The Rain, My Students, Literature, and Water in my Head

In the past year, I have been learning about literary criticism and theory. I was forced to know who Spivak, Damrosch and Hunt are. I was taught that everything is discourse, a play of power and knowledge according to Foucault. I was made to evaluate representations, deconstruct narratives and construct and reconstruct canons.

I don’t know, but learning about these things also made me think I’m a superhero. Suddenly, I was equipped with different perspectives to view my world–which is mainly teaching children. Suddenly, though I may be in the bottom of the class, I felt I had more power to save the world, to change it.  Suddenly, politics and economics are involved. Suddenly, life’s issues aren’t just life issues anymore. I was starting to learn new things. Uncovering information that could very well protect me against baffling concepts or help me understand them.

And then I got my heart broken.

I am no superhero after all.

I forgot that learning about how the world works will not make you immune to unfathomable sensations such as pain within. That after all, I am still an individual who can get—well, wet.

It is raining so I decided to use Shel Silverstein’s poem in my class today. Though literature isn’t Darna’s stone or Peter Parker’s spider bite, it is still respite from inner chaos that I am sure even Spivak, Damrosch and Hunt cannot explain, or even problematize.

Rain

byShel Silverstein

I opened my eyes
And looked up at the rain,
And it dripped in my head
And flowed into my brain,
And all that I hear as I lie in my bed
Is the slishity-slosh of the rain in my head.

I step very softly,
I walk very slow,
I can’t do a handstand–
I might overflow,
So pardon the wild crazy thing I just said–
I’m just not the same since there’s rain in my head.

After the giggles of my grade 2 kids as they imagined the rain overflowing in the author’s head, I asked them to wear their jackets and to get their umbrellas.To their delight, I brought them outside and together we read the poem under the  “slishity-slosh” and pattering of the rain.

Right now, my thoughts are a puddle of questions, but for now my student’s laughter, their merry water splashing, should suffice in bringing peace in my head. Then again, maybe putting water inside my brain is still the better option. Then all I have to do is to step very softly, walk very slowly, and avoid doing a handstand.

Mentoring the Mentors

There is hope. We just have to uplift teaching as a profession and inspire others that though it isn’t a lucrative job (there are more than enough people who have lucrative jobs anyway) this country desperately needs teachers and quality ones at that, not just teachers who teach to get by.

This year, I have been blessed with a lot of opportunities to have given talks and lectures on pedagogical storytelling and have presented  literature-based teaching demonstrations in different schools and institutions, and last Sunday, I have been blessed yet again to fly to Iloilo with a team of professionals and experts under the Mentoring the Mentors Program (MMP) to give a three-day seminar workshop to preschool and daycare workers.

As the country shifts to its K+12 educational system, the conference talked about mentoring, rekindling the love for teaching and different teaching strategies that these early grades teachers might need as they hold vital roles in every child’s crucial age as it is during this time that the child is prepared for things he will be needing to face life.

The speakers also reminded everyone of the concept of akin VS atin (mine vs ours) encouraging teachers to think about others rather than just thinking about one’s self.

It was a very humbling experience; for though I have barely finished my second year of teaching, participants of the conference and even my co-mentors listened (intently, I believe) to what I have to say, and what limited knowledge I have to share that in the end, I learned from them as much as they learned from me.

Madamong nga salamat sa tanan!

As I left the conference and bid goodbye to Iloilo and its wonderful culture of language, people, and history, I fervently prayed and hoped that I have inspired at least one teacher in this Visayan island and proudly say that I have made a difference as a Filipino and as a teacher.

There is hope because I have seen it–at least glimpses of it.

Pilandokan: Isang pakitang-turo

October 15, 2011. With my Grade 2 Lansones, I presented a teaching demonstration at the 3rd National Conference for Children’s Literature. Held at the Claro M. Recto Hall of the College of Arts and Letters, I had fun telling the kids a story and talking about it through engagement activities as participants of the conference observed how literature is used in pedagogy.

Checking 101

August is almost over and so is the first periodic exams of most schools who follow the quarterly scheme; and before teachers come up with a grade, they, rather we, still have to face one of the most boring things teachers always have to do–checking.

Since my practice teaching days (practicum), i average 4 ballpens for checking in each quarterly exam. Multiply that to 4 gives you 16. Add to that all the pens I need to check other things all year round will probably give you 30 to 40 pens a year.

What are these things teachers have to check anyway? Here is my list.

  • assignments
  • seatworks
  • projects
  • quizzes
  • notebooks
  • workbooks
  • artworks and doodles
  • other things
Teachers therefore are so used to that running-out-of-ink moment. But aside from the pen issue, the more exhausting aspect is the checking itself. 

I am handling two sections each with twenty-four students which is a total of 48. I am teaching two subjects in second grade. This means assuming that I give a one-page homework and a one-page seatwork in my two subjects daily, I will have to check

2 x 2 x 48 X x 5= 960 papers in a week.

