic, 1 nurse, 1 chef, 1 footballer, 1 fashion designer and 1 soldier.

All of us grade 3 teachers in our school did this activity during the first day because we realized during our practice teaching days how positively the kids respond when they are called by their profession and their name. In fact, some kids feel really special even if you just call them by their first name.

I guess the biggest reason why we did this, beyond making the students feel good, is because we want to teach the kids to dream. For most of their lives, they have just been told to “study hard so that they will have a better life.” These kids haven’t been taught to dream and worse part is they haven’t been taught that they can really make their dreams come true.

That’s where we, the teachers, come in.

Beyond Math, English, Filipino, Science, Araling Panlipunan and the other subjects, we are trying to teach our students to aspire for something big. Realistic, yes; But Big and Daring. We are trying to teach our students to have goals to work hard for so that they will feel the importance of the rest of the academic subjects when it comes to achieving that goals. That way, their studies gain meaning, going to school becomes more exciting and finishing their education becomes more important.

These kids are brilliant and they can really succeed – they just don’t know it yet.

Oh My Gulay

Oh My Gulay!

Oh My Gulay!

This is an actual story written by my 3rd grade students in a public elementary school in Quezon City. The text is raw and typed as it was written by the kids themselves with minor revisions done with some (not all) punctuation marks. 

Story by Doctor Alexa, 8 years old, grade 3 teacher

May isang bata na pangalan ay Grace at ayaw na ayaw niya ng gulay dahil daw mapait ang mga gulay. Pinipilit ng tatay niya na kumain sya ng gulay. Sabi naman ni Grace “ayaw ko ‘Tay pag gulay ang pagkain. Hindi ako kakain”. Sabi ng Tatay “magutom ka”. Tapos pagkain nila ay gulay.

“Grace, kain na tayo”. “O sige”. Pagkatingin ni Grace sa plato, “Ha! Bakit gulay? Hindi ako kakain lalabas muna ako”. Lumabas si Grace. Puro gulay sa labas. May napansin siyang parang may tumatakbo na mabilis. Sabi ni grace “Sino kaya iyon? Papasok na ulit ako sa bahay”.  Ay buti naman tapos na kayo kumain. Sabi ng Tatay “lumabas ka muna”. “Sige po”.

May nakita siyang nakatingin sa kanya. ANG GULAY. “Omy gulay bakit buhay ang gulay?”

Ako si Kalabasa. At ako naman si Carrot. Kami ang mga gulay. Hindi mo akalain buhay kami dahil nandito kami. Try mo itong gulay. Masarap at magustuhan mo siya. Omy Gulay! Tinikman ni Grace ang gulay. Thank you sa gulay. Mula ngayon kakain na ako ng gulay.

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