Confessions of a Public School Teacher

I was never an expert in writing persuasive essays. In fact, I would make a terrible marketer. When someone sent me an e-mail that she was inspired to be an educator like me, I was surprised.

Being a teacher is the hardest—or if not, one of the hardest—professions. Sometimes, I would work 24-7. I wake up to make lesson plans, and then create materials afterwards. Sometimes, I would ran out of time and be frustrated so I needed to switch to plan B—chalk and chalk board. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to have a real breakfast filled with hotdogs and bacons like the way I used too. Coffee is my savior.

In some days I would arrive earlier than usual to conduct remedial lessons with my students who cannot read. As I enter the classroom, I would write the necessaries on the board, update the trackers, return the papers that I checked and sing with them the introductory songs that I taught.

I’d ask them, “Anong goal ninyo?”

And they would answer, “Papasa ako!”

“Anong score?”

“Excellent!”

I have six hours with these kids—no time for rest.

After six hours of teaching, I’d go online for a while and see what’s going on. I’d look at my wallet and see that there’s not enough left for dinner because I photocopied worksheets and assessments and bought brooms and charts for the classroom, but I would still look for something inexpensive yet healthy to eat or else I’d be a hypocrite of what I teach in Science.

When I arrive at the dorm, I’d update my calendar and record the grades. I would check papers until my body says I needed to rest. But as I sleep, I would dream that I am teaching, or checking papers or something else related to teaching—yes, that happens a lot.

It’s worse when diagnostic tests are given and I needed to analyze it. But because I have faith in truth of data, I encode ALL the answers of the students in six subjects. I am very fortunate to know the wanderings of excel.

It is a work wherein you would bring home your work. Well unfortunately for us, we don’t have a faculty room to stay after class.

The only vanity I have is make-up, and even when putting make-up, I think of them. They would notice the new shade of lipstick, or the shoes I am wearing. Even if I save something to buy a new pair of shoes, at the day of shopping, I’d look at the money and say, “Ay hindi, pang prize ko na lang to sa kanila.”

I complain—of course. I am still human to feel stress. I am tired, but I am continuing it anyway; not only because I needed to, but because I felt and witnessed something greater than the feeling of tiredness.

Transformation.

Three months had passed since I first met these 56 kids, and I could say that they have changed a lot.

Yes, a lot.

I could remember

…the first two weeks when I could not even turn my back for a second to write something on the board because of the fear of them fighting

…how I would scold them because of paper planes flying everywhere even if I was in front of them

…how Ryan would sneak out of class because he wanted to play outside

…the first week when I had an average of 2 hours of sleep, a reason why I fainted and was not able to attend the first PTA meeting

…the mini casino in the room with all the flipping of coins

…the mountains of spiders and snails that they bring to class

…the days with a rough voice

…how Glen Mark would refuse copying because he does not feel like it

…Jerico, who repeated grade 3, moving from one seat to another because he did not like listening to me

…the first month where I had a terrible time telling them the right way to copy notes every single day

…the day that Kenli said he was too dumb to understand the lessons

…how scared I was to conduct a game in class because of the fear of chaos

…the terrible time of recess where the selling of food, fighting, playing and scolding happen at the same time

…how tired I was

But now

…I could leave the classroom to pee or to conduct an oral exam outside with minimal disruptions, yet without fighting

…they immediately keep their paper planes when I stare at them with the let-us-study-look

…Ryan would be the one to volunteer to guard my bag and the door with all his heart when I am called for a meeting

…I sleep with an average of 5 hours a week (not bad)

…they know how to save their coins for something else

…the number of spiders and snails that they bring lessened—currently vanishing

…I could sing in class in my normal tone

…Glen Mark would go to me and ask me to stamp his notebook for his mother to see that he is now improving

…Jerico stays in one seat as he listens to me—rank 8 of the class

…they write properly on their notebooks

…Kenli tells me that he would revenge himself and he would get an excellent stamp for the next quiz

…I successfully conducted a game in my English class, and I saw how everyone showed sportsmanship

…Recess is done normally with minimal fighting and rare scolding

…I am still tired, but I am happier.

I still encounter problems; my class is not perfect yet, and I think it will never be. There are still students who misbehave, and I still get disappointed when the noise gets too loud. A few students still forget the procedures, and many are still distracted with everything going outside. Two would still get the broom than listen as I teach, and many would still throw tantrums because they weren’t called for recitation. A student would still have consecutive absences without an excuse letter to show. Play inside the classroom is inevitable.

But…

Whenever I look back at how terrible June was, I smile. Not that I was thankful for that, but because I witness a transformation that I thought would never come.

Teaching with a goal for change is exhausting, expensive—and exhausting again. It is the road less traveled by, yet it is the one I chose. How tiring it might be, you will never regret the results.

I know that the time will come wherein their faces would change, and I would not even remember their names. Sooner or later, I will have another set of students who I would encounter same problems with—or maybe even worse. At the end of every day, they will forget what exactly happened. I will forget what exactly happened. But with all of these, I realized that the most exciting part of teaching is witnessing your students change into a better person—not because of you alone nor because of them alone, but because you and your students worked for it together.

And that is how it is to be a public school teacher.

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