Now if there are around 30 school weeks in year leaving around 3 weeks for those times the classes didn’t meet or the teacher didn’t give any assignments I would have checked

960 x 30 = 19200 papers in a year.

Crazy! This doesn’t even include exams that come in more number of pages. No wonder teachers run out of ink. With all these papers to check, it isn’t surprising that our accuracy lowers, that sometimes we make mistakes in teaching. We usually speed up the process altogether, otherwise we won’t be able to return these checked papers to the students for reference.

With this, I thought of some ways to improve the accuracy of teachers’ checking and preventing them from going crazy as well.

  1. Check as you go. Don’t Procrastinate. NEVER PROCRASTINATE. Otherwise papers to be checked will accumulate and eventually overwhelm you.
  2. Check per page. To hasten the process, check per page instead of checking an entire written output of one student. For example if there are 4 pages in a test check all page one, then check all page two, and so on.
  3. Take checking breaks. After around 3 sets of written outputs, take a walk, listen to music, or eat away from your checking area. Checking non-stop will make checking robotic and might negatively affect your accuracy. When we are so used to any repetitive action, our mind goes on auto mode making us less aware of what we are doing.
  4. Alternately check varying sets of outputs. Check a set of sciences tests then check a set of English tests then check a set of Math tests (for those classrooms that are self-contained) This will prevent boredom. Boredom is counter productive. Who wants to get bored anyway?
  5. Check with co-teachers. It’s fun and seeing other people sharing the agony of checking with you is uplifting. Create checking parties in your favorite cafe and check with your colleagues. You can even invite non-teaching friends who might be more enthusiastic about checking than you are. Bring lots of food and even play music but never ever bring booze while checking. DON’T DRINK AND CHECK.
  6. Cross check. If there is time (specially for essay-type outputs) ask another colleague to recheck for you. This will offer a fresh perspective. Just don’t forget to thank your colleague in your own way (hopefully your way includes a latte, a gift certificate, or food!).
  7. Check using a non-red pen. Studies show that the red pen has negative effects to both teachers and students. For teachers who use red pen they tend to give lower scores than teachers who opt for non-red pens. Example of this study can be found here When Grading Papers, Red Ink May Mean Lower Scores

Checking is important to student evaluation. It is mainly the teachers’ responsibility to make sure that their checking is near to accurate.

Checking is boring but it is part of being a teacher and teachers do these things for the love of learning and for the love of their students.

That’s how selfless we are. <coughs>.

Happy Checking!

The Official Poster of the 28th National Children’s Book Day: a Picture

(took this picture of the 28th NCBD poster. Art by Jonathan Ranola)

Posters are pieces of Literature and thus I was able to use this as a springboard for my lesson on capitalization. I started with identifying the parts of the poster.

  • art/design
  • title
  • slogan (to explain  this part, you can say famous slogans and let your children guess the company, product or event it is advertising or promoting. They loved this activity!)
  • date
  • sponsor

Afterwhich, I directed their attention to the title and asked them what they notice about the words (the first letters of the words are capitalized). I then proceeded teaching capitalization.

A Teacher’s Plan for the Next School Year

Summer is recharging time for teachers. It is also the time for teachers to rethink and plan classroom setup, strategies and a lot more.So far, these are what I have come up with.

  • Aquarium and terrarium in the classroom
  • more gameboards, blocks/ legos and clay
  • a reading corner
  • guitar and/or piano
  • a secret mailbox where students can put secret things they want me to know

will be updating this as summer comes to an end 🙂

License for Second Graders

Being an Early Grades graduate (or Early Childhood Education in most universities), games and toys are essential in my teaching philosophy. What better way to encourage my students to write in script then than to issue Cursive Writing Licenses to my second graders the moment they learn and practice writing in cursive or script. Talk about incentive. Aside from giving them a toy, you are also teaching them what licenses are for and the privileges and responsibilities attached to it.

My student’s CURSIVE WRITING LICENSE:Question is, why do we teach our students to write in script?

Cursive writing came from the Latin word cursivus which translates to flowing. Cursive writing connects letters without lifting the writing instrument from the paper for more continuity, thus flowing. Since the writer does not have to lift his hand that much, it saves time in writing, making writing itself faster. And since fast writing is important in note-taking, cursive writing will allow the writer to cover more information in a short time. This is important specially for students’ content subjects (i.e. Sciences, Social Studies) where teachers utter a lot of important details more and more each grade level.

It should be noted though that even if cursive writing is intended for fast writing, legible letters in cursive is still a must. No matter how fast you write, if your writing is near undecipherable, what use it is then? Writing in script therefore needs gradual learning and practice to perfect both the legibility and agility of writing.

We are not teaching our students to write Kryptonian anyway, are we?