Vacation to vocation: An effect of a month-long break

Being a teacher has its perks. One of them is the long vacation in between the school year. Since I’m still on a vacation mood, I will continue musing here and this time it will be about schooling, education, career, vocation, heartbreaks, intimate celibacy, and dreams.

A career or calling?
To be honest, I never dreamed of becoming a high school teacher when I was still a child or even a teen. The closest would be my dream of becoming a professor in college. Now one of my college pals just finished his master’s in Clinical Psychology. I could not remember if I mentioned that being a Marist Brother was one of my dreams as a teenager but anyway I’m telling it now. And since I am already a Marist Brother, I still dream of becoming a professor. But if I would do that, would it make my religious vocation not as a vocation (i.e. “a calling”) but as a career? Well, I would not really pursue it and just make it happen when I am told to teach in college. That’s out of the equation at the moment since I don’t have yet a master’s degree. I had some post-graduate units taken last year but that’s all I have. So that’s just one of my many desires and I am just being honest by writing it out.

Schooling and education
Seven years ago, I don’t even have the financial means to enroll in a post-graduate school before I entered the Marist Brothers. That time, I thought of going back to school again right after graduating in college. I still wanted to study. I was still unprepared in the transition of working right after college graduation. Just like my long break now, right after my college graduation, I was so restless in having a break in studies, thinking on my bed, and playing computer games. I had lots of exercise though. I was tired in studies but I want to keep on going. Mark Twain said he would not let schooling interfere with his education. I too had to keep that in mind. I was too selective in accepting job offers. I had my options: study again and/or work. Out of the blue, I entertained the thought of joining the Marist Brothers. They invited me when I was in second year college; I am Marist-educated; I am single; I know the life of St. Marcellin Champagnat; I lived with the Brothers in Mindanao for a week when I was still in high school; and I dreamed of becoming one. So, why not become a Marist Brother?

And these thoughts occurred to me so I contacted the Marist Brothers and told them that I am interested to become one of them. And they gave me one year to decide if I am serious with my decision or not. That’s why I worked as a property consultant and as a technical support representative even though I was underemployed as long as I can save money for my future trip to Mindanao.

Heartbroken?
I don’t even know if my close friends know about this. Maybe they just thought I was heart-broken. And if their reason is true, I should have been out a long time already. Or maybe that’s part of my unconscious motivation of joining religious life.

I remember in a dream six year ago in the Aspirancy House that I was being chased by some hooligans and I was shot dead. I woke up in the middle of that night and even posted in my Facebook status that I was thankful to be alive. The only explanation I can come up with that dream was that I was eluding something that I can’t accept or I don’t like and that my death was a reminder of my spiritual death since I was not a practicing Catholic when I was in college. So maybe the heart-broken part is true based on that dream but I would deny that consciously of course. Or am I running away from something other than that?

Intimate celibacy
The problem now is that I learned in religious life how to love many without being exclusively in a relationship with a woman; that I can be intimate while being celibate. (I will tackle this in the future.)

A recurring dream
But my death in my dream? I cannot really make sense of it. That dream recurred a few days ago. Again, I was riding a vehicle and I was being chased by some hooligans. But on this second time, I am alive. What does that mean?

And that’s it for an episode of my free-writing. Thanks for reading.

Please pray for me and my companions for our tomorrow’s trip to General Santos City. I would be there for a two-week training.

And that means a hiatus.

Again, let us pray for one another.

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?

Nurturing the seeds of wisdom and knowledge 

[Disclaimer: A free-written journal entry]

It’s only the second week of classes and I am sick already. I don’t have any umbrella so I went straight to the classroom with the polo barong I’m wearing as my raincoat. Result? Flu. 

I am just wondering why is it when I perspire and my body cools down because of the help of the air-conditioned room, I still feel alright and no useless stress in my body? Anyway, just ranting because I teach every class with my high energy and I can’t afford to diminish my zeal with this acquired useless anxieties. Maybe that’s carelessness in my part. 

Speaking of energy, every class I attend to, it feels like my energy gets zapped in a good way. And at times when I look back and review my day, it’s a comfort that I tried to touch the lives of my students in my own way. I can’t say yet if I have touched their lives since I’m just beginning to sow the seeds of learning and wisdom that I am just passing to them. Or to put it in another perspective, nurturing their seeds of wisdom and knowledge. 

I hope and pray that their seeds would become a great harvest in the future. 

And I pray for my fellow teachers, the more experienced and learned than I am, to have a good health and avoid my carelessness in getting a sickness like mine.

School updates, teaching duties, Basketball, NBA Conference Finals, and waking up early

It’s almost Friday and I can’t wait for weekend. I started work here in Notre Dame of Cotabato since Wednesday last week and it’s a series of workshops, seminars, meetings, and lots of lesson planning for the next school year. Classes will be starting at June 13 along with the public schools nationwide.

