Tuesday, August 05, 2008


I was holding back myself for the past two days from reading this Sunday's The Washington Post's Education Review which tells about us...the Filipino teachers. Less than five years ago in October 2003, I was in the exact situation as my co-Filipino teacher, Mabel Ventura. I have read this over and over, there is a film documentary by Ramona Diaz already, Baltimore Sun's documentary of Aileen Mercado (my friend), and I have already almost finished writing my book of my own adventures as a Filipina teacher in an inner city public school here in Washington DC.

I couldn't help myself, tears were rolling down my cheeks again this morning as I finished reading The WaPo magazine...and I remember my first year...

This was my classroom last year.

The road to success is rough; you have to pave it yourself.

- Arnold Glasow -

My first year of teaching has been a difficult initiation for me, most especially because I was teaching Junior High school Special Education in an inner city school here in Washington DC. Aside from their diagnosis of having learning disability, oppositional, defiant and conduct disorder, they were going through adolescence identity crisis, and they were having personal challenges with their home environment.

Back home, in a third world country, I often dreamed of using a better technology to aide me in teaching my special needs students. I was excited when I got here and saw two working computers in my classroom, which was already good for me, but not good enough if I was going to use them as assistive technology tools for my students.

Everyday, I was in constant search for ways on how to establish rapport with my challenging students, to get them to cooperate with me, and to engage them with using technology to accommodate their special learning needs. I was in the "trial and error" stage but I was determined to do what it takes to maximize their hidden potentials.

One day, I was sitting at my computer desk after class while waiting for one of my students. I gave her extended time to finish her classwork.

After a few minutes, she gave me her worksheet. She stood there reading aloud my friend’s email to me.
She couldn’t understand Tagalog.

I translated it for her. "Prices of food and other stuff are just not affordable anymore down here..."
She asked me if she could open her email from my computer.
I let her.
I asked her for her email address.
Then, I wrote her a hello message that night.

The next morning she opened her email from my desk. She announced to the class,
Hey! Miss Angala wrote me an email!”

It was the first time that she got a personal message from a teacher.
From then on, I get emails from my students, from hello’s, to get well soon’s, to a weekend story, to goodbye’s. Some of them wrote me goodbye poems days before the end of the school year. One of their parents wrote me a thank you letter through email.

Even my husband who reads my email inbox from time to time was surprised.
He said, “I thought your students were mean to you?”
I said, “They were, but not anymore”.


That was almost five years ago. I am better equipped now, and I keep learning many new things for my professional development. We'll be back to school in less than a couple of weeks from now. It will always be challenging as it was when I was a first year teacher. Sometimes it gets worse. But I am better prepared now and have effective strategies for instruction and classroom management. More importantly, I make sure that I stay focused on the goal: Success...for my students and myself!

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