the last day

i should be happy, i really should.

i should feel both relief that the summer semester is over, and i should feel pride for the progress of my kid/s (if you count nathan).

but i can’t. not really. i want to be okay with this, but i’m not. looking back, all i seemed to do in this class was glorified ukulele-playing and the occasional cut-and-paste visual aide game. even if my kids didn’t show up much, or even if they weren’t so receptive for the first few days, should that have been an excuse for my subpar performance as a teacher at iclip? i can’t say i didn’t try, of course, but if you think about it, did i try my absolute hardest? what frustrates me is that all of this ended so soon. i wasn’t looking forward to preparing all those lesson plans and materials, but you know what i was excited about?

seeing a child read on their own. because i was able to help them help themselves. i could have seen that. my classmates did, with their kids. with all external factors aside, all those things i couldn’t control, could i say i really worked to get my way to that goal i had?

slow progress is still progress. i just wish it could have been more evident in both my work and his. but i hope he’s happy, kahit papano. i hope those words on that certificate/token are something he can make his own. i can’t get him there, to that goal of finally conquering reading after years of being held back. only he can get himself there.

i don’t know if he’ll look back, once he’s fully capable of literacy, and contemplate how he pushed himself to get there. but i hope, if he does, that he remembers that i helped myself help himself.

until next time, kid.

another day zero

given the recent string of absences of jayvoy, kelly and i honestly did not prepare anything anymore, with the pessimism of his failure to attend class starting to get to kelly and me. instead, we spent the afternoon at kelly’s dorm (with the teachers’ permission, of course) to fix materials for the culminating activity the next day. this included sock puppets, syllable cards mounted on sticks, and a massive syllable mat for the kids to play twister on. it sounded simple enough, with four of us (nox and almira, too, were childless that day) working on such mundane teaching materials.

dead wrong. it took us the whole afternoon, and by the time it was around dinnertime with just kelly and i at the dorm, even the puppets weren’t half-done yet. for such simple props and visual aides, there are apparently a lot of things to take into consideration when using them to both teach and entertain kids, especially those ones in iclip. it’s like you have to go through some troubleshooting and childproofing. if there’s anything really important i learned at LTS, it’s that you have to handle everything with care. not only the child him/herself, or the lesson plan, but even the materials that you use only as secondary supplements to your teaching.

for example, spacing the letters on the twister mat was not easy. we had to make sure each word would be able to be formed on the mat without injuring the children. we also had to make sure that the mat looked complicated, with no two syllables or colors appearing near each other. we had to make the gameplay simple, but still engaging. like i said, there are so many factors to take into consideration even when you’re just creating a simple floormat!

this got me thinking about all the effort i put into preparing for this class, which, honestly, was not much. so does jayvoy’s frequent absence justify that? well, i don’t think it should. whether or not the child exerts 100% in coming to class, being participative and receptive, and basically learning, it requires almost 200% on your part to compensate for whatever lack or complication that comes your way. which is what frustrates me, since i know i can always shape up and start putting my back into it a little bit more. the catch was we didn’t have much or any time left at all.

day zero. again.

jayvoy didn’t show again, for some reason. to be honest, kelly and were starting to get pessimistic about his attendance and motivation, and if keeping on with him would be worth it (provided that he actually attended). so, like the previous class, day two of being student-less was spent drifting from table to table, trying to see how we could help the other teams, or at least observe what they were doing, in hopes that we could apply it to our own teaching style (that is, again, if our student actually showed up).

since edward was late, i ended up “babysitting” his kid niño, one of the more “notorious” and rowdy kids of our class. i’m not sure if it was the chance to tackle someone new (even just temporarily) or the opportunity to finally use the materials i prepared for jayvoy a week ago. so there, i ended up playing the toilet paper roll game with niño, who was relatively ahead of jayvoy (who wasn’t?) so the game coverage in relation to the syllabus wasn’t much of an issue. niño was also ridiculously behaved (so behaved, it seemed unnatural) since teacher hazelle had brought over a couple of students to observe us teaching.

what is it with the notion of unfamiliarity and comfort? save for (as expected) jerome, the whole class was oddly silent because of the twenty or so pairs of eyes that crowded over us and observed how we taught our students. everyone was suddenly so behaved and cooperated with my co-teachers. i realize the same thing was the case of the first few days of our teaching, with the kids being really shy and participative, only to become a tad “too comfortable”, and eventually defiant in the coming days.

