Friday, June 20, 2008

Why It is Stupid to Open Classes in September

Here in the Philippines, classes start in June and end in March as a rule. The students enjoy a long summer break from April to May. Since the rainy season officially starts in June, students are always greeted with typhoons, monsoon rains, and flash flooding. This has made government officials propose moving the opening of classes from June to September like other countries, particularly the USA. These people believe that moving the opening of classes will address the problem of having to suspend classes because of typhoons and flash floods.

Well, as a teacher, I think this idea is crap. In the first place, we have rains and typhoons in September as well. And with the global warming, the weather has become more unpredictable. Plus, if we always think of the weather, we will never be able to get anything done at all. Now, since we are talking of the weather, don't these officials see how difficult it is to study during summertime in the Philippines? The heat will overwhelm the students. Many schools do not have airconditioning, especially the very overcrowded public schools.

What really galls me is the usual colonial thinking of Filipinos that since classes in the US open in September, then it must be the better option. Filipinos forget the fact that most countries that open their classes in September have four seasons. April and May for them are the months for spring. Springtime is quite cool and a better season than winter. However, June, July and August are the summer months so they are also doing what we Filipinos are doing all along. They also have a long summer break just like us. And our stupid government officials want to take away summer break from our Filipino students? How very nice and sensitive of them to do that!

Just imagine this. If we follow the stupid September opening, the students won't enjoy an exciting long vacation. Why do I say so? Well, their vacation will start in July when rains are here already. They won't be able to enjoy the beach or to be out with friends that much because it will be raining almost every day. Going to the mountains may prove hazardous with the possible landslides during the rainy season. So, these kids will endure the scorching summer heat in school just to have a vacation at home for two months. Wow, talk about fun!

We should not also forget that in some provinces, poor farmers need their children to plant crops during summertime. It is just the way they do it to avoid paying additional labor. Cutting costs will always be a way of life for poor Filipinos.

Hence, before our stupid government officials propose anything that is patterned after a successful nation, they should do their homework first. The conditions in the Philippines are not the same as the conditions in the US and other first world countries having the four seasons.

Now, may I propose something? I would like to see our government officials in the executive, the judiciary, and the legislative bodies do at least one week of community service by teaching in overcrowded public schools. That way, they will understand what is really happening in Philippine schools instead of proposing stupid ideas that won't do us any good.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Why Asians May not Make it as the First American Idol

Filipinos love to sing. It is also undisputed that Filipino singers, soloists or choirs, are world class, judging by the awards Filipino singing contestants had garnered worldwide over the years.

I am not really a fan of American Idol but I know that there were Filipino contestants who made it to the semi-finals, at least. Jasmine Trias, Ramielle Malubay, and that girl from the second batch of Smokey Mountain come to mind. I am not astounded that these girls almost made it. For me, world-class singing is such a given for Filipino music artists.

I know that Filipinos would like to see a fellow Filipino or even a fellow Asian become the first Asian-American Idol. If you ask me, this is just asking for the moon. Not because Filipinos are not talented enough to win the top spot, but because we must accept the fact that when it comes to entertainment in the US, blacks or African-Americans have more chance of making it than Filipinos or Asians. Even Lea Salonga, despite her success on Broadway and her Tony award won't be accepted as an American idol because of her ethnicity.

Let's face it. Filipinos and Asians are more accepted in other fields, say health care than in the world of entertaiment. Jacky Chan aged a bit before he was able to penetrate the US market. Despite the fact that the US is touting democracy and freedom of expression, etc., etc., most Americans really do favor whites, with blacks coming in second in the field of entertainment. So African-Americans, despite their complaints of being second-class citizens, are more readily embraced by most of America than their Asian counterparts.

I don't think there will be a Filipino or an Asian who will make it as the first American Idol. They will either be just semi-finalists or finalists, but never the IDOL. You see, America, which is predominantly white and then black, needs to identify with the singer or else the majority will not buy the records and we all know who the majority is.This is the reason why, even though Filipino and other Asian contestants have some form of following from their own communities, the white or black contestants get more votes. There are just too many of the latter.

