Saturday, July 31, 2004

Good morning, class!

First a disclaimer. My students have discovered my blog and they might think that what I write is gospel truth and use it for some reason or another against their teachers. So, to set the record straight, it is NOT. As a matter of fact, I write and open it to feedback to get another view in the hope that somebody would tell me if I am wrong and reenforce my thinking if it is right. Not that I will accept anything thrown my way, though. Just so I can think about it some more and decide whether my original stance is right or definitely off tangent. So there. I hope that clarifies everything. On to blogging.

Classroom management is one particular aspect of teaching a teacher must face. I never dreamt of becoming a teacher. I had to learn this the hard way. In my twenty years as an art teacher, I've experienced teaching from Grade one to fourth year high school. We were still an integrated school and since there were only four art teachers then, my assingments shifted from one level to another. Its different now. We now have a different Principals for the HS and in the GS. While a teacher can be transferred from the HS to GS or vice-versa, it is not common anymore.

Students in each grade level have their own particular characteristics and I had to learn how to deal with them by reading (not everything is helpful, though) and most of all, from experience. Not having educational units in college, I had to learn the hard way. I've learned that one deals with the students of different levels differently. I've employed lots of tricks in order to keep the class in tow. I've used magic with numbers, psychologized them, even used, to a minor extent, intimidation.

For me, the hardest would be teaching the lower level, say from Grade one to grade 4. They're just too active and wouldn't seem to listen or understand what you're saying. I remember one time when I was sending them off to their classroom from mine, there was a drizzle and knowing they had to pass by the covered walk which was slippery when wet (I couldn't take them to their classroom as my next class was on its way) I made sure they wouldn't run. "Class, the covered walk is a little slippery so I don't want to see anybody running, is that clear?" As in a chorus, they shouted, "YES, SIIIIIR!" Contented that they understood, I said, "Okay, you may go." And off they went. Literally, that is. Each one running as fast as he could trying to outrun his classmate. I tried to overtake them but with my built? No way was I getting even close to the one ahead of the pack. From that time on, I told my boss, "Please, don't ever give me the younger levels anymore." Well, in fairness, they're cute and very honest. But it's just not for me.

Anyway, I digressed. I was talking about classroom management. The key is to get the students to work and keep them busy all the time. Of course, with a class size of 39 individuals, there will always be different types of students you have to contend with. Never mind the intelligent ones. They don't need a teacher. Give them a good stimulus and they will respond accordingly. Allow me to talk about the ones that will cause problems. The ones you don't want to get, most specially, are the lazy. These are the people who just won't respond to any degree of motivation you can employ. You could tremble in desperation or hatred and still this kind of student won't badge. If s/he does, it would only be to humor you, and turn in a hapharzardly work.

There's the smart alecky type who springs to his/her feet to embarrass you everytime you commit a mistake, and believe me, you will commit a mistake. Another would be the comic type which comes in two kinds - the irritating and the loveable. I can't explain it but there are certain individuals whom the class find very funny but no matter what you do, you couldn't get the humor. Nakakainis! On the other hand, the loveable type is someone whose antics you just can't resist smiling at. The class begins to suspect s/he is your favorite. Of course not but you what can you do?

The talkative is another pet-peeve of mine. How can one learn, or, in my case, do the project if one talks incessantly with the seatmate. Moreso, when one talks, it will involve more students because they'll need, no make a demand for a listener and would oftentimes require feedback.

If there's anything I learned, it would be that a teacher will never get his way by snapping in class. While it may work the first few times, it will not after the fourth. The students begin to see the pattern and they learn to accept your ramblings in one ear and let it pass to the other. They become numb and begin to loathe you and talk behind your back. (which is not good, as a matter foct, very bad, students)

Ah, teaching. I've been feeding my family from the labors of this trade. Still, I'm a happy man.