Anyway, going back to my anticipation of the weekend, I am looking forward to the sports event of all the Notre Dame schools here in Cotabato City this coming Saturday. I am to choose whether to play basketball or chess. I don’t know which one to choose. If I’m going to choose chess, it’s because I’m good at it. If basketball, it’s because I enjoy playing and not because I am good at it. In fact, I suck at playing hoops. I am taller than the average Filipino so it’s normal for me to be assigned inside the paint. As much as I love putbacks, I still do find pleasure in shooting threes. I just love the swish and the sound of the net when I shoot from the perimeter (except when it’s airball). Maybe it’s because of the NBA Conference Finals that’s happening. I am rooting for Cleveland Cavaliers!

I’m still adjusting to the school and so far, I am still learning about the bankruptcy by listening to small bits of info about what happened to the decisions made in the previous (mis)administration. I am still finding it hard to adjust to waking up early. And that means the alarm sounds at 5am! That’s all for the meantime and please catch up with me in my Twitter account. Might be offline depending on the schedule I might have since everything’s tentative so far.

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.

How I combined Math and reflective writing?

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Well wishes and prayer messages disguised in a Facebook Number Game
I manage a Facebook group site for my Geometry class. Though the school year is finished, I posted some activity for them to comment. The post is a Number Game wherein friends would send a number privately to the one who posted then the one who posted would comment on the post, describing the friend, withhold the name, label that person with a number, and letting others guess who is that person being described. The Number Game is, in reality, for me to send them private messages about my well wishes and prayers for them as their teacher and “spiritual parent” (a term I got from Pope Francis). Right now, I ran out of ideas and quirks in writing since the game is still on and I have yet to write for more or less twenty students.

Letter writing activity in class
Last November, I gave the students a letter writing activity called Dear John. You might wonder what’s the connection of letter writing and mathematics? I’ll explain. They are to reply to a former classmate who transferred and talk about John’s struggle with Geometry in his new school. So aside from sharing their own experiences too and their advice to him, I posted other questions such as their preferred degrees in college, their plans for the future, and their aspirations in life. Upon receiving their letters, I replied to their letters and gave advices, recommendations, affirmations, and encouragements in their class performance and in their future endeavors as well. Considering that this activity requires me to reply to 52 students, I don’t mind the hurt in my hand in writing since I enjoy writing for them anyway.

The Number Game and the Dear John writing experience is heartwarming and enriching as a rookie teacher, a brother, and as a human being. I hope that the students felt the same when they receive a reply from this brother.

An open letter to my Geometry students

Dear VBA,

Let me pour out my soul. I am deeply touched by you, my students in Geometry whom I spent a year almost ten months with. This is only possible because of the risks I took and as well as your responsiveness.

I am not a Geometry teacher but I tried being one and I finally became one. I am very vocal of that I am not a math major and you, the students, know it. Is it because you don’t have a choice? Maybe yes or no. You could have complained me with the admin but you didn’t do it or should I say you won’t dare do it. Or no because you don’t have any teacher available to share knowledge of measuring plane Geometry. Or are you afraid of the one teacher you once had? You don’t need to answer me.

At first, I am actually more than happy to take the opportunity since I want to use my license in teaching, practice mentoring, and because of my love for Mathematics. I know it’s a love-and-hate relationship when I was still a student. And now that I finished my duties as a teacher inside the class, I can say that my disposition remained the same. I am still happy that I was able to teach Math to the lovely and vibrant class of VBA, you guys, the section I handled.

It was a risk because I am not an expert in Geometry and not even a Math major in college. I was vulnerable to be called as someone who doesn’t even know what I was teaching. That never happened and I am thankful that it didn’t happen. I risked being wrong sometimes because that’s my challenge to the students: risk being wrong, to commit mistakes, bounce back and learn from these mistakes. Some overdid it actually. But I am proud that they were able to do it: err boldly.

Your class, though noisy most of the time, was easy to handle and ideal for a rookie teacher like me. You respected me as your teacher through your courteousness, listens when I want to say something important, and are open to share your frustrations, struggles, and even triumphs. I know that since I asked you to write journal entries during the second half of the school year. And even without those writings, you were still open to express those emotions inside our class. I proposed Remedial classes and you attended them. You could have opted to sleep more in the morning before P.E. time every Saturday but you are willing to sacrifice your free time. As mathematicians, not all of you are brilliant. However, you showed resilience and that’s the most important lesson you can take away from our class. To bounce back, to commit mistakes and learn from them, and the willingness to try again are important in learning as well as in living as human beings in terms of your relationships and reaching for your aspirations in life.

I am happy as your teacher VBA. I am happy to meet students like you. So in this final day of the school year, I have to let you go guys. I will always remember you in my prayers. You will always have a special place in my heart. You are the first class I ever handled and that makes it more memorable. As I said to one of your classmates, no one can ever replace you. That’s right, you are ever unique.

I pray for your bond as a section to be a lot stronger and closer. May you be away from all useless anxieties. And may you all grow well and be yourselves. Don’t ever pretend to be someone whom you are not.

Maraming salamat VBA.

See you again.

Br. Allen, FMS