American Idol is about selling records. A singer who doesn't have a wide following won't be able to sell records. That's a fact. So, sorry fellow countrymen/women. We won't see a fellow Filipino win the top spot in our lifetime unless we see a half-breed who looks more Caucasian like that member of the Pussycat Dolls (am I right about the name?) or who looks more black like that member of the Black-Eyed Peas (am I also right about this name?). It is all about looking white or black so the majority can identify with the singer. It is ironic that whites can identify with black singers and blacks can also identify with white singers. Asians can also identify with either. Unfortunately, an Asian-looking singer in the US won't have the same fan base. However, I will be quite happy to be proven wrong one day!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

What Education Means to Me

After having experienced teaching the English Language Arts (ELA) at all levels and being exposed to different classroom situations that involved both traditional and progressive approaches to education, I have become eclectic in my own approach to educating young learners and do not adhere to one principle alone because education is dynamic. It constantly seeks to make itself relevant by combining the reliability of the past and the innovation of the present. Hence, I try to find what approaches and methods are more useful and appropriate given the classroom situation at hand and the kind of learners I am dealing with at the moment. Classroom situations and learners vary each year and no one can say that only one method is applicable and relevant.

However, I do have my own educational bias. Though, I prefer the combination of progressive and traditional approaches, I tend to favor progressive methods, especially when I am dealing with young learners who need activities that are concrete, creative and enjoyable. That is why I would like my pupils to experience a concept or a skill instead of just using the textbook all the time. It is not that I am against textbooks, being a textbook writer myself, but there are other ways to learn a concept or a skill that are more meaningful, less boring and more concrete, especially if the learners are young.

With the advent of the Multiple Intelligences Theory conceptualized by Dr. Howard Garner, whom I heard speak here in Manila, I realize and now firmly believe that there are many ways to develop skills and learn concepts through the interaction of all the intelligences with one another to achieve genuine understanding and to make education less fragmented and more holistic. For example, learners should be allowed to comprehend that there is math in language and language in math. The same goes with science, social studies, music, arts, physical education, and other non-academic subjects. Of course, there is still the compartmentalization of each subject area in school and it is unavoidable, but this doesn’t mean that there is no relationship among the subject areas. Aside from relating the different subject areas with one another, the Multiple Intelligences Theory has made me more aware of the idea that educators should not only focus on academic excellence but should also recognize that there are existing intelligences other than IQ. All of these are as relevant and as important as the traditional description of human intelligence which is embodied by the term “IQ.”

I believe that the Emotional Quotient or EQ is as important as the Intelligence Quotient or IQ of the learner. As I have said above, in the past, educators just focused on academic excellence. There was too much emphasis on the development of the linguistic, the mathematical and the logical competence of the learner and too much trivialization of the emotional, social and spiritual dimensions of human beings. No wonder many traditional educational institutions have produced academically brilliant students who are socially inept, emotionally immature, and morally ambiguous. Learners need to develop social skills so that they can interact well with other people, maintain good relationships, and be responsible for their actions in the society they live in. Aside from these aspects, they should also develop a sound moral compass so that they will be able to make good judgments of a person’s character or a tricky situation where choices have to be made.

Education to me has always been not only the transmission and facilitation of knowledge from the teacher to the students, but also the development of each child’s character so that he or she can make positive contributions to society by being competent socially, morally, emotionally, and intellectually. This is the reason why educating young learners is such a tremendous task and responsibility. Teachers do not educate young minds alone. They also educate young souls.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Pinoy Mail Order Brides (Part 2)

