Sunday, August 14, 2005

on teaching

My first encounter in teaching as a volunteer was when I was in Grade 6. We taught kindergarten students the alphabet, helped them to color inside the lines and helped them with their diction. Doing this under the supervision of older more experienced individuals (teachers no less) made the job quite simple. It was only during my civil welfare classes during my second year in college that I appreciated the tasks delegated to the teachers of this nation.
It was very hard for me to accept that although our students could write down the word “dog” when asked of them, they would also spell “aso” as d-o-g. Memorized. That was the first thing to enter our heads. They didn’t really know what they were writing. What they did know was that these certain symbols together meant dog. Although the kids going to us were supposed to be undergoing tutorial programs (supplementary programs to the classes they were currently enrolled in), we ended up starting from scratch.
“A” is a hard letter to teach and so are the other 25. It was grueling to watch my student strive to write an “a” for me and heartbreaking to see that each and every time, she would write it upside down, backwards, reversed, and all ways imaginible except the right one. Something deep inside me just wanted to quit but I kept thinking, “If I don’t help her, who will? I am the only one given the opportunity to touch her life at this exact moment in time.”
Even now, I wonder why students like me just squander the rare privilege given us to study, to learn. Here we are in a premiere university and we don’t even take full advantage of it. We slack off. I slack off. Everything becomes last minute when it comes to academics. The grade becomes more important than the actual things we’ve learned. We study for weeks to perfect an exam, yet we forget overnight the same golden nuggets of information acquired. When brought face to face with children desperate to understand, to learn, to excel, all I could feel was guilt and shame. Somehow, I never thought of my education like that. Yes, I would rant and rave about how the government should increase the budget allocated to the educational sector because the less privileged need to study too but I never realized that I, myself, was wasting what liberties was allowed my person.

Somehow, looking back, I don’t think I was the one doing the teaching in that classroom.

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