His name is Ryan. Ryan Pilande.
I have a number of kids who changed in terms of attitude, but the BIGGEST IMPROVEMENT award goes to Ryan.
He was a bit chubby when he entered school, but now he’s a lot thinner. He started really really really rowdy. There were times that I cried in front of class because he wouldn’t settle down.
He wouldn’t listen. Whenever I turn my back to post a visual aid or write something on the board, he’d be gone to the corner; worse if it’s outside the classroom.
He started as a nonreader; he couldn’t read in Filipino nor in English. In fact, he could not identify letters! I let him borrow the books I had, but after an hour or so, there’d be drawings of a male’s reproductive part.
That was the old Ryan.
I didn’t know when he started to change from that Ryan to this Ryan. I just remembered that day when I taught expanded form; He remained quiet, and listened. When I gave them a seat work, he told one of his classmates, “Akin na, turuan kita.”
That scene was so rewarding that it’s still vivid in my memory.
Today? He’s the opposite of the Ryan I knew. Well, there are still times that he gets out of his seat, but such circumstances are becoming rarer and rarer. He can syllabicate already but…
I failed to turn him to an instructional reader.
I knew people would tell me, ‘At least nakakaidentify na ng letters’ or ‘At least he can syllabicate’. But I dunno. Maybe I’m just being too hard with myself? There were eight who started as a non-reader, three of them are still having a hard time with English but can almost read in Filipino. Two of them are having a hard time reading both. One of them is Ryan.
“Sinong andon?” I asked as I looked at him with pain and guilt that I wasn’t able to make him read that far.
“Si mama po.” He replied.
While we were walking, he told me he just saw his father walking. He even pointed at him so I knew we crossed paths. How come he didn’t even notice Ryan?
When we came, their neighbors told us that his mother wasn’t there yet. Their house was open though, like anyone could come in. Their house was a small room in which you have to bow so the ceiling won’t hit your head. I didn’t have the chance to see what’s inside since his aunt approached me.
“Ma’am pasensya na wala pa kasi yung kapatid ko.”
“Okay lang ho. Hintayin ko na lang.”
“Ay ma’am dito na lang po muna kayo.”
We proceeded to her house which was beside Ryan’s place, but opposite in terms of aesthetics. There were three sofas, a computer, a high ceiling, tiled floor, gas-operated stove and a refrigerator.
“Kamusta ho si Ryan sa school?” She asked.
“Okay naman ho sa ugali.” I replied, “Yung grades lang niya ho talaga…”
“Bakit ho ano po meron?”
“Eh ma’am kasi dati ho talaga di yan nakakabasa. Ngayon, alam na niya yung mga letters. Pero ang problema naman po hindi naman siya makasabay sa mga lessons…”
“Ah kasi sabi sa report card nakikisabay sa inyo habang nagsasalita.”
The knowledge that someone reads the narrative report on the report card brings me happiness.
“Opo. Pero mga bata pa ho kasi kaya siguro ganon.”
“Hindi po kasi talaga namin maasikaso si Ryan. Eh yung mama niya nasa probinsya.”
I was confused with that statement. I thought his mother was living with Ryan.
“Ano pong nasa probinsya?” I asked.
“Bale yung tunay niya pong mama nasa probinsya. Eh di naman niya kaya, kaya pinabantay na lang sa kapatid namin.”
She told me more about the depressing story of Ryan’s family. Since Ryan’s mother could not take care of Ryan, she asked his siter to take care of him. His father left them, so his mother lived with another man. Unfortunately, the second one left her too.
“Ang tawag nga po ni Ryan sa min, mama din.”
What’s more depressing was, Ryan sees his biological mother only when they go to the province. I asked how often that was… The answer was…
“Basta po kapag pumupunta kami.”
When I look at Ryan’s eyes, I could feel nothing but sadness. I knew he had to repeat third grade, but this would not happen if… maybe… his parents were there to guide him.
It took me one year to make him identify the letters. It took me one year to make him syllabicate in Filipino slowly. Still, one year isn’t enough.
Sadly, it took me one year to understand why.
I hope it would not take forever for all of us to ask how.
Student number 40, check.