I could vividly remember the first time that I entered the portals of our classroom. It was the first day of the school year 2010-2011. Everybody was quiet as I look at the countenance of my twenty five students. From their faces, I could tell that they are silently observing me and scrutinizing the teacher who will become their class adviser for the entire school year.
6-A Alexander Fleming – that is the name of my advisory class. As we start the orientation during the first day of classes, I laid down my rules and regulations inside the classroom. One of my rules is to speak in English during my time which means they have to speak in English for 80-minutes. As what I expected, I received a lot of negative reactions from the class. I explained the rationale of that rule. I told them that our subject is English. I asked them, “What is the objective of the English subject?” They answered, “To help us to speak, read, write, and understand English.” I then explained that in order for us to learn the language, we must use the language. I then entered on a pact with them – I will do my best to help them learn; in return, they also have to help themselves to learn. They all agreed.
I know that I gave them a hard time during the year. We had book talks before starting the formal classes. Everyday, a student was assigned to talk about the book that he/she was able to read and talk about it in front of the class. Some of my students even complained, “But teacher, we don’t like reading! We don’t read books other than what is required of us in school!” I just smiled and answered, “Wonderful, then this is a perfect time for you to start reading!” Reluctantly, they complied with what I asked them to do. Believe me, it was neither an easy task in their part nor in my part. But I know what I am doing and I have a goal to achieve by the end of the school year.
After the book talks, we had trivia, movie talks, and person talks. Everyday, a student is assigned to stand in front of the class and talk as the officer of the day. I know that it is not easy. I’ve observed some students quivered and stuttered as they speak in front of the class. But I know that they have to face and overcome their fear in public speaking – and they did overcome their fear! During my time, I tried my best to create an environment conducive for conversation. Everybody is trying hard to speak in English. After our discussions of the lesson, everybody is looking forward to our ‘talk time’. This is a period allotted for mere talks on topics anything and everything under the sun – with only one rule to follow: SPEAK IN ENGLISH. Some shared about the latest movie that they watched, their crushes, about their out-of-town trips, or the mere new frappe in Starbucks.
Every quarter I have requirements. Requirements that they thought was impossible for them to accomplish such as making a book report, conducting a formal interview with the school director, administrator, and principal wherein they are wearing their corporate attire together with their cameras and recorders, doing their daily reflective journal entry, doing an oral presentation, and lastly, acting as a teacher in front of the class.
I see to it that we also had fun activities that would reinforce their learning. We had readers’ theatre, chamber theatre, speech choir, and one time, we had a picnic in the school grounds. I want to encourage them to read. I asked them to bring their favorite books, mats, and chips. We spent the entire morning in the school grounds reading and exchanging books while eating and laughing. That was the turning point. After that activity, I saw them carrying books and reading it during their vacant time. It was definitely a great improvement! All the hard work is slowly paying off.
It was not easy to do the follow-ups. Not easy to check all their daily journal entry, penmanship book, portfolios, textbooks, and other requirements religiously. But I know that I need to do that and that’s what I did. My goal for that school year is not just to produce good students in English. I also had a hidden curriculum – I integrated character building in my lessons. Without them knowing, we are also touching on character education.
Sometimes, my fellow teachers were telling me that I am expecting too much from my students. Well, I am doing those things not because I want them to suffer. I am doing it because I want them to learn and I am requiring things from them because I believe that they can comply.
During one of their performance-based activities, some students approached me and told me, “Teacher, we never thought that we could come to the office of Sir Abad (the school director) and interview him! We learn a lot from him! He was not that mean as what we’ve thought”. Another time, one student told me “Teacher, I never thought that I could do a book report, but look, I just did!”
Just before the end of the school year, I received messages, cards, and letters from my students such as: “Teacher, you made me love reading!”, “Teacher, before, I hate the English subject but now, it is already my favorite subject!” “Teacher, you change my attitude towards life, I will never forget you.”
Now, as they leave the portals of the classroom that became our home for a year, I am in mixed emotions. I am sad because the students whom I treated as my kids will leave; at the same time, I am happy and excited! I am happy, because somehow, I know that I was able to achieve my goal. I know that they learned something from me. I am also excited for them to apply the things that they learned. I am now ready to see them fly and explore life as they embark onto a more challenging phase of life.
As I look back and reminisce the things that happened the past year, I could not help but to smile and thank God for giving me such wonderful experience – an experience where I learned a lot of things.