Friday, July 23, 2004

cellphones in schools

If I remember correctly, the use of cellphones in schools was banned by the Department of Education several years ago during the time of then Secretary, Bro. Andrew Gonzales, FSC. This was brought about by the numerous complaints the Department of Education received from parents and teachers who claimed, among others, that the gadget disturbs the class and hence the learning process.  However, this directive seems to have no teeth at all.  Unlike the Tamagochi which was earlier banned for the same reasons,  cellphones even proliferated within school grounds.  You can see students as young as the elementary level holding the device and indulging in texting messages or calling friends and members of their family. This is the reason why I just smiled when I read the move to ban cellphones in classrooms to prevent gambling.  This was covered in Sassy’s blog. 

It's not very practical to ban cellphones for the simple reason that it has now become a necessity.  I believe that the most important reason for letting the cellphones on campus is that parents can easily get in touch with their children through their units.  Whereas before when parents picking up their children would have to roam the whole campus just to find their children,  they’re just a few numbers away today. By and large, together with the computer, the cellphone is an advancement in technology which the children of today should be accustomed to.  We don't want to let them sit idly by as the world moves on to greater heights.    
In fairness to the Department’s directive, the use of cellphones had already been controlled. Most schools, if not all, has completely forbidden its use inside the classrooms.  In my school alone, cellphones are to be used only before the morning routine and after dismissal time.  

But as you know, the more rules are created, the more chances are there for students to violate.  One is the issue of theft.  A number of students have lost their phones.   It amazes me how some parents would just simply buy them another one instead of reprimanding them for not taking care of their belongings.  Maybe that’s one of the perks of having too much money. I don’t know. 

The more interesting thing for me, though, is very challenging.  From the time I started in this office, (two months) there had been cases of confiscated cellphones brought to my table by teachers. It would have not been a problem if the child really violated the rule.  However, there were instances when a cellphone would ring in class, and because the teacher does not know whose it is, would ask all students to take out their phones.  He/She then confiscates those whose phones are switched on. I’ve been told that this was the practice eversince cellphones became a fad.   

I am not comfortable with this practice for several reasons.  First of all, it is like hunting game where you aim your gun to the air and fire hoping you can get a duck!  More often than not, you don’t hit a duck.  The way I see it, the teacher only penalizes more innocent people than going for the culprit alone.  It is true that the Handbook states that all cellphones shall be switched off once classes start but how will the teacher know if it was in silent mode had he/she not compelled the student to take out his/her phone?  It’s like forcing the student to commit a mistake.  I can understand the logic of showing toughness in class in order to gain control but I am also concerned about fairness and justice.    What if during the time the phone was in the hands of the teacher, or in my office and the phone was stolen, then what?  Shall the school replace it?  Most of the students’ phones are not the ordinary ones.  These are expensive and I only earn a pittance.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Gift giving!

Allow me to say something about my wife. We have been married for 19 years now. Well, if we add the two years of engagement while we were saving money for our wedding, then we've been together for 21 years now. In spite of these years, that produced 4 children, there are still little things, habits if you like, that we are just beginning to realize. But that is not what I wanted to talk about. This is about her sweetness and caring that she constantly gives me. Just to prove the point, here's a little anecdote I love telling my friends.

Just like any typical newly married couple, we used to give presents from time to time, especially during birthdays and special occasions. We seldom do that anymore. Not that our love for each other has waned but because we've become more practical and give gifts to the children instead.

I play the guitar. I've had three guitars from high schooI till college. The first one was a classical guitar brought home by my brother from Spain when I was in third year high school. However, this guitar got into a fight and was rammed into someone's head. You know, high school days... (I know, it doesn't speak well of me but...) The second one was a folk guitar which lasted a few years just because, well, it was cheap. When I got a job, the first thing I bought was another classical guitar as I got interested in learning how to read notes. Well, I did learn but not that well. I was self-taught. Let's just say, I can carry a tune. Again, because this guitar was a cheap-o, it didn't last long. However, Nitz got to see it and heard me play a few songs with it. During our engagement, my guitar broke, her dad offered to fix it and it was working fine again. It didn't last, though, as it has outlived its lifespan. So, I didn't have a guitar anymore when we got married. Didn't buy one anymore as there are more important things we can buy with the money. We are mere employees, remember?