how does one maintain a level of professionalism in the classroom, especially when you’re dealing with kids who probably don’t understand the notion of professionalism yet? of course, as a teacher of the very young, one must try to connect as interpersonally as possible to their student, but where do you draw the line and become both a “helping friend” to a “kuya”, or even, to demand more respect and authority, a bona fide “teacher”? it’s all just a matter of how comfortable you are with each other, right?

i’ll never know, really. not unless my kid shows up.

day four 2.0

strangely, jayvoy was unable to show up to class today, so kelly and i were left to just observe the other students and see their progress with our fellow LTS classmates.

obviously, i took this opportunity to check back on my old teammate, edwin, and our kid nathan. while edwin noted that he was having much more difficulty controlling nathan now that they were getting more comfortable with each other, it was quite evident how far nathan and edwin had come. when i was last with them, they were struggling with the letter o, and nathan kept guessing the answers in order to get everything over with (which slowed down the whole process). now they were at letters like t and k, and nathan was practically sight-reading everything. i was amazed. edwin was never one to do a job half-assed, and it was quite clear when it came to how nathan was progressing.

i was able to check on my other classmates, too. christian had managed to finally keep his two boys seated for long periods of time, and harnessed the competitiveness to motivate each other to learn more. almira was already almost crying while she got claress to read an entire sentence on her own. it was amazing how much progress becomes evindent to you all of a sudden.

however, this kind of put things into perspective for me, which made me feel very bad. where was my kid? why wasn’t i making any progress myself, both as a student of LTS and as a volunteer teacher? i know a lot of the factors were out of my control (i.e. jayvoy’s attendance) but it still made me feel terrible, as if i had been accomplishing nothing the whole time, as if my frustration with the lack of progress for the last few days was entirely my fault. how come nathan and edwin were making so much leaps and bounds without me?

i don’t know. i don’t know what to feel. i don’t know where to go from here.

day three 2.0


kelly and i are starting to learn more about jayvoy’s quirks, abilities, and difficulties. today we started introducing the letters b/o, both of which he “already knew beforehand”, so it was all a matter of familiarization, and blending.

kelly devised a sort of pull-the-flap device that reveals a word letter-by-letter. i was expecting jayvoy to be bored with it after a while, but he seemed to go on with the activity. however, it becomes more and more obvious that jayvoy, like nathan, “guesses to get the activity over with”. he assumes a word/sound based on a single letter he recognizes, and goes with it. this is really frustrating, because when he actually does try to read a word letter by letter and really makes the effort to decode it, he actually gets it, and in faster time than when he does guess and we keep telling him he’s wrong. i wonder how kelly and i will get to point this out to him and show him that he doesn’t have to guess in order the get the activity over with quickly.

the same thing went for kelly’s worksheets. kelly prepared worksheets that require minimal blending, basically a “fill in the blanks” wherein jayvoy has to provide the first syllable for basic words. while he recognizes the words and it’s clear that he has the ability to write them down properly, he still guesses (and more often than not, incorrectly).

today’s silver lining came in the form of an activity i developed for his mastery of recognizing syllables. i wrote some beginning syllables on some toilet paper rolls, and showed him pictures on my phone. he was then to identify the picture, then shoot down (with a rubber band) the correct roll. turns out that he had a difficult time shooting the band (but was very enthusiastic about it!), so the class ended without us being able to finish the game. i told him to practice with the rubber band (and with kelly’s worksheet), so that we could continue the game on thursday. i hope that motivated him to be more emotionally invested not only in the game, but in the act of learning itself. without him really knowing it.

day two 2.0

thus begins my adventure midway through the summer with a new student (jayvoy) and a new partner (kelly). i guess it’s nice to have a break from nathan (not that it was that difficult to handle thing, but i trust that edwin’s got everything in control).

since i still think it’s too early in our “teaching journey” to be tracking jayvoy’s progress, here’s a few things kelly and i picked up about him:

