On teenagers, my Grade 8 English teacher, and Nihongo classes

Hello WordPress,

Story time!

Since I entered my second year of being a Scholastic and passed the licensure for teachers last 2015, I started my teaching career and lived a busy life for the next three years. Since entering in the active ministry as a young Brother, I celebrate everytime we have holidays by just staying in the house of course except when Br. Ador would initiate us to go somewhere like going to Lebak which I also loved doing too. I think last year was the busiest year of my life where I handled a homeroom, table tennis boys team, and the Grant-in-Aid Scholars while teaching more than 23 hours a week! I don’t know if it’s just me but the preparation for Values Education 8 (Christology), Religious Education 11 (Faith and Revelation), and World Religions and Belief Systems 12 during the first two quarters made me anxious more than the actual teaching. Since I only took 18 units of Education subjects, I think that’s where the struggle was from. Don’t get me wrong though. I love teaching in high school. The paper works were dreadful though. I know some teachers dread not only the paper works but the dealing with high schoolers. Yeah, I admit I had those moments but I refuse to feed those feelings and keep on going instead. Puberty and teenage years can be an emotional rollercoaster ride which affects even for us teachers too. Those are the rebellious years of their youth and I have been there so I understand.

When I was in high school, I cannot understand myself why I get so emotional at times. I remember how my heart beats whenever I see my crush, my English teacher at Grade 8. I developed a friendship with her and I would be very at ease talking to her because I like her so much. Hehehe! I think my English improved much because of her inspiration and I would admit that my handwriting was patterned from her handwriting. Looking back, I think I was influenced by her in terms of my teaching style on the manner how she treated us her students and her honesty with us. As our school is an exclusive for boys, we too had given her a hard time in class at times but her command in class and composure would win our rebelliousness and boyish-ness. Maintaining a good relationship outside the classroom with students is something I learned from her too. She would then transfer in a university and become an instructor or professor. As a college student, I remember seeing her on the jeepney stop and we would again talk for a long time even on the train until she would stop on Legarda station and I would say goodbye. I would see her again on our ride to our respective schools and talk non-stop. After 2008, I never saw her after that. Since I remembered her, I thank God for her presence and influence to me. She taught me a lot not only about English but also about maintaining good relationships with students. Ma’am Ginnie, wherever you are, maraming salamat po!

Well, I didn’t intend this post to be a tribute to her and I just ended up writing about her because of her strong influence to me when it comes to being a teacher.

Now as a Nihongo student, I enjoy this moment of learning a new language everytime I step inside the classroom. I suck in pre-class preparations though. Our classes would be only for 2 hours but at times, it feels so long or very fast depending on the difficulty and my attention span.

Being a teacher for 3 years changed my perspective when it comes to learning. I now know how to anticipate questions in tests because I used to make test questions. I enjoy every moment as a student and will take my time and learn at my own pace. Besides, I still intend to teach in the future. Who knows? Maybe I can teach Nihongo too in the future.

God bless you all.

Peace! ✌️

My Nihongo Conversation classes

Hello WordPress,

I have a new name: アレン (Aren). That is the Katakana version of my name.

I have been here in Japan for more than a month now and I took up basic Nihongo conversation classes since September 11, 2018. Obviously, all of us students are non-Japanese speakers.

Half of the class are Christian missionaries including myself which gives us fifty percent discount in our tuition fee. I am the only Filipino in our class.

Initially, there are 7 of us in class but we were joined by a Chinese woman this Friday afternoon so that makes us 8 students. Though she enrolled late in class, she is actually advanced compared to us since she can read Chinese characters which Japanese calls as Kanji (漢字).

Our class are composed of 5 nationalities (excluding our Japanese teachers): 2 Americans, 3 Koreans, 1 Thai, 1 Chinese, and 1 Filipino.

We have 5 teachers (now reduced to 4) who take turns daily, just so happened they are all female, and all our teachers are Japanese and knows very little English (which is actually good for me personally as it will force us to learn fast). One teacher had to be substituted as she is fully booked with her schedules and we just met the 2 new teachers last Monday and Tuesday and one teacher had to take the Wednesday and Friday schedule.

Our Nihongo classes are from 1:20 PM~4:10 PM. It would take me approximately 40 minutes to go to our class via train and walking. So sometimes I would eat my lunch around 10:30 AM and prepare for more than an hour for my travel to school. I would go out of our house around 12:15 PM and walk to the train station which is just nearby. Sometimes, it feels like the wait for the pedestrian cross would take longer than my actual total walk to the train station. One time, I missed the rapid train just because I bought a milk tea in a vending machine and that stalled me some precious seconds. Well, you might be familiar with how punctual Japanese are so I won’t bother to explain that. Whenever I ride the train, it feels like I’m in a music video as the view of Kobe City is just picturesque. I am not usually fond of city landscape but Japanese architecture and urban planning is just something.

