Teaching in the Philippines

I have been asked to teach at a local medical program here at MSC, Marinduque State College. My wife has also been asked to teach. The college was founded by her late Uncle, Pamfalio Manguera. We have closed family ties to the college as my BILL graduated from the institution years ago. During a recent medical mission we did BP and glucose screening at the college for all the staff members that chose to come and partake of our service.

We had almost all the staff show up and most seemed to have hypertension and many had elevated blood sugar.

Now in speaking with some folks, here are some problems. Many schools are politically run. You will need to pass the mayors son even if the bum sat our most of the classes in the local internet cafe, not researching your subject, but playing computer games. Now, if you instruct in English, do not expect the students to grasp your concepts the first time around. Most students will show up, but many will not have been prepared for the class by having completed the assignments given in the previous classes. Many cannot study at home, as there are other things pressing, (cooking, cleaning, marketing and the like), some are maids and have to work when they get home. Some are just not willing to study and will come into class with a hangover on a consistent basis.

Some see no reason to stay awake during classes either; those chosen few think they can absorb the material by osmosis. Some are attending class as their parents picked out the course and they have no interest in the subject matter. Many, MANY students are not properly prepared for college coming from high schools where there were not given such preparation. A few bright students will study, and will be able to speak English proficiently. A few will have good study habits and show up prepared every day, ready to begin classes.

To be culturally aware in the classroom is to teach by playing games. Now, that said, I mean making the learning fun. Follow up often that the person and people's present understand what is being taught. One would need to get frequent feedback from those in attendance. Making a teaching session about 20 minutes and then switching modes and doing something else for 20 minutes seems to work well. Frequent pop quizzes work well and lets you know if you are getting your instructive points across.

You must talk slowly and you will not be able to use American Slang for a while, at least until a majority of your students understand what you are slinging about. What is funny to you, may not be funny to them, they may find it offensive. Some students will be asking for favors. Many parents will come by your house offering favors and presents and wanting a passing mark or a higher passing mark for their children. Some students will go to their parents, or to a local official who will come to you, with the presence and wanting favors. Make sure you have an understanding from the administration on your marking system and your view of poorly performing students. Administration can put the squeeze on you also for a passing mark for a nephew or local official’s child. A parent or whoever is paying the tuition of the student is often paying a princely sum and wanting a passing mark regardless of what the child does in and outside the classroom.

Now, I did teach when I was a young naval officer, while at Subic. I taught insurance. I say I did teach. I taught one semester... that was all I could handle. I was asked, even begged to teach again, but politely turned the school down. I also taught many navy corpsmen over my years in the military. We were critiqued by those that took our classes.

Do not let the comments kill your desire to teach, learn from them. When I teach I move around the classroom. Apparently that is not done by most instructors in the Philippine Islands and I was told so by many students. I would still move around my class, perhaps not as much, but that is MY style. Each person has their own style. BE yourself. Be honest, but be you.... students can spot a fake and they can make mincemeat out of your backside in a heart beat. I have seen it happens.

Advice. Make it hard for parents and the local officials to find you. You need not hide, but have your wife or a maid or someone answers the door. Do not be rule, but do ask them to make an appointment, perhaps 20 minutes after your class lets out, to discuss anything they feel needs discussing. I always had mama or someone with me, in the same room, for those few discussions periods that I was forced into. Do not try to be friends with any student, or any facility either for that matter. It will help if you have a clear set of guidelines given to each student at the onset of a class. Limit social situations to times when all the student will be present, not just a small group. Male teachers will often be asked by male students to accompany them for drinking sessions or workshops after class hours. Decline all of these invitations. The student should sign a sheet stating they got these guidelines. Have many items count for and towards the final grade. Do not have just one item, a final, count for the whole grade. Let students know, well in advance that they 'are endanger' of failing. Keep the administration aware of students that have a danger of not passing. Female students can and will try to get closed to you. Male students may try too. I always treated students with a long handled spoon. I found it best not to be alone with any student for any period of time.

Try to make it possible for a student to pass your course by attending class and learning inside the classroom. Better grades, a 'b' or an 'a', would be given out by better return on the lessons you have handed out. I wish I could make this clearer, but hopeful you get where I am coming from. Also, giving the students an outline of your lecture will keep you on tract and help them understand where you are coming from and heading with your lecture.

I found class imputes to be good, but too much and you can lose control and perhaps the class goes down an easier traveled road that has less instructive motivation than what you want to provide. Older students can be a blessing. They often study hard and try harder, but the older students do not seem to grasp concepts as fast. Some also have other obligations. Some will also try to 'mother hen' you into a passing grade.

These are just ideas that come to mind this morning as the rooster’s crow and as I sip coffee and taste mama's great macaroni salad. These are ideas my relatives have given me as nieces and nephews have attended college in these islands over the years. Some just want to pass, others want an A average. A good idea is to find out why each person is in your class. I will give you ideas on how to present material for your instruction.

Hope this is of some help. If the administration has faith in you, okay, if the administration looses faith in you, you are sunk. The administration may try to run your classroom or at least run your marking system. Be quick to draw the well know Alamo Line in the Sand. That line crossed, you lose no matter how good or great of an educator you are.

My thoughts,
JJ