Are you ready for online teaching?

The term new normal has transformed into various images and scenarios in the past seven months as people worldwide try to make sense of the global health pandemic. The virus is still present, and the reality of health concerns remains a top source of anxiety for many.

In the Philippines, there has been an ongoing struggle with numerous concerns from the ongoing government responses to the pandemic, the scandal on various corruption incidents, and multiple misconducts (if you may call it) of celebrities and government officials. In today’s reflection, I would not be focusing on any of those. I would like to talk about the challenges teachers face now that we are in the midst of this global health crisis.

Transitions and Adjustments

As a teacher, I had to face the exhausting curriculum development process since the early months of the year. The previous academic year was abruptly halted as strict quarantine measures were passed to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Can you imagine teachers finding new ways to communicate with our students and still complete the local government’s requirements to complete the school year? A lot of considerations were made, and a vast online communication system had to be put in place to ensure that students are safe and are still comfortable in completing the remaining requirements for the school year.

Even teachers leaped into an unfamiliar environment. Everyone had to check on each other’s physical, emotional, and mental state. Luckily, in my experience, we were already acquainted with the use of the Google classroom, which goes the same way with our students. However, I could not picture how worried many teachers, both young and veteran, felt when they were asked to extend their work to the virtual world. It was a nerve-wracking moment, yet I think many educators did not open this concern up to their students or even colleagues in the fear that it would only lead to disastrous consequences. After all, as professional teachers, everyone is expected to take care of the student and be ready to take up any challenges that come our way.

Amidst all these new changes and the seemingly gradual acceptance of the new normal, I had to deal with that moment of uncertainty and sleepless nights to prepare for the next academic year. Many people may not be familiar with this as it seemed as though everyone got a relaxing early year break due to the extension of the quarantine.

Online teaching requires a different kind of execution, understanding, and a considerably distinct skillset which we, teachers, had to learn and practice right away. In reality, it was more tiring to think of various ways to cut down the lessons yet keep the necessary concepts and target learnings set by the Department of Education. Also, on top of all those, we have to consider possible failures and troubles both on the technical and teaching aspects of it all.

Seeing the process to the end

After facing the immense preparation needed in online teaching, I realized how it was all still worth the struggles. I have been teaching online for almost two months now, and there have been many unforeseen and even expected troubles both on the technical and personal aspects of online teaching. Yet, the students remain on top of our priority; their learning and their adjustments. Even though there may be times that problems seem to be dragging us down to the bit of disaster, we try our best to get back up.

The worry that remains now is that of the upcoming blended learning, which will be executed for the public school system. There will now be more competition when it comes to good internet services and accessibility across the Philippines.

It is not just up to the teachers, school administrations, and even the Department of Education to find ways to address the new normal learning experience. It is a task that must be addressed together with the students’ families and private institutions. However, we should not simply brush off these concerns by showcasing our resilience in times of trouble. It is high time we ask the government and the private sectors (such as the telcos) to take responsibility for resolving this educational crisis. After all, we are citizens who shared our thoughts, worries, and hopes in keeping the learning engagements of the young generation active.

There is still a lot of arguable angles that we can discuss in this matter of continuing education. I would only like to remind myself, and you who is reading, to not give up. Try to understand more the different perspectives and various social and economic struggles that our fellow Filipinos face. See their efforts in keeping up with the new educational approach amid this pandemic. Those efforts are not just a sign that this academic year is going to end in disaster. Perhaps, it is also a good opportunity to hear their sentiments. Why exactly do they exert time, resources, and passion for finishing this school year? Each one has a distinct environment, and not all are accessible to digital resources; not all have the luxury to take a gap year as a completion of one academic year is a step closer to completing the requirements that can help them see opportunities to improve their state of living. Still, it is up to you to learn about these sides of the story with all these ideas.

Now, many teachers and students worry at the start of this academic year. It is a valid emotion that must be expressed. However, I think it is also good to give it a shot and learn from the experience. Witness how the people can understand the need to ask and check on the individuals and institutions who need to take responsibility while working hard to accomplish the tasks at hand. I hope that we will not forget that as we brace ourselves for the online learning system.

Step 2 in Retrieving my Lost Time – Grace

Start with grace and appreciation for even the smallest action. Just as I open my eyes, I need to give grace to the Lord. I must say my gratitude for giving me another day to live and to witness the wonders of life here on Earth. It may be difficult to get up at times, but I need to remind myself that the Lord still gave me another chance; to change or to find another reason to pursue an act that will make me want to continue living.

If money was not a concern, I would have chosen to write stories and become a professional writer. However, it might take me a few more years to jump into that road and work my way to achieving such a goal. I need to earn to provide for my family. It was not specifically asked by my parents, but as the eldest child in the family, I think that I need to do as much as possible as to help.

