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More blessed than the ‘Slumdog Millionaire’

June 15, 2009

SURREAL. That is how I feel about the latest event in my life. Out of 23,975 who took in April the Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET) in the high school level, I placed second!

When friends and family congratulated me, my initial response was, “Na-tsambahan lang. The topics I reviewed were the ones covered.”

But someone said to me, “It can’t be just luck. You placed second! You must have done something right to know the answers to the questions.”

Was it luck? Or destiny perhaps? Like Jamal Malik, the main character in the Oscar-winning film “Slumdog Millionaire,” I looked back and, with much reflection, I found some answers.

Love for reading

In my family, I am known as the studious one. In elementary school, I was often introduced as the daughter who was always in the Top 10 of her class. In high school, I was the sibling who was studying in a science high school and, in college, the one enrolled at the University of the Philippines.

Deep inside, however, I knew I had only been a real good student in grade school. In high school and college, I was average. But my love for reading helped me survive the arduous years of schooling.

When I was growing up, reading materials of any kind were a rarity in my family. We were poor and food took precedence over everything else. Books were considered a luxury.

So I went to my elementary school library to read books. I read most of the textbooks issued to public school students from cover to cover, especially the reading books with short stories and the science books.

When I finished my textbooks, I would read my older sister’s, my younger siblings’ and my classmates’ books. I was ecstatic when my ninang (godmother) who worked at the Jefferson Library gave me several secondhand books.

Reading gives me so much pleasure and satisfaction that I always find time for it even now. Through reading, I learn a lot of things, especially about my current interest and field of study -- the teaching of and learning by children.

Despite the short time to study for the LET, I was able to cover all the topics because years of reading about education and how children learned prepared me for the test.

Our family was poor and could not afford a helper. I could only read and study after completing my chores. On weekdays, I swept and mopped the floor before studying. I did the dishes whenever it was my turn, and I washed and ironed my school uniforms.

Hard work and discipline

The house chores taught me responsibility, hard work and discipline that I applied to my studies. I always went to school prepared for the day’s lesson. Even during rest periods in high school and college, I studied for recitations, quizzes and tests.

Now that I am in graduate school, I have become more conscientious. I make sure I have read assigned reading materials. I take notes and participate actively in discussions. I carefully prepare oral and written class reports and submit requirements on time. I set aside several days to review for an exam.

Naturally, for the LET, I buckled down to work on several review exercises and reading. Preparing for the exam was never really a choice but a responsibility.
Passion for teaching

I became an even better student when I became a teacher. I got into teaching when I was in my late 20’s. I believe I am one of the few fortunate enough to have found their passion quite early in life. Teaching children lifts my spirit. It gives me a “high” that will probably compare to what drug users feel.

Watching a child’s eyes widen and turn bright as he/she discovers something new and important in class is a wonderful experience.

When I realized teaching was my calling, I immediately enrolled at the UP College of Education. Reading and studying became even more invigorating. I never felt more alive. I was so motivated to learn that I did considerably well in class, even those handled by professors I did not like much.

I knew that by being a good student I was making myself a better teacher. I tried to learn about classroom management, effective teaching strategies, how children learned and developed, and other important teaching theories and principles.

I knew students would be enthusiastic to learn if I had the same eagerness about schooling.

Although my achievement did not win me 20 million rupees (US$400,000) like the lead character in “Slumdog Millionaire,” I still feel blessed to have the opportunity to teach. My students have given me happiness that would last me a lifetime.

(Rochelle M. Razo is the assistant director of the John Dewey School for Children in Congressional Avenue, Quezon City. She is currently completing her thesis for MA Educational Psychology at UP Diliman).

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