Of Taking Chances and Moving Forward By: Harold M. Naputo Teacher 1 Rizal Central School, Tacloban City

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

It is 7:25 in the morning. The traffic jam along Imelda Avenue due to the road rehabilitation project of the DPWH has now become a normal phenomenon in Tacloban City as my daily routine began in the morning. Despite being on the road by as early as 6:45, I saw myself running for a chance to make it for the flag ceremony. A sudden trance made me marvel at the burgeoning number of vehicles enveloping the road, almost two years after Super Typhoon Yolanda. At least some positives to be taken from the typhoon despite the magnanimity of losses we incurred, I thought. But switching back to reality, I was imagining quite vividly the school’s office order; daily attendance checking of the flag ceremony. When one values his work, one has to take chances.

Morning chances are like teaching moments that are never written in the lesson plan. One time in my Grade VI English class, I had for a lesson on “How to Conduct an Interview”. We enjoyed the discussion and the examples drawn from it saw us miming Karen Davila, Noli De Castro, Mel Tiangco and other media personalities, among others. Sensing that they were ready, I divided them into three groups where they were to simulate an interview of their topic of preference. I gave them the necessary instructions and most importantly the rubrics of how I will grade them. With everything set, the activity started. And after 30 minutes, I called for time.
The first group’s interview simulation was on the effects of studying. It was a panel discussion where they had to invite their made-up principal, a parent, and an outstanding pupil. The second one was like a variety show where prizes were to be given to audiences. And then the third group. I called their group and for about 15 seconds nobody stood up. I called them again, but with the same result. And again…and again. In as much as my patience was being tested on this occasion, I calmly approached them to ask what the problem was and they said they could not do it.
At first instinct, I wanted to give this group a failing grade, but I did not. I asked them what must be done. And they said it was hard for them to start and were afraid they may be ridiculed only in front. And so we hatched a plan to include me into the set as voice over of the group. And this I did and occasionally had to help them get going while in the sidelines. With this, they were able to present as a group. Only then did I notice what my academic supervisor in St. Therese Educational Foundation of Tacloban, Incorporated (STEFTI), the late Dr. Ofelia Palami-Triste, always insisted to seize that teaching moment. I had that as my carpe diem!

Still on the street traversing towards the turn of the Monching Noblejas Junction, the sudden noise causing screech of the brakes of a multi-cab for hire that had the route bearing: Tagpuro – Downtown, caught my attention. Jaunt-like, the driver’s reckless disregard of the sound’s volume was overpowering. But what caught my attention was Budget Secretary Butch Abad’s statement over the radio’s news. ‘Pay hike for teachers already included in the budget for approval in Congress,’ the news was sweet music to my ears and drew a smile on my face. For whatever that was, I had hoped. There can be no telling what is in store for you but to keep moving forward.

“Only those who dare to take steps forward are those who won’t let fear intervene their way.”
After ten years in the private school, I finally decided to apply for a teaching job in the public school. Completing the requirements for the hiring of teachers for the teacher 1 position, I was finally called to teach, three months removed from the start of classes in June 2012. My first teaching assignment was in a remote northern barangay, Camansihay Elementary School, of this city. Ten years of rearing children who were provided enough, it was a sudden twist of fate to see my 26 pupils under my advisory who were hard up in life, farming as the only means of living.
“Sir makadto ka ha Tacloban?” “Sir, are you going to Tacloban?”, Rudilyn, my 11 year-old pupil then, asked.
I told her, “Why, where is Camansihay located?”, I adoringly jested.
“Tacloban, Sir,” she answered somewhat puzzled.
“We are in Tacloban City and next time you ask me, say: ‘are you going to downtown Tacloban, Sir?’, I was actually teaching her.
The thing here is, children in the northern barangays have been limited to their place. It was as if their world revolved only from where they lived in. As their teacher, my task was to open them to new frontiers, to create curiosity, that outside of their confines are unimaginable possibilities. Ever Garrison once said: “A teacher is a compass that activates the magnets of curiosity, knowledge, and wisdom in the pupils.”
Hinged by this hope, and with the prodding of our then school head Ms. Vivian Escultor, my co teachers and I were able to send pupils for the first time to Math, Science and Journalism contests at the City Division Office in downtown Tacloban. Moreover, three of them were able to attend the Regional Schools Press Conference in Catarman, Northern Samar, the farthest they have ever been in their young lives. Really, “you can’t stop a teacher when they want to do something…”- J.D. Salinger and we held on to this mantra.
Five months of stay in Camansihay Elementary School, I was once again moving forward to a new school assignment, Rizal Central School. Afraid of moving forward? The DepEd teacher isn’t. I have found growth in accepting the fact that this is part and parcel of how you can share yourself to others. After all, the job I accepted encourages me to outgrow myself professionally, emotionally and even financially… I was excited at the prospect of working with and learning new things my new colleagues. And my transition was seamless.

Just at the nick of time, I entered the school grounds and went straight to the Grade 6 line as the prayer of the flag ceremony was being recited. This was one of the days when the sun was already up its sleeves bringing in a low heatwave even as early as 7:30 in the morning. The chorus of the children singing the Philippine National Anthem echoed through the halls of the school. The faint sound of a single sound system had made obvious the ‘running without delay’ singing of the song of the lower graders, but patience is a virtue and this included.
As the ceremonies came to a halt, slowly and orderly the children headed straight through their classrooms in gusto of what was in store for lessons during the day. I surmised that we were going to have a fine day ahead of us. And so I stoically stood by the mini quadrangle, scanning through the buildings that stood by me, ageless and a marvel of successful stories of pupils bearing the school’s 109 years of bringing about quality education in the community. Somehow, I thought, all of us here shall come to pass, but the school shall remain a bastion for learning. I smiled and headed inside the classroom for my first class.

The life of a teacher is a constant reminder of a commitment to change. Helen Caldicott once said that “teachers are the most responsible and important members of society because their professional efforts affect the fate of the earth.” By the way we look at the eyes of a child becomes the way we want to build the future. The interconnectivity of this scheme binds our whole being towards the unknown, so we dare to make this dream good, ebbed in the idea that once these contract is set loose, a bright light shall dawn upon us.
In the many instances when we feel we will miss the flag ceremony are the many times we want to be successful with our plans, committing to be better with our craft and as a person. Why we take chances at our children in school is a manifestation of this dream- a better community with families and individuals sharing responsibilities of what is good for everyone.
In the many instances when we do not know what is in store for us, we move forward, not because we are afraid that people may judge us negatively, but because we work not to impress. Why we keep moving forward move us to take chances. To think that for each teacher is a different story to tell and for each pupil is a different experience to build as a foundation to hold on in life is why we bring in hope to the country. There can be no better avenue to selfless service than to see both teacher and pupils growing up together in a classroom, hatching up the dreams of the future, a result of a never ending taking of chances to make us move forward.
I shall take my chances and keep moving forward, for I plan to sow seeds of knowledge for a better community and a society as a whole.
The Chinese proverb constantly reminds: “If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.