  • he can still be easily distracted. if something more interesting than our activity is going on at another table, he won’t hesitate to move there. he also has a difficult time sitting still for long periods of time, or can’t remain in a single position for a while (i.e. puts his feet on the table, leans back, etc). i think the key to dealing with this is to get him to do activities that involve moving around more.
  • he enjoys drawing (and does so during “dead air” moments), so kelly and i tell him to “label” his drawings, especially if they begin with the letters we teach him.
  • when it comes to writing, he has some difficulty fully recognizing letters (for example, /a/ and /u/ look similar to him, or he once identified /b/ as /p/). i’m no expert and can’t say this is a sign of dyslexia or anything, so i guess it’s all just a matter of clarifying it to him (and helping him practice writing). he has to be told to write within lines.
  • when it comes to reading, it doesn’t seem like he gets “bored” with it easily. however, he has a tendency to guess a lot. for some reason, he doesn’t want to admit he doesn’t know the answer after some periods of time (even though kelly and i tell him that he can, at any time, admit he’s wrong or doesn’t know the answer, and that she and i can help him).
  • he also likes “reading” books, or at least looking at them, and asking kelly to read the english for him and translate it into filipino. i wonder if we have any basic phonics books in filipino at iclip. that should be able to help, but the majority of “easy reading” books at the center are in english.

day… one?

thursday saw a new slew of kids coming into the class, which completely destroyed the 1:2 and occasionally 1:1 student-teacher ratio. that meant i had to leave edwin and nathan behind (edwin clearly had a better grasp over nathan than i did) and ended up teaching this new kid named jayvoy. since i wasn’t prepared to teach alone at all, kelly joined me in teaching (since she and nox were handling one kid for the both of them, too).

i didn’t have any materials for “going back to day one”. i didn’t even have any way of making some kind of diagnostic test so i’d know where we’d start from. teach said that jayvoy was able to decode at least /M/ /S/ /I/ and /A/, so kelly and i did some game wherein he had to sort out pictures by their opening sound, and one where he had to color a card by letter. we also tested how good he was using the tachistioscope, and, unlike nathan, he did not guess as he went along. yes, he was much slower than nathan, but i guess it was a nice change to have someone take everything step-by-step instead of guessing everything.

kelly says she’s leaving me for a new student come monday, and while i’m pretty optimistic about starting anew in terms of progress, i’m still really scared about teaching on my own. i’m scared of the fact that i don’t know where we’re starting from, and that even now, as i type this, i have nothing for jayvoy. sure, i can reuse my old materials that were used by nathan, but then what? nathan and jayvoy aren’t the same person. they behave differently, have the same interests, but most importantly, they are not coming from the same startoff point and do not have the same mental capacity/facility of the other.

i guess i’m just going to ‘wing it’, at least for the next few days. take the time to gauge jayvoy and where we can start from and with. i’ll look really dumb and unprepared, and might even seem a little too boring to jayvoy right now, but i guess it’s the right thing to do. i hope kelly sticks around: i really can’t do this by myself. i can’t merge with edwin either since nathan and jayvoy aren’t on the same level. i don’t know where this is going. i don’t know where i’m going. but most importantly, i don’t know where jayvoy’s going, and that scares me.

i’m really unprepared. being with nathan never really made me into a control freak and instead molded me into just doing things spontaneously as we went a long as to not constrict him, but now that i’m with jayvoy, starting out from a still indefinite point, i’m really scared.

day five.

remember what i said about a failure to see nathan’s progress? i guess that’s still going on now. today seemed just like a rehash of the last: we review yesterday’s lesson, play a couple of games (which nathan enjoys a lot), try to introduce a new letter or two (most of the time, a letter he already knows), play another game, stumble with blending, and run drills until we find out that it’s dismissal already.

it’s starting to get discouraging, i guess. when the next day seems just like the last, and you know what to expect and the kid doesn’t surprise you with improvement anymore, it becomes really difficult to invest one’s self into the whole act of teaching nathan. i mean, we’ve gone through all this before: what’s your motivation? can’t you see how much nathan needs this?

it’s not like he’s starting from zero. for the last few sessions it’s been evident that he’s already got some knowledge in: he can recognize a large portion of the alphabet and match them with their sounds, and can write his name. he can distinguish between uppercase and lowercase. if you think about it, we’re not starting from scratch. he isn’t the “perfect preschool student”, but he’s relatively more behaved and receptive than others. but then again, there’s the fact that he’s stuck there, and he’s already seven. and wow, that depresses me even more.