Then came my first born. She loves singing songs. She memorized commercial jingles as soon as she can speak, learned songs from musicales and was singing Swing Out Sisters when she was three. When she was in Grade 3, Lisa Loeb's "Stay" was in the charts. Naturally, she learned the song and was singning it always. Then it came to me. Maybe I can learn the song and accompany her. So, what i did was record the song, borrowed my neighbor's guitar and tried to learn it. Soon enough, we were like that father and daughter duo of Tarzan and Baby Jane :-) (I guess nobody knows them ... hmm, maybe Batjay would)

That Christmas day about ten years ago, I was in my room preparing gifts for the teachers when I heard someone knocking on my door. I opened it and saw a well-dressed man. My first reaction was, "uh-oh, a parent. Maybe he's come to complain about a certain teacher..." Instead, this was what he said,"Good morning, are you Mr. delos Santos?" "Yes, what can I do for you?" What he said next was something I will always remember. "Hello, I'm Mr. _____________, I'm the GM of Yamaha Philippines and I have specific instructions from our Vice-President (a family friend of ours) to personally deliver this to you." He took out a package and put it on top of my table. Quivering, I opened it up. Lo and behold, it's a classical guitar that looks something like this!
He said, "just arrived from Japan, sir. Was personally handpicked by my boss."

That prompted me to call the local florist and send her a dozen roses. Isn't she a darling? That was one very happy Christmas. Wouldn't you agree?

Saturday, July 10, 2004

And the word is heard!

Working on the premise that a poem is really meant to be heard,
Batjay was kind enough to do a voice over of an edited version of my Desiderata translation. You may want to check it out. Hmmm, this may be the first collaborative work of bloggers. Here it is"

"mga mithiin"

Likewise, you can also hear it here. Thanks Batjay.

Incidentally, my Latina friend, poet Gloria Pimentel Laven sent me the name of the guy who did the recording of the Desiderata which I loved listening to during the 70's. His name is Les Crane! Her husband John has always been handy. Thanks guys.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Desiderata translated!

Yesterday, I was asked by a neighbor to record the Desiderata. Yes, that controversial poem said to be found in the in Old St Paul's Cathedral and whose authorship had been unknown for some time when in truth it was written by Max Ehrmann in 1952. Read more about it here, and here.
Now, don't get me wrong. Neither do I have a good speaking voice with a very good diction like Batjay but as the saying goes, "in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed is king." :-)

While I was reading the piece, my youngest son, Coby, was intently listening. After several takes, I finished the piece and gave the tape to my neighbor. This is what Coby has to say. "What does it mean?" It was then that I decided to translate the piece into tagalog. Maybe my children will understand it better. I just hope I got not only the musicality, tone and texture but most of all the message correctly. I will welcome any critic you may have, especially in phrases where I may have missed the point. Here goes:

Mga mithiin

Mahinahon mong tahakin ang kaingayan at mga agam-agam ng buhay, at pakatandaan ang kapayapaang mayroong taglay ang katahimikan. Hanggat maari ay makipagmabutihan sa lahat ng nilalang.
Turan mo ang iyong paniniwala ng buong kalinawan, katiwasayan at walang pag-iimbot; at makinig sa iba sapagkat kahit na ang isang hunghang at kulang sa aral, sila ma'y may kwentong may kwenta. Pakaiwasan ang mga hambog at mapupusok, sila'y panggulo lamang ng kaluluwa.

Huwag piliting ikumpara ang sarili sa iba sa dahilang ikaw ay maaaring maging mayabang o kaya nama'y mapuno ng kalungkutan; parati kang makakakita ng mga taong mas magaling o mas mababa sa iyo. Ikagalak mo ang iyong mga narating o nagawa katulad ng iyong pagkakilig tuwing ika'y may bagong hangarin. Panatiliin ang interes sa iyong napiling karera, kahit gaano ito kahamak; sa pagitan ng pabago-bagong panahon, ito'y mananatiling sa iyo.