Aside from hearing Japanese in class, you would hear Korean, since they are the majority in class and they would translate by themselves what the teachers were saying, and English since I and the two American couples would seat together and just discuss and react whenever we don’t get what’s going on in class.

Most of the time, the teachers would talk too fast we couldn’t catch up but the teachers assured my American classmates that they’re doing just fine. At the beginning of our classes, the teachers would ask everyone some quick conversation prompts and skip me maybe because… I don’t know. Is it because I wear eyeglasses and look smart? Maybe. So to get the attention of the teacher, I would play the role of the class clown. This is exactly the opposite of me when I was in high school and college as I would be very shy and quiet in class and would still perform well anyway. But now that I am learning a new language, I would do all the means to learn inside the classroom. So far, being the class clown probably earned the ire of the teachers but I hope they understand that I am grabbing attention so as not to be left behind.

5 of us are Christian missionaries: I and the two Korean men are Catholic missionaries and the two American couples Baptist missionaries. It just so happened that the 2 Koreans are also fellow Catholic Brothers like me which is rare. Also, I learned that the community house I am in now were actually theirs and the land of their properties now used to belong to the Marist Brothers. How and why that happened is a long story to tell. To tell you honestly, I don’t even know the specific details how and when did that happened.

Anyway, since our class is on basic conversation, the teachers would ask us about our weekends. We Catholics would say that we go to church or Kyoukai (教会) during Sundays. Though Japan’s Catholic population is very small, there are a quite number of Catholic parishes here in Kobe City probably because this is an international city and many Catholic foreigners such as Vietnamese, Chinese, Koreans, and Filipinos live here. I also noticed that there’s quite a number of Catholic religious orders/congregation here in Kobe as I see sisters in Tarumi where I go to Sunday Mass. In Japanese, sundeimasu (住んでいます) means “I live in” so it is easy to remember whenever I try say in Japanese where our house is.

Our Thai classmate, who probably is a Buddhist, was baffled why the two American couples don’t attend the same Church as we Catholics do. With our limited Japanese vocabulary and non-English speaking classmates, it was hard to explain how come we Catholics and Baptists don’t attend the same Church though we are all Christians.

If ever we Catholics mention that we attend different parishes would bring more confusion not only to her but for us too who does the explaining. Another point worth mentioning is if ever we Catholic Brothers would explain what is a Brother would mean more headache not only for her but also to our fellow Baptist Christian missionary couple. I even haven’t brought up yet to them what is a Brother and what’s my missionary apostolate here.

Going back to school is hard and takes lot of humility. I keep on reminding myself to say yes to mistakes since that’s part of learning for as long as I keep on trying.

We just finished our first assessment this afternoon almost a month of Nihongo lessons. I aced the test despite being the class clown. I was actually frustrated because in the essay, I had to change my answer as I forgot how to write る (ru), ろ (ろ) and む (mu). For the record, I am typing with a smartphone so I can conveniently switch to a Japanese keyboard.

Reviewing last night was 50% worrying and 50% test drills and re-reading that I even woke up around 3AM and reviewed right away thanks to the energy drink I bought yesterday. Since I was up early, I was able to take pictures of the sunrise.

I took a nap around 10:30 AM, put my alarm to wake me up after 30 minutes, but I woke up and it’s already 12 noon!

I arrived in school just in time and bought my lunch in Japan Railway Sannomiya Station’s 7-11 and ate it during the class break.

Have a blessed weekend everyone!

Postscript: I initially wrote that all of us are non-Japanese but I might be wrong since our Thai classmate’s surname is Japanese and I even am a part Japanese as my mother’s grandfather is a Japanese. So there.

Are You Interested In Filipino Historical Films?

Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral is now showing in Philippine theatres. Sadly, I am in Japan and away from the country. I watched Heneral Luna by Jerrold Tarog last 2015 and was looking forward for more historical epic films and Goyo is one of them along with another film about Manuel L. Quezon.

Among the local genres of films in the country, this is one of the closest to my heart. In my childhood, I was always waiting for the show Bayani every morning along with Sineskwela in ABS-CBN before going to school. If you think about it, all of the films are actually heartbreaking because almost all of our national heroes were killed, most of the time brutally, while they were fighting for the country.

Back in high school, Philippine History is one of my favorite subjects to talk about and listen to inside the classroom. I am blessed to have amazing Araling Panlipunan (Social Science) and Filipino teachers in Marist School. I hope we produce more teachers and historians who are passionate about the story of Filipinos in the past. Nowadays, it’s easy to fabricate stories and distort history so we really need them to tell us about telling the truth and how to spot what’s not true.

A true story: One of my childhood friend is a descendant of Emilio Aguinaldo. We were batchmates for two years in Elementary but he transferred school after Grade 4 and since then I never heard of him since our family also transferred house.

