Archive for the ‘Teacher Series – Teacher Stories’ Category

“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

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

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:


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.”


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


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.

Para kay ‘Cher

Ito ay isang liham na aking isinulat pagkatapos ng unang linggo ng pagtuturo sa pampublikong paaralan. Ito ay liham para sa aking mga kasama na nagtuturo din ng Grade 3 sa iba’t ibang paaralan.


Isang linggo na tayo nagtuturo. Pasensya na kung mahaba at medyo emo/cheesy ito. Gusto ko lamang ilabas at ipamahagi ang mga tumatakbo sa isip ko sa tuwing naiisip, nakikita at nakakausap ko kayong lahat. Kaya sinulatan ko kayo ng liham. ❤


June 12, 2013


Dear ‘Cher,


Sa totoo lang ay hindi ko alam kung paano ito uumpisahan. Naisip ko lamang na sulatan ka kasi ramdam ko ang bigat ng mundo na iyong pinapasan at naiintindihan ko ang hirap na iyong pinagdaraanan.


Sa pitong araw na tayo ay nagturo sa pampublikong paaralan, nagawa na nating magalit, mainis, umiyak, sumigaw at gumawa ng kung anu-ano pang pamamaraan mapasunod at mapatahimik lamang ang ating mga estudyanteng malikot, magulo at nakababaliw. Sa loob ng pitong araw, nakita na natin ang suntukan, sigawan, iyakan, hampasan, nakawan at kung ano pang kalokohan na ginagawa at naiisip ng ating mga estudyante. Sa loob ng pitong araw, naranasan narin natin ang kakaibang klase ng pagod – yung tipong babagsak na lamang tayo sa kama pag-uwi kahit gustong-gusto pa natin gumawa ng visuals at maghanda ng lesson plan. Yung tipong nakakatulog tayo habang nagmamaneho ng sasakyan, nakatulog sa jeep, bus at taxi. Pagod kung pagod talaga. Sa loob ng pitong araw, malamang sa malamang ay pitong beses lamang din tayo kumain. Gutom kung gutom diba? Pitong araw pa lamang iyon.


Marahil ay naisip mo na sumuko at tinanong mo narin siguro sa sarili mo kung ano ba talaga itong pinasok mo? Marahil ay dumaan narin sa isip mo na wala kang kwentang guro at wala kang nagagawang mabuti para sa mga estudyante mo at na wala silang natututunan sa iyo. Marahil ay naisip mo na hindi mo kayang baguhin ang mga batang ito. Marahil ay naisip mo na hindi ito para sa iyo – na hindi ka magaling.


Ngunit sa kabila ng lahat ng hirap at pagod, nais kong ipamahagi sa iyo ang mga bagay na iniisip ko sa tuwing nararamdaman ko ang kagustuhan sumuko at umayaw at sa tuwing nararamdaman ko na wala akong nagiging epekto sa aking mga estudyante. Sana kahit papaano makatulong ito sa iyo.


Una, iniisip ko na sa nakalipas na mga taon na ang ating mga estudyante ay nasa loob ng sistema ng pampublikong paaralan, nakasanayan na nila na matawag na “bobo”, “walang kwenta” at “tanga.” Nakasanayan na nila na mapalo ng guro, masigawan, ma-pingot, makurot at kung anu-ano pa. Hindi lang yan, kadalasan ay ganito rin ang kanilang hinaharap sa tuwing umuuwi – mga magulang na nag-aaway, nananakit, naghihirap. Kung buong buhay mo nga naman ay  umiikot sa ganitong kapaligiran, hindi ka ba maninibago pag ikaw ay nakakita ng isang guro na handang mag-mahal, na hindi mananakit, na alam mong tuturuan ka kahit anong mangyari? Hindi pa alam ng mga bata natin kung paano harapin ang mga gurong tulad mo. Naninibago pa sila. Intindihin natin sila. Tayo ay pumasok sa sistema at kapaligiran na madaming mali at madaming kulang. Ang mga bata natin? Ito lamang ang kanilang alam. Ito lamang ang kanilang nakasanayan. Unti-unti natin itong babaguhin. Tiwala lang. Kaya mo yan.


Pangalawa, tayo ay nasa sistema at organisasyon na madaming pagkukulang at madami pang pwedeng baguhin. Pag ganito, iniisip ko lamang na ang lahat ng sistema ay ginawa ng tao at sa gayon ay kayang-kaya ring baguhin ng tao kung ito ay talagang gugustuhin at pagsisikapan. Tayo ang mag-uumpisa ng pagbabago sa sistema at organisasyon. Hindi nga lamang ito magbabago sa isang kisap-mata. Hindi aayos ang sistema sa isang tumbling lamang. Hindi naman tayo magician. Pumasok tayo upang unti-unting baguhin ang kalagayan ng edukasyon. Kailanman ay hindi sinabi sa atin na aayusin natin ang lahat sa loob ng isang linggo. Kapit lang. Balang araw ay mababago natin at mai-aangat ang kalidad ng edukasyon.


