A Great Teacher is a Blessing

The hubby and I just attended the last Parent Teachers Conference (PTC) in my son’s school. On the way home, we discussed about our son’s grades and the teachers’ comments on his conduct and effort in school. We acknowledge that we are the teachers’ partners in our child’s education.

What do I do as a parent? I have chosen to be very hands  on with my child’s studies. As early as in pre-school, I made sure that Joshua has a set time for play and study. I did not need to read a  parenting book to know this. I learned it from my own Mom who helped me develop good study habits. Now that Joshua is in grade 1, I control his TV time and even his video games are reserved only for the weekend. I buy him books and educational toys. Just recently, the hubby bought a telescope for Joshua because he wanted to observe the  moon and the stars. I encourage our son to do this because I know that basic astronomy will be taken up in the grade 2 Science class.  This summer, he will take up basketball and, hopefully, some art lessons. I also plan to bring him to an interactive children’s museum in the city.

But I can only do so much as  a parent. His teachers play a crucial role in developing his mind, emphasizing values and discovering his potential talent. Teaching is a noble yet demanding profession. Many are called to be teachers but few are cut out to be greatly revered. Lucky is the child who ends up with a technically proficient teacher. But blessed is the child who has a teacher with the unique ability of knowing each of his students well  beyond the grades in the report card. A passionate teacher who challenges his students yet creates an inspiring, and loving environment for learning deserves admiration.

I was blessed to have been taught by an amazing  Literature teacher in third year high school. I remember her fair skin, and  chinky eyes hidden by atrociously thick glasses. The first thing that I noticed about her was the husky voice and her graceful, swan like neck. English Lit was considered a boring subject in our high school but she made it alluring for a class of clueless 15-year-old girls. I would wake up excited to attend her class, ready to imbibe the beauty of the written word. Yes, she taught us all there is to know about poems, short stories and novels and their authors. But she was not the type who just wants us to pass her subject. She was adamant that we should have fun first in her class. For her, the grades were of secondary importance.

One time, she asked the class to write a short story on any topic. I wrote a  descriptive story about  a family with the mailbox as the narrator.  She gave me a high grade on that one. I floated with happiness on my way home. She wrote frank assessments of my succeeding stories and told me I have a knack for writing.  Read more books, she advised. Write, write, write. Be original.Discover your own style, she egged me on to write.

Because of her  wonderful influence on me, I decided to take up journalism in college. I became a feature writer of the college magazine and a book/play/movie critic of the university’s student publication. I have never really thanked her for mentoring me. Oh sure, I did the perfunctory thanks but I was afraid to say what was in my heart. In my naivety, I thought gushing in front of her might embarrass both of us.

Last year just on a lark I typed her name on Facebook. Lo and behold there she was!  I introduced myself and poured out my long-delayed heartfelt thanks to her. She was pleasantly surprised and, of course, could not remember me. ( That was 40 years ago!) But she was gracious about it and was flattered that I looked her up.

I wish for my son to receive the same blessing that I had. A teacher who has the exceptional gift of making you believe in yourself. 



HOT Mama

My plan was simple. My Mom taught me my lessons. I was going to do the same for my son Joshua as he entered the big school last June. How hard can grade 1 be? We breezed through pre-school together. I  overlooked the fact that I am 54 and my son is 7.  When I was in grade 1 the Beatles was the hottest thing on earth.  Today, Paul McCartney is probably as old as Justin Bieber’s  grandfather.

The school curriculum is based on the principles of Higher Order of Thinking (H.O.T.) as explained by the class adviser. The what? There is less emphasis on facts and lessons are geared towards critical thinking or the application of  what the child is learning in class.  Darn! I wanted to teach Joshua how to memorize dates, names, and places. I was good at that in school.  Does it mean he will never learn when Filipino hero Lapu Lapu killed Ferdinand Magellan who circumnavigated the  world?

Gone too is the thrill of memorizing multiplication tables. My math teacher used to  hold a contest on who can recite it without losing your breath. That is considered Lower Order of Thinking ( L.O.T). In my son’s school, grade school students are now taught Singapore Math. I had to attend a seminar together with other clueless parents to learn that 5 plus 5 is not just equals to 10. You have to  break the equation into different combinations called  number bonds to arrive at 10.  Whew! Totally alien territory for me but who am I to disagree. The Singaporeans top Math aptitude tests worldwide even beating the Americans.

ni_hao 2Then there is Mandarin.  The hubby and I thought that it would be cool for our son to learn a second foreign language. It would look good in his future CV and help him land a nice, cushy job. However, during his first month in school Joshua declared he hates Mandarin and wants to transfer to another school. My daydream of our son running a Ferrari  plant in China went poof!

In another parents workshop, I learned that Mandarin is a tonal language with four tones making it difficult for a neophyte like me to distinguish each of them. The only Chinese words that I know are xie xie and ni hao.  Thanks to a Nickelodeon cartoon.Teaching the Chinese strokes to Joshua is something else!  During study time,  I  have to be creative, sometimes forming shapes with my hands and feet, in describing certain strokes so my son can remember them.

Lastly there is the dreaded subject called Filipino, the Waterloo of many students. It’s an embarrassing  fact but  a majority of them would rather be proficient in English than their own language. Is it any wonder that the Philippines is second to India as the world’s favorite BPO site?

I don’t relish the subject either but do I have a  choice? I have to rewire my brain to absorb words I last heard 40 years ago like  pangngalan ( noun), pandiwa ( verb), patinig ( vowel), katinig ( consonant) etc . . My son complains how hard Filipino is but I threaten him  that if he flunk  the subject he can say goodbye to the gym. He loves to play at the gym after class. He can narrate in detail  his adventures with his classmates. But if you ask him what he learn in class today the stock answer is ” I forgot.”

After locking horns with the grade 1 curriculum for seven months, I am still standing and relieved that my son does not have a  failing grade. (I just wish he has better grades, whispers my OC self.) And surprise, surprise Joshua now finds Mandarin easy peasy. In two months time, he will be finish with grade 1.A friend, who listens patiently as I whine about teaching my seven-year old kid, suggested recently that I hire a tutor. Is she kidding? I am up to the challenge of being a H.O.T Mama next school year. Bring it on, grade 2!