Parating mag-ingat sa iyong mga gawain pagkat ang mundo'y punung-puno ng kadayaan. Ngunit huwag mong pabayaang bulagin ka nito; marami pa ring mga taong may mataas na pangarap at hitik ang kapaligiran ng kabayanihan. Mahalin mo ang iyong sarili. Huwag mong utuin ang sarili mong ika'y kaibig-ibig. Lalo namang huwag mong pagdudahan ang pagmamahal; sa harap ng tagtuyot at pagkukunwari, ang pagmamahal ay pabalik-balik tulad ng damo. Makinig sa mga nakakatanda habang isinusuko ang lahat ng bagay na mura.

Alagaan ang tibay ng dibdib ng sa gayo'y masalag ang lahat ng biglaang kamalasan. Ngunit huwag mong pakadibdibin ang kadiliman. Maraming pangamba ang isinilang sa pagod at kalungkutan. Maging maamo ka sa iyong sarili na dulot ng isang mabuting pagdidisiplina. Ikaw ay isang sanggol ng sansinukob, sampu ng kagubatan at mga bituin; ika'y may karapatang manirahan dito. At kahit ito ma'y maging malabo sa iyo, walang kaduda-dudang ang sansinukob ay dapat lang na mapasaiyo.

Kaya naman maniwala ka sa Diyos, ano man ang kanyang anyo sa iyo. At kahit ano pa man ang iyong pinaghirapan sa gitna ng kaguluhan ng buhay, panatilihin ang katiwasayan ng iyong kaluluwa. Sa lahat ng pagkukunwari, kahungkagan at nasirang pangarap, masarap pa ring mabuhay. Maging maligaya. Sikapin mong maging masaya.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

School Assignments

Was it last week when Sassy hinted in one of her comments her irritation with some assignments given to youngsters by teachers which seems to be ridiculous. I am not surprised. Although I am a teacher, I have a few experiences myself.

Since I have started blogging about my eldest son, Mickey, in a previous entry with him giggling as he reads the blog and hollering to his mom, "Ma, si Papa o, pati yung ganon ikinwento!" Let me tell you this story. You see, from among my children, Mickey is the one who shares my passion for the arts. He has represented the school in Art contests, won some-lost some, and is trying to play the violin. He is a member of the school orchestra and plays second violin in a string quartet.

When he was in Grade two, he was given this project to draw and paint something, (I have naturally forgotten what already), on a big illustration board. I saw him laboring on it for several nights so I'm sure he did it. That's why I was surprised when the teacher came to me a few days after saying, "Sir, I don't think your son has submitted his project yet."

"What? I'm sure he has done it because I saw him working on it for a couple of nights now."

"No, I haven't seen his work," the teacher stressed.

"Okay, I'll ask him about it tonight when we get home." (You see, because of what I perceive to be a not-so-ordinary situation between me and my children being in school together, I set them free when we're in school just so they won't feel their father is just a breath away and lead a normal student life)

That afternoon, the teacher came to me again and said, "Sir, I found it already. I checked the names on the submitted works and found your son's" Then she admitted that she was looking for the most "beautiful" project as she expected me, an art teacher, to do it for him. So, in jest, I told her, "If you really expected me to do the project for him, you should have written on the notebook, ASSIGNMENT FOR FATHER"

I learned about this "do your own assignment" bit from my dad. When I requested him to draw a carabao for me, he asked me, "What does a carabao look like?" as if he didn't know. When I described to him how it looks like, he said, "O alam mo pala e. Kaya mong i-drawing yan!" I really felt bad at the time because my assignment was the ugliest in class. I don't regret having followed my father's footstep. here's a sample of what my son can do.

done by Mickey last night Posted by Hello

He did this last night using Adobe photoshop which unbeknownst to him, I am trying to learn by watching him from the sides pretending to be reading a book. ;-). This is for a contest in school sponsored by the student organization for each class to design the best Hall Pass. It shows two students and a caricature of their adviser. The background states that they belong to the Performing Arts class, being members of the orchestra, theater and the like.

Back to the issue of assignments, let me set the record straight. I do not say that collaborative assignments given to grade school kids are without any merit. They do! For one thing, if done properly, the lesson is learned even before the kid comes to school. The ensuing class the following day becomes a mere re-enforcement. Most of all, these assignments can strengthen the bonds within the family as they work together doing the homework. It is when parents do all the work just to get the job done while the kid watches tv that gets to me. What do you think?