When I first started teaching, it seemed unimaginable to me that I would teach a grade level other than fourth grade, so when I got moved the next year to the sixth grade, “anxious” was me at my best. The jitters and fear and nervousness eventually wore off enough to let me do my job effectively, yes, and soon it became unimaginable for me to go back teaching the lower grades.
This school year, I had one goal: to survive my new job (people underestimate this job, I realize that now). It became unimaginable to go back to teaching within the year because it was clear: I was to stay in the office. I’d be a substitute if needed, but that was to be the extent of my classroom encounters. It came as a surprise then, initially a pleasant one, to be asked to take over the Grade 2 Filipino class of my supervisor as she’ll be out of campus most of the time starting this grading season. It was pleasant only at first because I wanted to get back to teaching, and I got that wish, but you know what they say: be careful what you wish for.
And boy, did I get myself into trouble. Two things: I’ve been teaching grades 5 and 6 (with grade 7 substitutions here and there) for the past 7 years, so teaching Grade 2 was a literal pain in the neck (seriously, I wasn’t used to looking down at students. My 6th graders were either my height or only a few centimeters shorter than me.) The other thing: I AM AN ENGLISH TEACHER.
I am a Filipino yes, and I speak the language fluently, but I am not as well-versed in the intricacies of Philippine grammar as I am in English, so teaching the Filipino language to second-graders is like having my heart pulled out through my nose without anesthesia.
I am not one to back down from a challenge, though. Teaching Filipino reading comprehension skills, I find, is easy, for it is very similar to teaching the skills in English. Filipino grammar, on the other hand, is a different matter. The rules governing both languages differ widely from each other despite the parallelisms in subject matter. For example, both languages have “pronouns” (panghalip in Filipino), but Filipino has this additional category that, well, is quite difficult to explain to second-graders. Also, a lot of the subjective pronouns in Filipino overlap with the objective pronouns, which makes it next to impossible for me to spontaneously come up with additional sample sentences when the need arises. I think of one sentence but decide not to use it because it turns out the pronoun is used in the objective sense.
IT’S DRIVING ME CRAZY!
In English class, I can come up with sentences in a snap. I do this if I see that the battery of examples and exercises I’ve prepared is not enough and further discussion is needed. I tried doing that in my Grade 2 class last week for an impromptu mid-period exercise (original exercise was boring everybody, including myself, so I switched it), and I ended up doing my version of Simon Says to buy myself time to think of sentences. I’m not doing that anymore. Not in the near future, anyway.
I’ve yet to find the pace and style that will suit the class. After all, I’ve only been with the students for three class meetings. While the jitters and fear and nervousness are still there, lurking in the shadows of my heart and mind, they now function as my fuel to keep going. I intend to chalk up this year as a mighty success, so watch me as I do it.
p.s. Yes, it is still unimaginable and unthinkable for me to become a preschool or early education teacher. If I am asked to do this, without a beat I’d say NO.