Lest I be accused of giving pinoy mail order brides a hard time, I am here to present the other side of the coin--the grooms of the pinoy mail order brides.
I have lambasted my fellow pinays for choosing the mail-order-bride route to get out of poverty. However, the mail order bride websites would not have made such a killing had there been a dearth of foreign men seeking filipino wives overseas. Come on, they are the ones who usually pay just to meet that "ideal" petite filipina who will be willing to serve them hand and foot.
I think a lot of foreign men from the First World think that most Asian women are subservient. I mean given the fact that First World women tend to know their rights more and generally fight for these rights and are more aggressive, Asian women can be seen as meek and gentle. Well, in a way, Asian women will seem so in comparison but in the Philippines, a lot of Filipinas have become streetsmart and have mastered the art of survival.
Now why would foreign men seek Filipino mail order brides in the first place? Some have told me that they were fed up with their countrywomen for being too materialistic and too rights-conscious. They wanted someone more malleable, less materialisic, and more loving. Okay, I can buy that! Who doesn't want someone like that? However, are Filipinas really less materialistic, more malleable, and more loving? It depends.
I hear a lot of complaints from foreign men that they've been had by their Filipino mail order brides. They said these women just loved their money and the chance to get a green card (for brides of US citizens) or the chance to travel abroad, etc. etc..... Hey, do they think for one minute that an 18-yr-old Filipina will fall in love with a 40-60 something gent? Who are they kidding? Deep inside, they should know that someone so young must be looking for something else, especially if they think that they are such a good catch because of their foreign currency!
And I also question the motives of some of these men. Do they really want to rescue a Filipina from poverty? Or do they want someone they can use as a servant at home? Maybe, if they are that old, they are also seeking a would-be caregiver. I heard that some men have used their Filipina brides as punching bags. This goes for other asian mail order brides as well.
Please don't give me the reason of finding true love. I am too much of a cynic to believe that. Not that it couldn't happen, but in this fallen world, we love someone for a reason. It may be the looks, the financial success, the power, the potential, or the glory. But we love conditionally. Even I am guilty of this.
I guess, both parties deserve what they get. If, on the other hand, one of the parties was truly and desperately seeking true love but got duped in the process, then I can only state that all is not fair in love and war. We do get our fair share of bad experiences. Unfortunately, we can never tell if a relationship will be good for us unless we tried it. It is really a big gamble. We can only minimize the damage by crossing out unfavorable circumstances. I think, one of these unfavorable circumstances is ordering brides abroad.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Mothers..are they crazy or what?

Mothers! You can't live with them, you can't live without them. They are a constant reminder of how puny and powerless we are despite our towering height, our prestigious job, our powerful position, or our important mission in life. They have this uncanny ability to make us feel childish and defensive. And why? Simply because they have the high privilege of being our mothers.

And how can we act powerful and mature? They have seen body parts that we prefer to keep under wraps. They have seen our worst side--the tantrums, bedwetting, drooling saliva, dripping nose, and toilet habits. We can never pretend to be anything else but the children they had raised.

Yes, they have us given us such a nightmare! They would force us to perform in front of any visitor who happened to be in the living room. Dance, Junior, dance. Sing, Maria, sing. It made us cringe, didn't it? Of course, there would be comments about how we fared in school (either they were disappointed or exhilarated) as we performed the minutes away. Mothers!

Then, there would be endless naggings to do the dishes, fix the bedroom, finish the assignments, or else a whack on the bottom would be the prize. As we grew older, the whack became curfews and groundings, but the chores remained the same and even got heavier. Mothers!

When it came to hairstyles and dress fashion, as long as we let our mothers had a say, expect the boys to look like our national hero, Jose Rizal or the girls to look like either a page boy or a Christmas tree with all the trinkets. The clothes had to follow whatever was the dress code our mothers preferred. So it could range from looking like a clown to looking like a miniature Britney Spears or Barbie dolls or whatever was the whim of the day. Mothers!

Aside from these, they would demand that we take a certain course, whether we liked it or not. "MOTHER KNOWS BEST" was the motto. Therefore, a literature fanatic would learn how to handle an injection; a music aficionado would face the world of computers; and an art freak would deal with balance sheets. Sometimes this coercion paid off, sometimes....well, it was their money anyway. Mothers!

Yes, they seem crazy to us, but for all of its worth, our mothers did try to raise us the way they saw fit. It may not be the best method, but they have the right to be wrong, haven't they? They can be controlling, demanding, and unreasonable, but they can also be self-sacrificing, perservering, and resilient.

We must not forget that carrying us to term for 10 months was no small feat. All that extra weight to carry, the discomfort of a bulging belly, the morning sickness, the diarrhea, the frequent urination, the cravings, and the innumerahle visits to the gynecologist would wear down any healthy man (No wonder this stress was given to a woman!). Not our mothers!

And the actual process of giving birth by natural means or C-section was not something to trifle with. And this was not over yet. Breastfeeding, numerous diaper change and late nights would soon follow.

Mothers! They drive us crazy but we did it to them first by being in their womb all those months. We drove them crazy with our tantrums and teenage rebellion. All we can do now is to acknowledge the fact that motherhood is such a difficult task from the very beginning. We owe our life to them, though we need not feel guilty if we have to cut the umbilical cord one day.

Let them be motherly and crazy at the same time, for when our turn comes to become parents ourselves, we will drive our own kids crazy and then we will know how our own mothers must have felt when they were raising us. Of course, I am talking of the normally "crazy" mothers. The truly clinically crazy mothers will be another topic!