Move Over, Julia Roberts!
I have moved from my anonymous life in New York to a place where everybody will know my name. Such has been life for me in my first week in Donsol, world famous for our whale sharks.
I have started school and I've have realized that there is much to do. The school grounds and buildings are crumbling but there may be nothing I can do about this. On the inside, there are few books and supplies. The teachers must pay for supplies out of their own pockets. There are few teacher guides and materials so they must make it up as they go along. There are no visual aids, no CD-ROMs, no maps, no nothing. This is basic education with people power. What a challenge to step into. Still, the children are very bright and many in the third and fourth year classes speak English well. English is their third language, after Bicol and Tagalog. They are eager to learn and to speak to me and to learn about life in America. Most of them dream of getting a visa to move to the states someday and many of them already have relatives living in our country.
While I am supposed to spend the first three months observing and assessing the situation, I have found that sitting around just won't do. There are not even enough teachers to teach the students so I have already stepped in to teach some English classes. It forces you to be creative right away and I recently divised a couple of games to get the students speaking and using vocabulary words. Most of the kids have learned by repeating and reciting so one of my goals is to move them to a more interactive type of learning - group tasks, speaking activities, etc. I will be helping the teachers develop these kinds of teaching methods by doing workshops for them and demonstrating techniques in the classroom. You might ask me what makes me qualified to do this? I ask myself that every day. But the needs do become apparent when you sit in a Filipino classroom. The students are obedient and will tell you they understand even when they do not. Many of their answers are yes and no and many students lack the ability to think critically -- a skill that is so stressed back home.
It's difficult to know where to begin. There are endless possibilities and sometimes I get overwhelmed by what I could do and knowing that I have my limitations. I also want to improve the physical materials at school. These kids need books and more books. Most of them never read a book outside of a textbook -- and any of the textbooks they might have are mostly outdated. During a quick run through the textbooks and reference books in the school's tiny library, I could not find a book printed after 1978! Also, there are 10 computers at school for 2,000 students -- donated just last year. They are kept in a windowless, non-airconditioned room and are sure not to last long.
So, you can see I have much to do. Now I've got to get to work. I have to run to catch the last bus back to town -- my Internet access is an hour's ride away. Ingat kayo para sa lahat!