Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I’m currently still reading John Maxwell’s “Put Your Dream to the Test”. Last night, I read the part where he tells about one time when he asked his friends this question: “If you could do one thing to change the world, what would it be?” One by one they answered. Then, they threw back the question to John and this is what he said:

“I would teach every child in the world to read.”

At the point of reading this part of the book, I stopped, closed it and read no further. I knew I had to meditate on that fact.

I was a teacher for six years. I taught 1st graders and 3rd graders. They were pretty challenging. But by the time they came to my class, they were already readers, thus, I have never experienced how it is to teach a child to read.

Not until today, DAY ONE of the BLESS Reading Program that we started in our outreach center. I have ten kids in my learning center, all of them eager to attach sound meanings to these figures we call LETTERS. After the first 4-hour class, when all the kids had gone, I sat on my chair and asked: “John Maxwell, is this what you want to do? Seriously?!”

Day ONE and my mind was already filled with things to map out: a disciplinary system, a motivational strategy, a fund-raising idea, a recording system, an accounting system, the parents’ Bible study, step-by-step toilet rules, manners, ..etc..etc..etc… So, John Maxwell, is THIS really want you want to do?

I giggled in the middle of these battling thoughts. Because the truth is, nobody talked me into doing this. Not even John Maxwell.

So, why did I decide to teach kids to read?

When I was little, before I could read, my mother would take out an old cover-less book of fairy tales. She would read to us the stories and my mind would go wild in imagination. From time to time I would look at the page my mother was reading from to see the pictures. But time after time, I would be disappointed; I saw letters after letters – clumped together, or better known to us as WORDS. Just words. No pictures.

That is how I became very eager to read. I wanted to ‘see’ what my mother was seeing. I wanted to unlock these symbols, to see the scenes behind them. I wanted see the pictures drawn by those letters, repeatedly scribbled in the pages like there was some pattern I need to figure out. I was dying to know what they meant.

When I finally learned how to read, there was no stopping. I have always been picking up a book. A friend of mine asked me what if the kids will forget ‘how to read’ and all my efforts would be wasted away. I told her, no one ever unlearns reading.

I picked up John Maxwell’s book again and continued reading. He wrote “ I believe the ability to read can open the door to all other learning and personal growth.”

These kids in my learning center are not guaranteed an easy adult life. No, not even a higher education, no, not a big-shot career. Everywhere they look -  in the four corners of their houses, in their flooded backyards, or the ‘mahjongan’ across them – they wouldn’t find a picture of a meaningful life.

But, one of these days, they will pick up a BOOK, unlock the pictures from these written symbols and they will see HOPE. They will decode these figures and find FREEDOM. They will read these red letters and they will find LIFE.

Meanwhile, I get them ready for that moment.

John Maxwell, I’m with you on this one! *wink*

Note: BLESS Program is a 20-week reading program for indigent children.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

My Free Education

Most of the lessons I learned, I did not learn in school. BUT the things that gave me the CAPACITY to learn them, most, if not all, I LEARNED IN SCHOOL.

I completed 10 years of basic education at a laboratory school for teachers. Yes, graduating students who were preparing to be teachers practiced on us. I developed the skill of evaluating would-be-teachers long before I understood the meaning of the word evaluate. Before the class ends, I could tell whether he/she will get good grades for the demonstration or he/she will witness the supervisor walking out of the room. Our classes were unpredictable thus, the excitement everyday.

Of course, we had permanent class advisers and subject teachers that were responsible for most of the things we learned. They are the ones we remember the most.

It is probably my exposure to these would-be-teachers that contributed to my desire to become a teacher myself. It may have been my desire to redeem the whole education system from these ‘not-so-ready’ teachers (as I thought at that time). Or, I may have thought pasting manila papers and asking “Who can point at the carabao in the picture?” when the animals in the drawing all looked like dogs is really a cool thing to do. It must be fun playing tricks on the kids. Well, whichever it was, 8 years ago I became one of them. I now hold a license that says: PROFESSIONAL TEACHER.

My expired license. hehe!
They didn’t specify teacher of which lessons. So I guess, that gives me the liberty to teach ANYTHING and claim: “I’m licensed. Want to check?”. I might as well teach music, dance, French, Swahili, Karatedo, boxing. I have the license to help me get a way with it. Haha!

But of course, my oath of professionalism wouldn’t allow me to do that. I can only practice what I was trained for: Elementary Education.

I was trained in the best, (yes, I’m serious) teacher-training institution in this country: Philippine Normal University. I had four years of excellent instruction from exemplary educators. I had 5 months of laboratory experience in the most challenging labs one could be in. I was assigned to teach English to 6th graders of a public school. No, not to the ‘bright kids’ class. To sections: 13, 14 and 16. Some of my kids were only two years younger than I was, have criminal records and can hardly read.

Today, I have countless opportunities and experience, and can do many things that are in no way related to the professional license I am holding. Although most times I say “ I didn’t learn this in school!!”  I am certain that the things I learned in school staged me for these experiences. Even the ability to determine that is a skill I learned in the classroom.

But what really blows me away is that the wealth of these instructions and experiences came to me at a ‘discounted price’. Yes, in this world where quality education comes with not less than 5 digits, I got mine in three. As I mentioned, I went to a laboratory school for my basic education. What does it imply? Yes, free education! And college? How’s Php335.00 per semester? (At that time my friends paid 19-22k per semester.) Yes, almost free!


Because the truth is, the university I attended is state run. Every penny spent for me was taken from every hard working, honest tax payer. I enjoyed it because someone already paid for it. I mean, seriously, where can you get fine education for the price of 7 Jollibee Yumburger Meals  or 2 sips at Starbucks or 1 meal at Twist? And when I say FINE EDUCATION, I really mean it. I seldom say this – Phil. Normal University is THE institution for would-be-teachers. (Oh, I must add: results vary on students’ commitment. Hehehe!)

Sounds a lot like everything about my life. I live a life free of worry about tomorrow. I can sing, dance, sleep on problems, love without fear and live like a human being. Because the supposedly payment I need to make for being human has already been paid for.  

No, I don’t ‘purchase’ a slot for an audience with God for half the price.
No, I won’t get to heaven at a ‘discounted’ price.

I get both free – compliments of the ONE who paid it on the CROSS.

I paid Php 335/ semester for my education.
He paid with His life my salvation.

Now, this education has become my stage to tell you of His Salvation. :)