Filipino Mindset of Helping Out

Recently, I had been in a seemingly infinite cycle of worrying because of my current financial status. I felt drained both physically and emotionally that I couldn’t focus on accomplishing anything. I think that with almost a decade after attending university, I am in a limbo. This is further heightened by my own personal want of providing well for my family.

As the “Ate” (older sister) in the family, the first four years of my career were set to help out in financing my siblings’ college education. My parents didn’t ask me to provide for everyone. It was on my own decision that I opted to give a portion of my salary for them. Honestly, I didn’t earn that much, almost just a bit higher than minimum wage, but I felt contented. It was not later on, when I reached 25 that I suddenly felt that “Woah, wait. I need to look after myself. I am not getting any younger.”

That statement may seem exaggerated as my sister only started work at the age of 24, but thinking of the dreams that I set aside, yes, my circumstances now seem a bit worrisome. Nonetheless, I didn’t exactly mind it as I grabbed a job that seems to be a passion that I would truly be happy with – teaching.

Passion over Finances is not enough

Teaching was wonderful. I enjoyed engaging with my students, sharing experiences, and even being strict in class. However, this didn’t last long as I got burned out with financial worries. Don’t get me wrong, finances aren’t the only things that matter in life, I know. However, being able to have enough and provide properly for the family is a crucial factor in staying in a job. Also, having to carry a load that isn’t even part of my job description is somehow too much. Okay, let’s be honest; a teacher isn’t an eight to five job as there are a lot of in between scenarios to take care of during the entire school year. However, being asked to juggle too many tasks at the same time with some of which should have been shouldered by others, that is too much.

Also, compensation wise, it won’t make ends meet that easily. Though I am truly grateful for the experience as it also helped make me more mature and more responsible in the way that I handle events in my life. I think that I need to find a way to help me meet this passion of mine. First by completing the required units to take the licensure examination (credentials and titles are still such a big thing in the Philippine setting; understandable as we are supposed to be professional). Then to pass the board.

For now, I am just grateful to the Lord for all the realizations that I have had for the past months. I have to be committed to seeing this through no matter how difficult or how long it may take.

Adulting: Struggles of Letting Go

Have you ever experienced a day when you just blurt out statements like ‘Shocks, I’m getting old!’ or ‘Seriously? How old are you?’? I have those moments now, but I’m not even close to turning 30. I just hit the sweet quarter of a hundred mark and yet I feel somehow overwhelmed on how ‘adult’ I should be after that particular age. I think of how “Oh dear, my officemate doesn’t know this or that anymore’; ‘The bills are here already!’; ‘I want to do that but I’m tired.’ Don’t those statements just sound sad?

In modern references, it is just a part of ‘adulting’ which everyone in their working years must face. However, as it seems to be a natural thing to happen, why are there a number of us who struggle with it?

Keeping Up with the Young Ones

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I think that there are times when the younger generation is catching up so fast in terms of age, but our sentiments are leagues away. This is one factor in how our ‘adulting’ becomes evident, and how this phenomenon seems like a burden. We start comparing our own memories to the ones who we somehow feel like us during those years.

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Seeing Colors – Job, Travel, and Life

Seeing colors

There are a lot of things that I wish I knew, I hope I can still do, and I want to pursue. But at the end of the day, there are just too many to pick and I end up accomplishing nothing. Still, with the hope in my heart and the desire to finally put into work whatever ideas are screaming out of my mind, I take little steps. In those little steps, I learn, and later I see the beauty of a colorful set of life-worthy experiences that help in building the person I am now. Frankly speaking, I do like the way I am now (though there is a number I still want to improve).

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Looking Back before Moving Forward to 2018

Today, I can say that welcoming my 25th year wouldn’t be that bad after I have grown to know more about myself as well as the different things that truly matter to me. However, before I can move forward to welcoming 2018, there are a lot of experiences that I need to look back to as I reflect and finally put them out of my mind and my heart. This is me letting go of those moments for me to have space for new ones in my head and my heart.

June 2013 – early 2015

  • ESL work -> got burned out from it 😦

Right after graduation, there were a lot of experiences that opened my eyes to how different it was to be a student and to be a part of the workforce. I spent almost two years of my post-grad concerns focused on a job which challenged me a lot (physically, mentally, and emotionally).

This was the time I realized that I wasn’t that good enough to be working in this field, but I didn’t let that stop me from doing well. So, I studied, I practiced, I endured, and I became a better ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher than how I thought I could be. Though, there were still a number of times when I truly wanted to cry from exhaustion and just quit. Like why in the first place was I there? I wasn’t even a speech communication graduate; I chose writing as my major!

Honestly, for the first three to five months, I had always thought of quitting. Then, the kids came to the academy. I had to endure all the challenges and faced them head-on. I loved the kids, I loved how I was sharing a part of my knowledge with them, and I love how I was becoming a part of their growth as an individual. As I saw them improve, I felt that I needed to be there to guide them. This was not an entirely good choice, though.

