Teaching in Ligao: Last Day

Today was hard. Very hard. Even now, I’m getting emotional as I write this post. The day started typically enough: I walked across to the teacher’s lounge amidst a chorus of “Hello, Sir” and “Good morning, Po.”  Politeness is very important in the Philippines, and students are taught early on to respect their elders. Students offered to carry things for me, (like always), and asked me questions about the States.  I clocked in on my punch card for the last time, and set up in the teacher’s lounge for one last morning.

I taught three classes in the morning. The topic was aquaponics. Mam Noemie is going to try to get her students to start personal aquaponics systems using beta fish and goldfish bowls. The fish should be able to handle the confined environments and low dissolved oxygen levels. We’ll start small with lettuce or tomato seeds, and work up from there. (Already, my plan from Vanishing Island is working! Bwahahaha! Soon, I will be here again on a technical visit! I can just see it now!!!)

Then, it was back to the teacher’s lounge for a break and lunch. Bicol express, rice, and fried chicken: sooo good! The Bicol express was spicier by far than any I’ve had before, so I assume that they’ve been toning it down for my palate. It was good and spicy with a strong quick, but not so strong that I couldn’t taste the food. After lunch hour, I shadowed Vincent for three periods.

Shadowing Vincent has got to be one of my most enjoyable experiences at BRSHS. I followed him around the school for three hours, talking about America and the Philippines, and just seeing what a typical student experience is like at this amazing school. I sat in his Filipino language class, Math class, and Filipino history class. The first and last class were in Filipino, and Vincent did his best to translate for me.

Filipino class was interesting because I’ve never really sat in a non-science class before. I had a great time watching the students decode a lullaby their teacher sang. They’d heard it before, but she was singing it in Filipino, not their regional language, so it was a little different. They shared their opinions on the meaning of the song, others chiming in to offer other points of view. Then, they practiced identifying ways to state/write their opinions by identifying these terms in written passages. It was a little more teacher-directed than I’m used to, but then again, what do I know? I’m a science teacher. My idea of a lesson is to give students some things to play with and then discuss what they’ve learned at the end. It’s a bit different with a language.

Math was a relief! After not understanding anything because it was in a foreign language, finally, I understood everything! I felt such relief! I finally understand what my ESL students must be feeling when they come to my class. I mean, I could always sympathize and empathize with them, but an academic understanding of their issues and experiencing their issues is completely different. Walking a mile in someone’s shoes.. and whatnot. The day was meant to be a review of previous material. They discussed the previous lesson and she passed out the assignment: practice arithmetic series and their sums. I went to work right with the rest of the class. Finally, I could do something other than ask questions and look around.  It was ridiculously rewarding to be able to do math that I haven’t even thought about since high school.

I wonder if that’s why so many of my ESL students say they like math class? Math is math. Even if you don’t understand the language, the symbols and writing of math is the same. The formulas don’t change. If you can pick out the formulas, you can still find your way through.

After Math class, it was time for Filipino History. The current focus was on current events in the Philippines, and the teacher guided the class through discussions about topics, some of which were controversial and sensitive. The class was in Filipino, and, once again, I was clueless. I tried to follow along as best I could, but I had to rely on Vincent again to know what was going on. It was almost a mercy when some students from another class asked to talk to me about aquaonics (they were distracting me from seeing something).

It was kind of hilarious talking to the students about aquapoinics as they struggled to come up with questions to keep me focused on them while they got other students to sign a giant poster for me. I will miss them so much! They were so earnest! The poster is sitting in my iPad case right now, for protection. I’m going to hang it, and my name tag) above my door back in my classroom. I’m touched and humbled that these students made such an effort to welcome me at this school and then give me such a warm send off.

The Supreme Student Government presented the poster (and a packet of candies) with pomp and circumstance. I felt like a king! We talked for a while before parting ways.

I clocked out for the last time, and took my time card with me. Then, I found the SSG waiting for me and Greg at the end front gates, ready to talk to us and walk us to our hotel. We must have talked for nearly half an hour in the corner store by our hotel. They were so cute and earnest, asking us questions about America, and sharing their favorite foods. They shared what their lives were like, here in the Philippines, and we had a blast.

Finally, it was time to go. The students had homework, and Greg and I had to pack and go to our “send off” party.  (more on that tomorrow!)

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