When I entered the chess varsity in Grade 5, one of my teammates surname was Bonifacio, which is rare.

Speaking of, my great grandmother’s name was Bonifacia. Named after the great Manileño hero, it somehow gives me an insight how popular he was and how Filipinos back them regard him as the de facto national hero.

How about you? Have you encountered some of the relatives of any of the important historical figures in the Philippines?

How is my teaching life so far?

Hello WordPress readers,

I am writing a test draft now but I am not in the mood to write a test draft so it will just be a story time.

So I am here in the convent library, just typing on this cheap laptop I acquired for my teaching ministry. As I look at my laptop, I can see the reflection of the cable wires outside since the glass panels are transparent. This past three days, I heard some birds banging the glass as they thought they can pass through them. Two months ago, I was wondering why I was hearing a bird crying at night. I thought it was nesting somewhere in the roof but my hunch was that it was somewhere hiding here in the library. I found it resting at the top of the book shelf and I shooed it so it can set itself free.

I’m thinking of what to purchase as Christmas gifts but I think I’ll just go outside during the weekends or during the examination time. Honestly, I don’t know what gifts should I give to them. I even forgot the name I picked on the one of the exchange gifts I joined.

I can believe it’s already December. It’s like I was just starting the school year last June and now we’re just four months away from March. I was so caught up with the school system I barely have time for social media. Well, I am online almost every day but I don’t have the energy to create contents like I did in the previous years.

I’m still teaching eight (8) sections and I am teaching a new subject this second semester. It’s about Trends, Networks and Critical Thinking in the 21st Century. I told them about my SNS (social networking sites), the term used before it was called social media. I realized almost all my online accounts were made during the year 2009: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. Sadly, I was not able to back up my photos in my Friendster and Multiply account last 2011. I had no idea they were already going down at that year.

I think in blogging here in WordPress, I have found my “voice” in writing. I admit I am so shy in front of the crowd that I struggled two years ago when I started teaching in Marikina. Luckily, it was only one class and all of them very nice, charming, and bright. I hope no student from that class will read this . But if they found this, then that’s fine. Besides, I already told them I love them before we part ways and I miss them so much. They are now in their Grade 11. Half of them transferred schools already. The first year of teaching for me is indeed memorable.

For two year, I am now here in Cotabato and this is my final year of teaching. I will be spending my time outside the Philippines next year. That’s my only hint. Some of my fellow teachers knows already where I am heading.

Speaking of my last year, it helped me to make the most out of my remaining time here in Cotabato. I think this is the busiest year in my entire life. I took lots of responsibilities. Using the cliche term, I think I bit more than I can chew (is that the correct usage?).

When the time comes for me to say goodbye, I just hope and pray that I am able to touch the lives of the students and fellow school personnel in a good way.

I seem to attract the attention of the naughty students. It’s like they are not intimidated by me. When I scold them inside the class they straighten up. But when they talk about it outside, it’s like they are talking about someone else and talk about themselves as a matter-of-fact. I would be angry with them in the class but outside the classroom I would be waving my hands at them. In a good way, they are detached and don’t take my scolding personally. Maybe it’s the generation they are in now. They want to be friends with anyone even their teachers. Though I appear to be strict and tough at times, deep inside I know that what I do is for the good of my students. I love all of them not just the naughty ones. Loving can be tough at times. I really do will what’s good for them even those students who I seem to neglect at times. There are really students who tend to flourish even if you don’t focus on them that much. I am talking about the shy, quiet, and average students. When I was in high school, I was one of them. I feel guilty for not paying attention to each one of my students.

This afternoon, we will be honoring the achievers who got an average of 90 plus in their report cards. I will be meeting the parents of my advisory class in Grade 12. I have some 52 students in my homeroom and I will update them how their sons and daughters are doing in their academics. I have yet to prepare what to say to them.

But before that, I need to finish my test drafts. I have three test drafts to prepare. So this is all I can say for now.

It’s good to be back here in WordPress.

Goodbye.

A journey inward

Now, school year 2016-2017 is over. Wohoo!

Since I promised in my previous post that I will talk about my teaching experience, I will try to do it here without any specific topic in mind. That means free-writing.

When I’m not writing, I’m reading the writings of my students. I as their teacher asks my students in class to practice being reflective through writing. I, as their Values Education teacher, encourage my students to touch their introspective side. And for them to do this, they must learn how to be silent. In these times that these teenagers are in (and for us adults sometimes too), it is hard for them to let them sit for hours.