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Learn, Write, and Complete a Story (Part 2)

As I grew more familiar with the rich sources of knowledge and interesting tales through various books, novels, and even scripts from plays, I searched for more opportunities to explore and improve my own writing skills. But, there are a lot of times that I get stuck.

The Characters and the Plot

It may be a good start for any piece of writing by having some images of the main characters and getting an idea for the general flow of the story. This is how I usually begin my work. I meet new people who may have a resemblance to the people around me or to my own. Sometimes, it’s sad that I had to give my pain to them as I find ways to build them up again for far greater challenges which lead to wonderful memories as well as better understanding of others and themselves. But, what happens when I forget some of these characters along the way. Many have haunted me, others simply just quieted down to the deepest parts of my mind. Here, I lose the work I’ve started. I get stuck.

Writing, Typing Aimlessly

Habit is an important factor in making any piece of writing work. This is where I am still lacking. Yes, I accept the fact that I used to type every day. I have grown fond of that routine, but that was when I was a student.

When I stepped foot in the professional world, I lost track of the passion that I once had when I took up a writing major. I needed to earn, not only for myself but most importantly for my family. I had two younger siblings who were both in college when I graduated from the university. That particular phase in our family life taught me to let go of my personal wants first and reach out to the members who needed the most.

Still, I tried to sneak in some writing once in a while. I appreciated the wee hours in the morning when there was no noise going around, not the time yet to worry about office responsibilities, and distractions all over the place. However, even with this kind of system, I usually still get stuck and I can’t finish any piece properly. *Properly in the sense that I know the story is done, my characters have had their moments, and I have said what I truly wanted to say.

Now, I have to set time for my passion again even though I know that I am starting to be busier than ever because I have to take care of 100+ kids. 😉

Baler: Surfing and So Much More for a Quick Weekend Trip

I caught some last minute heat as the dry season (there’s no summer in the Philippines, we only have two seasons 😉 ) finally said goodbye this year. I filled last weekend with a fair share of nature’s quiet beauty and the surprising waves of the open ocean in the stunning little wonder down south – Baler.

I have always been curious about this particular town as I usually hear about it whenever people search for nearby surfing destinations in Luzon. Being a non-confident swimmer (I still can’t do water treading), doing such activity isn’t really at the top of my list. But, surprisingly, I enjoyed surfing the most during my quick trip to Baler. Before I share that experience, here are some additional events that happened and the special moments that I also truly appreciated.

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A Weekend of Love

I haven’t been able to write much on this blog because I have been busy finishing my final paper for my literary criticism/theory class. 😦 But, luckily, I was able to have a wonderful weekend. What started as a sort of simple yayaan with my MA classmates, became an eye-opening experience on my part.

Last May 20 and 21, I attended the first writing workshop of Reb Fiction (Rebel Fiction) under the Precious Pages Corporation. They are one of the imprints of this famous publishing house. So, I am not really familiar with their titles, but it caught my attention because they are a brand that focuses on Young Adult fiction. This is interesting because there are a lot of different stories and printed books out on the market that are catering to the “young” readers, but the genres of stories aren’t really that wide with Filipino prints. Reb Fic, on the other hand, is trying to offer more varieties of novels or novelettes for the young readers to enjoy. This is a plus point on my part because I hope to see “riskier” or even a bit of “experimental” texts that are still going to be relatable to the YA field.

There are a lot of popular novels under the YA genre, but those are mostly foreign prints like Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and others (I grew up with less known ones like those written by Margaret Haddix, the Nick and Norah book, and even that of The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night Time). This is a good chance for Filipino writers to work on YA stories and further add that certain touch of “Filipino” sentiments and values.During the workshop, I also learned more about the YA genre (and market) as well as the process of building a “hero/heroine.” I was even able to present one story already. Now, I hope to work on that manuscript as soon as possible, so that the ideas are still fresh in my head. But… I think I need to go back to my final paper first and (face my fears 😂) finish the semester well before this. Still, (crossing my fingers) I hope to submit it to Reb Fic before the end of this month. 😀 ❤

Memories of a High Schooler

In a couple of weeks, 2016 is almost over. Today seemed like a great time to look back into some of the memories of my younger years.

Nerdy yet Fun High School

There weren’t much to do when I was in my teens. I was the typical girl who went to school, studied her lessons, followed the rules, and stayed at home. I was only an active, playful, young girl in my elementary days. So, I tried to find some interesting activities when I was in high school. This was the period when I met a lot of friends who gave color to my usually predictable days.

For four years, I was with a group of friends who were all brilliant, funny, clever, and unique in their own ways. We shared a lot of time reading books, sharing stories, finishing group assignments, answering exams, and presenting skits/reports in front of the class. Those memories helped build lasting relationships and opened opportunities to learn about our own personalities.  Even though everyone looked nerdy and grade conscious (being in the top section), we still knew how to enjoy a break. Some of the activities in the years we stayed in the school (2005-2009) were simple yet fun and interesting *but, I think many would not be able to relate with this now* 😛

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