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‘Forced’ to be a teacher and yet…


MOTHER, aunt, cousin and  godparents opened my eyes to the world of teachers. They always looked poised, dignified,  smart—who would not want to be like them?

As a young girl, I lived and breathed with teachers all around me.

In high school, I got the chance to share my time with less-fortunate kids in our place as they attended Sunday school. Girls from private high schools like me were tapped to teach Christian values to them.

I realized teaching was no joke and it took a lot of patience to get an educational message across.

I was a sensation as a Bachelor of Arts in English student. I met great friends, won an essay-writing contest, became a familiar name among liberal arts students, received a university scholarship and even had a native English speaker boyfriend.

My scholarship was very special although it required me to teach speech  three hours every day to freshman and sophomore students, which I enjoyed immensely.

I got to practice my English-speaking skills in the laboratory and correct the students’ use of the language.

Although I had to forget my dream of becoming a lawyer, it never crossed my mind to apply for any teaching position. I took a job as a “sentiment” writer, the one who makes those witty, sometimes cheesy, texts in greeting cards.

I was enjoying the work when a substitute teaching stint  in an all-boys school was offered to me.  Fond memories of being in the classroom gave me the push to accept.

I did not realize that high school boys could be so mean, so inattentive, so judgmental.

My experience with the “nasty” boys made an entrepreneur out of me. I ventured into the tutorial business with my husband. For three years, I was a full-time mom, part-time tutor, part-time book editor.  The setup was perfect.

When my marriage failed, I was forced to work full-time with Koreans as an in-house English teacher. I had so much fun during the more than a year I spent with the foreigners who treated me not just as a teacher but a new friend, too.

I grabbed a teaching position in a private school that seemed perfect: disciplined students, considerate administrators, upgraded teaching strategies and facilities, Catholic practices observed, easy-to-work-with colleagues … The catch? I had to leave my kids on weekdays since travel was simply too costly.

Before the year ended, my colleagues told me they would try the public school setting for greater financial security. I thought I should do the same, only to realize the challenges were far too different from all the experiences I had in  teaching so far.

Forced into so many things at once in a public school, I found the pace too hurried and overwhelming. My first years were full of “issues” and “controversies” since my styles of teaching were very different from the ones I came to know in the public classroom.

I had to transform myself from a teacher who had nothing in mind but to teach the lesson to a person who had to do master teachers’ requests and orders, do paperwork for the principal, be a disciplinarian in the classroom and put up with colleagues who talked behind my back.

Maybe my having stayed for the last 10 years in public schools is proof that I have learned to “go with the tide” while proving my worth.

My smiles are heartfelt whenever my students return to visit me, call my name when they see me, send requests on Facebook to be their friend …

Perhaps I can stay for 10 more years.

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Tags: Education , Learning , teaching

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