i don’t know what this calls for. a change in perspective, perhaps? it’s getting more and more difficult to gauge his improvement if nothing seems to be showing.

on the other hand, i’m continually amazed by edwin’s dedication to teaching nathan. he’s come up with so many ways to catch nathan’s interest (see the above picture, where he made an angry birds game to help nathan with blending). but hard work and all, i can see that edwin’s also getting frustrated with the fact that we seem to be getting nowhere, that we started out with nathan already having some stock knowledge that was easy to bank on, but was never added to or improved.

edwin and i have completely deviated from the lesson plan. i’m not sure where that’s going to get the three of us, but i sure do home we move somewhere soon.

day four.

i missed out on last thursday’s session because of a camp i attended over the weekend, so when i got back to iclip on monday, i was completely lost— edwin was doing activities with nathan that i wasn’t able to keep track of: apparently edwin had decided to forego the lesson plans to focus on nathan’s individual needs.

for example, edwin had begun separating words into syllables since nathan had so much trouble blending sounds even though he could easily identify, pronounce, and write them. he accomplished this by capturing nathan’s attention in the easiest way possible: through play. edwin constructed a sort-of fishing game that made nathan pick up syllables one by one with a fishing rod and read them, then making nathan put them together and read them to “serve” to paper figurines.

one thing i noticed about this activity that while nathan readily read each syllable correctly, when it came to putting them together, he’d still “guess out of convenience”, and approximate the sound to the word we asked for. this has been a bit of my frustration since i kept wondering (to no avail) how we’d get nathan to stop guessing “para matapos lang” since it was clear that he had the ability to execute the activities properly and correctly. it didn’t seem to be a lack of interest in the activity since he seemed very engrossed in it. perhaps it was because he didn’t feel the need to guess properly or correctly. it was difficult for him to want to play the game out of a want to learn instead of a want to simply accomplish the game.

right now, with our departure from the syllabus, edwin and i are trying to find new ways for nathan to both be interested not only in playing the game but learning from it. it’s difficult, integrating a lesson into a game without it being too obvious, but still making it evident in the gameplay that there is a lesson to be learned and taken home.

even now, edwin and i are beginning to encounter difficulties in sustaining his interest: what he is interested in doing for, say, two days, is completely new the next. perhaps then it’s not an issue of continually giving him what he wants but presenting him with variety. while other kids seem to like routine, nathan appears to be interested in continually new things: while he does prefer some types of games over others, he still easily loses interest in them.

to be honest, i’m not really feeling nathan’s progress. at the very beginning of the class, diagnostics show that he already had the capability to read, write, pronounce, and identify at least half of the alphabet. however, he seems stuck in that level of “advancement”. it’s a difficult process, and we’re working on how to move on from here. together.

day two

so edwin and i decided the level-up the activities a little bit (not like edwin’s preparations were as subpar as mine) but to be honest, time seemed to go by much faster (maybe because nathan was more invested this time around, i guess?). i’d like to give most, if not all credit to edwin’s teaching materials, which overshadowed mine by around a mile again.

today involved the addition of the letter /s/, which nathan seemed to be familiar with as well. again, he was able (and eager) to sort out objects by their first sound (and retained a few new names we either taught him or corrected him with the day before, such as “araw” and “abaniko”). he also easily recognized, pronounced, and wrote the letters /m/ /a/ /s/ and /i/. however, when it came to blending these sounds to make words, it seemed that he either 1) had difficulty doing so, or 2) guessed out of convenience to get the activity over with. he’d be able to read in segments/syllables, but then “am” would become “mam” or “mama”, and it was quite clear that he was just guessing.

i wonder why this was the case. were the activities not interesting enough? nathan stated explicitly that he was tired of using the tachistioscope (after only one day!), which really took edwin and me by surprise. i guess one really has to keep tabs on the interest (specific!) of each child and bank on it. which got me thinking: this is already taking the combined effort of edwin and i on a single child! how much more lack of attention are other kids getting in schools around the world? i know it’s far-fetched from the matter at hand, but that really bothered me.

anyway, edwin and i are starting to pick up and tune ourselves to nathan’s paces and interests: for example, we noticed he likes stories, and coloring, and can already write and read letters. he likes “doing new things” and not recalling something that’s previously been done. now we have to work around that and tweak the lesson plans to get things across. it’s a lot like parenting, isn’t it?