But I know my students are all capable of spending time in silence. I’ve witnessed it during their recollection where they were asked by our campus ministry directress, ma’am Che, to sit down in silence, close their eyes, and imagine themselves walking through nature and encounter people close to their hearts. On the part where they encounter their parents in their imaginative journey, when the students were asked to feel how their parents are struggling in earning a living just for them to study in a good school and be provided with their own needs, it made them weep. It may be pity or guilt that they felt whenever they get mad whenever they request something and their parents refuse to provide them; those times when they fail to appreciate the goodness of their parents towards them. That time, they were able to get in touch with their own experiences and relationship with their family especially their parents. They were able to do it because it was a recollection and they really spent time in silence.

Going back to my students’ reflective writing activities, I discovered that it is not easy for some to spend time for reflection when it comes to writing. But I am happy that at least they are trying. I even encourage students to write in Tagalog if they’re having a hard time writing in English. But there are some who won’t really bother and try to even write essays. Ah, your patience, Allen!

So in the same manner, I as their teacher must practice being reflective. And I will do it through web logging. And here, I did it by just writing about my students. Woo!

Whenever I talk in front of the class, I lecture through story telling. Usually, the subject is my own life experiences and stories of people whom I have known personally. Honestly speaking, I am a such a bore in retelling stories of others when I have just read or heard them somewhere in books, web, magazine articles, or even podcasts I am listening to. Even the jokes that seems funny to me, when I retell them, because too corny.

Now that I have stopped following any television shows or anime series, my watching habit of watching basketball games has gone up because of our access to cable in our convent. I consume more time in doing unproductive things such as watching games or highlights when I really want to do is to be creative like writing, composing poems and stories, polish my handwriting (which my student said was poor), capture more photographs, play basketball or chess, or learn how to draw better.

Maybe sometimes, I will consciously spend time to feel boredom and not seek constant stimulation. But I know it will either be productive or unproductive. I need to choose the former though.

Postscript: I will be spending a week in Malaybalay, Bukidnon for the Annual Lenten Retreat of Marist Brothers here in the Philippines. I am part of the Liturgy Committee and an assistant secretary during the Provincial’s time (meeting). Within the week, we Brothers will discover our Summer assignments and our next community and ministry assignment for the next school year. And during the Easter vigil, I will renew my vows. If you want to ask me to pray for me, just write a comment below or reach me out in the Contact Form. Please pray for me too.

Education for life (A Morning conversation)

This morning meal, we talked about education in the Philippines and in other countries with topics such as alternative learning system, giving assignments and examinations, and play. Our current Department of Education Secretary Leonor Briones has in her agenda the alternative learning system. This is encouraging to some students in our country since not all students are geared towards formal education and not every high school graduates are suited to enter college.

Currently, if the cumulative grade of a student reaches 60, the student is given a passing grade of 75. It seems that this move of the previous secretary Br. Luistro Armin, a La Sallian Brother, is geared towards mass promotion of the students so they can graduate in high school.

Though I know it’s important to focus on our high school students (since our country is dominated by the millennial population with a median age of 23 years old), I hope that educators and lawmakers would consider the program we give to our children below 10 years old. Like in Finland and Japan, they tweaked their preschool and primary level with lots of play and exploration for kids and no assignments and examinations.

For parents, I hope that they wouldn’t spoil their kids by giving them smartphones and tablets at an early age so kids can enjoy their childhood outdoors and with their playmates.

How about you, what do you think about your country’s education?

A bittersweet week for Mindanao

Last week, I went to General Santos City, the hometown of Manny Pacquiao. I went there not because I’m his relative (though some would insist I’m a dead ringer of the champ). Pacquiao’s victory is good news for us Filipinos who have been to some bad experiences since March 26 (start of the two-day forest fire in Mt. Apo, the highest peak in the country.

When I stayed with my relatives’ house for more than a week, aside from experiencing the oven-like temperature of GenSan (with maximum index of 40 degrees Celsius average). I have all the time to watch news and entertainment in the television. There was an ugly incident with protesters who blocked a national highway in Kidapawan City. They were complaining about the insufficient support from the government to farmers suffering from drought because of El Niño. It turned into a bloody dispersal, leaving some protesters dead and plenty wounded with some cops in ICU because of mauling. Reports said that the farmers were mixed with communist propagandists with their own agenda. The leaders or the protest organizers needs to be held responsible. Of course, the PNP must be held accountable too of their failed “maximum tolerance”. Somehow, this is an indication of the indifference of ” some” public officials.

Good news here in the Kidapawan incident is that private sectors outpoured their support towards the plight of these poor farmers. Some peacekeepers negotiated between the police and the farmers, telling the latter not to block the highwamotivatese midst of incompetence in the part of public officials, many from the private sector and showing concern not for their own agenda but because they want to help the poor farmers who are affected by the dry spell. This should be a wake up call for aspiring candidates who will take the seats in the government. Their power must be their means go serve the people particularly the oppressed sector of our society such as the farmers.

This social problems motivate me to push through in working in the education sector. I must remember that I am responsible in molding the consciences of future politicians, farmers, policemen, and peacekeepers.