Teacher-Fellow at Teach for the Philippines, Danna dela Cruz shares her story with Kalibrr.
How did I become a Teacher-Fellow?
I first learned about Teach for the Philippines (TFP) because of my college friend, Olivia. She told me that we should apply together because she knows that I wanted to teach and TFP’s 2 year program sounds interesting: a Summer Institute comprised of teacher trainings and an 18 units of Education.
I applied for Teach for the Philippines when I was still working as a video editor for a television documentary. I had no background in teaching at all. So they invited me to join them as a volunteer tutor for Pasong Tamo Elementary School and Bagong Pag-asa Elementary School in Quezon City every Saturday from October 2013 to February 2014.
It took me five months to get into their program because of the immersion I went through. I got in on February 2014; I received an email confirming that I was going to be part of the program. I was editing a video that time. I got teary eyed and told my workmates about it. You could say that I was being a little dramatic but I really went through a lot just to prove that I really wanted to get in their program. All I have with me is that passion to do something new and the thought that this job has that purpose of serving the country. Thousands applied but only 53 got in.
We all waited until April 2, 2014, the day when we all left Manila for Dagupan City for the Summer Institute. For me, the summer institute is the best part of the program because I got to meet different people who all soon became my friends. We all came from different backgrounds but we all came there for the same purpose: to be of service for our country.
Back to School
After the Summer Institute, came the day we’ve all been anxious about: The first day of school as a Teacher-Fellow. I was placed in Biñan, Laguna with 7 other Teacher-Fellows. The first few months were hard because of the adjustments that we went through, but afterwards, it was actually harder. We were given all sorts of tasks other than just teaching: coaching students for competitions, landscaping the school garden, doing research, etc. But that is really how a public school teacher functions; flexible and resilient.
We had a reading program for the students in Grade 3 who are still non-readers and we had an 85% success rate to 34 students. We are really proud of this achievement because it was really hard to teach a kid how to read, especially if they don’t have someone at home to teach them. We even have to befriend a kid for a long time just so he/she will be responsive to us.
Going back to your “why”
Some days are frustrating; when the kids are behaving badly, when parents are neglecting their duties as parents, when we’re just so tired from everything. Tired is the keyword, because being a teacher is not an easy job. It will consume you mentally, physically and emotionally. I remember I was given a disclaimer before I got in this program: This might be the hardest thing that you’ll do in your life just yet. Indeed, it is the hardest thing I got into so far in my life, and might just be the most rewarding yet.
Why? Because most days you’ll just find yourself smiling or even teary eyed because of the overwhelming progress that the students are making, be it on their academics, their behavior or a kid who was a non-reader that is now a reader.
Why? Because the people who I work with helped me a lot to get through. Aside from the kids, they are also the reason why I stayed and why I have fun at work. The teamwork we have is something that I really treasure.
This job taught me a lot, from learning about the Public School Education System to relating to all sorts of people. It also taught me to become a better version of myself. I became tougher and wiser and because of that I am very humbled and thankful to be a part of this program.
I still have 7 months before I finish the program. We will still get through a lot before it ends. But before that, I will enjoy the tiredness, be grateful for my students and co-workers and impart to them what I have most, love.