Pangatlo, ang pag-ibig ng bata ay hindi natin makukuha sa isang araw o isang linggo. Hindi sila sanay na magkaroon ng gurong tunay na nagmamalasakit at gurong talagang gusto na sila ay magtagumpay. Ngayon lamang siguro sila nakakita ng gurong katulad mo. Bigyan mo sila ng panahon at siguradong mamahalin ka rin nila ng tuluyan at lubusan. Idiin mo sa kanilang puso’t isipan na magaling sila, matalino sila, na kaya nila magtagumpay. Sa loob ng isang taon, subukan nating burahin ang pag-iisip nila na sila ay “bobo”, “walang kwenta” at “tanga” – mga bagay na naririnig nila sa nakalipas na limang taon o higit pa. Kayod lang. Sa bawat masamang salita na kanilang narinig, sabihan natin sila ng sampung magandang salita para mapaniwala sila sa kanilang sariling kakayanan.


Huli sa lahat, narito tayo at nag-tuturo hindi para sarili kundi para sa mahigit 2,500 estudyante na ngayon ay hinahawakan nating lahat. Unahin mo sila. Sa ngayon ay hindi pa natin siguro makukuha ang saya na ating inaasam mula sa ating mga estudyante. Kung mayroon man, kaunti at maliit na kasiyahan pa lamang. Pag nakita mo ang mga ito, tanggapin mo ng buo at mag-saya. Pero huwag mo kalimutan na hindi tayo ang bida dito kundi sila – mga bata natin. Bawat araw ay panibagong pagkakataong magmahal ng ating mga bata. Buhos lang. Babalik din sa iyo ang lahat ng kabutihang ibinibigay mo ngayon.


Pero ‘cher! Kung kailangan mo talaga ng pampagaan ng loob, nandito kami para sa’yo. Magkwento ka lang at makikinig kami. Umiyak ka lang at yayakapin ka namin. Humingi ka lang ng tulong at ibubuhos namin ang lahat ng aming makakaya. Kung malungkot ka, pasisiyahin ka namin. Isang text lang, isang tawag lang, isang FB post lang. Huwag kang mag-alala – kailanman ay hindi ka magiging mag-isa. Ngiti lang. Andito lang kami.


Umpisa pa lamang ito. Mahaba-haba pa ang biyahe. Sakay lang. Aabot din tayo sa ating gustong puntahan.


Salamat sa iyo. Salamat na nakilala kita. Kaya natin to. Kapit lang.


~ Cher


Why I’ll Teach for the Philippines

I spent the past two years of my life attempting to build a business from the ground up.  I spent the past two years making mistakes and bouncing back just to keep the business running. I spent the last two years meeting and leading people who kept me going despite all the challenges that came my way.

I spent the last two years doing something I loved doing and making a business from something I’d actually be willing to do for free. For all the hardships, tears, times-I-almost-gave-up, we’re still standing and getting bigger as the months go.  The fulfillment of being here when statistics say that 94% of start-ups fail by their first year is something that I will forever cherish and never ever forget. The journey to 2 years has been unbelievable.

So why am I dedicating the next 2 years of my life full-time to Teaching in a public school?

It came from these three thoughts:

Thought # 1:If *knock on wood* something unfortunate happens to me that I may no longer be able to facilitate and design programs (be paralyzed, lose my voice, die), how can I continue to try and change the world?” I found myself searching for something bigger to give to this world than just a business that conducts training programs for the youth.

My answer? Get into education. Start a school. While training and development are sort of in-line with teaching, the impact that a school has is irreplaceable. Schools, as second homes, are the most influential formative tool for all members of society second only to the basic family unit. (in some cases it is the most influential). Schools are sustainable. So long as children are borne into this world, there will forever be a need for a school that can educate children the best way possible.

Thought # 2: “If you want to change the world, start early and start young”

As we learn more, it becomes harder to unlearn things and accept concepts and ideas that run against traditional norms and practices that perpetuate poverty and educational inequity among others. As we grow older, it becomes more difficult to change, to want change, to lead change.

Thought # 3: “What is the best way for me to help my current business scale?” While Frontline is doing pretty well, it needs to scale. We strongly believe that it has the potential to be a leading service provider in the field of training and development.

My answer? I have to turn over the reins of the business to someone else. My lack of a conditioned  and educated business mind won’t make the business scale. Someone else can do it. It’s time for me to take a supportive role and allow someone to Lead the Change within the organization. For the past two years, I can say that I have given the company an identity and culture and most importantly the heart and love for what we do. Someone else now needs to come in to take the business to the next level.

Teaching in a public school for two years will give me the opportunity to “change the world” by giving hope to kids who haven’t been given the chance to dream, by making kids believe in themselves even when others don’t, by giving them the best possible education that they can receive.

For the next 2 years, I will teach for the Philippines. Beyond that? I still don’t know. I just have a strong feeling that I’ll be in the education sector for long time, if not for the rest of my life.

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