September: The Relationships Month
As the second month kicked in, I started forging relationships at school and in the church. I also became more confident and active in meetings and in classes. Although my final schedule was overwhelming, I took it as a challenge to improve myself. I considered it as a gift too for it helped me focus on my roles as an F***. I had challenges in my second month like getting students in English 846 class to believe in me. They do not trust me that much because I am Filipino, and I could tell that from the way they shrugged their shoulders when I gave them advice on how to improve their thesis statement. No matter what, I continued helping them. Excluding their section, I have built rapport with my other classes: Filipino 110 and English 110, so that is something to be grateful for. Instead of fretting over why English 846 students could not trust me enough, I diverted my attention to continually providing them support whenever they need it and to gaining motivation from other classes who appreciate my presence and help.
Challenges and Choices
Class success. I had my first speech in front of the Americans during my Public Speaking class. Before my speech, I doubted my oratorical skills but was excited to test if the “speech” that worked for me in Japan and during the CHED National competition would have the same sublime effect on Americans. As an orator, seeing the same positive in-awe reaction from my audience after my performance was fulfilling. I even got a 39/40 score from my professor who wrote, “You are an excellent speaker”. It did work. I was probably the happiest student in college when I received my marks. Delivering the speech while seeing all the students hooked is another unforgettable speech experience I had. I also received my first portfolio marks in my History of Ethnic Groups class. What really inspired me was the comment, “Solid Analysis!!!” from the professor who always critiqued people’s critical thinking through their paper.
During discussions, I seldom recited in class. After a month and a half, as my usual experience, I started getting heard in class. I even remembered answering all History questions not because they were discussed but because I am familiar with them, i.e. transcendentalism, civil disobedience, etc. As the teacher kept on asking and I kept on shooting answers, all students started looking at me with the- “how did you know that?” expression on their face. Their reaction motivates me to improve more in class.
First Teaching. I had my first teaching in Ms. Erpelo’s class on September 2. I taught “Filipino Core Values” with Venus Cayabyab, the Supplemental Teaching Instructor. Since 95% of the class does not speak Tagalog, we started the class with a Word Splash game where students needed to write on a sheet of paper the first image that popped in their head when a Tagalog word was flashed. Some of the answers could not be associated with the word so it was really a funny activity. For example, a student wrote adobo when Crab Mentality was flashed. After that activity, the lecture where I first discussed the American Mind before proceeding to the Filipino Core Values of Kapwa, Pakikisama, Pakiramdam, etc followed. Students, then, grouped themselves and provided a skit for their group’s assigned core value. The class ended with a poster making activity. Overall, it was entertaining and students liked the session. However, it seemed to me that the professor was not satisfied. I knew because she repeated the lecture two days after. In her email instruction to us, it was clear that she wanted us to lecture on the list of core values. However, we thought we could use any sources because she did not specify that it had to be from that book where “Colonial Mentality” was also expounded. After that, I admit I was disappointed with myself. Instead of basking in self-doubt, I decided to shrug it off and learned from it. Hence, every time she requested for an assistance, I asked questions to ensure that I’ll meet her expectations.
Schedule. To ensure that I am fulfilling my role as an F***, I laid out my schedule and forwarded it to my supervisor. I had a first taste of what my schedule will be like for the rest of the school year. I only have a 30-minute lunch break every MWF. Instead of complaining, I decided to pack a lunch that’s easy to gobble or munch in between periods. As a voracious eater, doing that was really hard. Soon enough, I began to adapt. I honestly do not feel overwhelmed by my schedule anymore. My days usually begin at 8:30 am when my bus arrives for school and ends at 5:30 in the afternoon. There were days that I could go home at 3:30 because no outputs were needed to be checked. In the midst of the overwhelming schedule what saved me was mama’s advice before coming here: mindset is what makes everything different. Thus, instead of focusing on the heavy workload, I saw it as a saving grace because it kept me busy that I never even had that “homesickness” phase. Am I even normal for not having gone through that?
Tutorial at the TLC. I started my tutorial at the Tutorial Learning Center (TLC) in September. I come there every MWF, 2:30 to 3:30 pm. I do not only cater to students from the Kababayan English and Filipino classes but also to other Skyline College students. Whenever there are no appointments, I would also welcome students who wanted to be tutored in Reading and Writing. Because of my schedule there, I met other staff and students who are not from the Kababayan Learning Community: David, the head of the Learning center; Chanel, the Reading and Writing Graduate Tutor; Christina, the head for Workshops whom I also work with for my upcoming workshops at Skyline; Akiyo, the ESOL Tutor I always sat with during my tutoring schedule; Akayi and Christian, student assistants; Wong, Math Graduate Tutor; and Michael, the Supplemental Instruction Head. My initial challenge during my schedule was taking in students because I had to master their Tutorial Platform called Accudemia where I accept bookings from students, comment on the session and rate students. Now, I handle the Accudemia with ease.
Tagalog Tutorial. Before beginning the tutorial at the Tutorial Learning Center (TLC), the Filipino professor, Dr. B and Dean Mary Guiterrez with my Supervisor Ms. Erpelo had a schedule disagreement. The Filipino professor wanted to hold the Tagalog tutorial in the classroom right after the class while the two heads preferred it to be in the TLC so they could track the hours I am spending for tutoring. They had exchanged caustic yet professional emails. While they were insisting on their reasons, I talked to them separately and suggested that for 30 minutes I will stay in the classroom to cater students who have work, and spend the remaining hour (2:30-3:30) at the TLC for other Kababayan students. They found it the best compromise, so they all agreed. It was the first time here that I solved an issue that even heads had difficulty resolving.
For my Tagalog tutorial, I prepared Beginning Level Sessions for the students. We started with Basic expressions and commonly used words. The method and presentation of lessons from my French classes back home helped me create the sessions. Andrew, a Filipino-American student, commented that “it helped a lot” especially that the Filipino class here does not focus on teaching Tagalog alone but on Filipino cultures, traditions, history and current events.
FSU Meetings. FSU meetings are held every Thursday 4:00 to 5:30. The Leadership prepares Teambuilding activities and Ms. Grace Burns, the mentor, conducts lectures on Filipino cultures. In the first meeting, she talked about Babayin and the Baranggay system which most members know nothing of, and poetry on our second assembly.
Kababayan Open House. Every year, the Kababayan Learning Community conducts an Open House where everyone from Skyline college is invited. The Open House was held last September 24 at 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm. The Faculty and staff introduced themselves in front of 30 attendees, then, everyone had a Tinikling competition and skit presentation. While having the activities, I realized how blessed I am to be in a very open learning community and to be surrounded by classmates I began to be friends with: Jessy, Jason, Christian, Ally, Sam, Marie, Gabe, Cid, Kevin, Kailee, Allys. I always laughed hard whenever I am with them.
Westmoor High School. When Mr. Bo Aleonar asked me if I would be willing to assist in the Kapatiran program at Westmoor, I immediately said yes. The Kapatiran program aims to develop students’ Filipino identity, to prepare them for college success and to enhance their critical thinking skills. I knew that I would expand my experience more and learn more if I accept the offer. Although it was not stipulated in the contract, I took the responsibility because it would help me grow as a person. I work there more as a teacher than as an assistant every Tuesday from 3:15 to 4:25 pm. True enough, I enjoyed my sessions there. High School students were very participative and they talked much in Tagalog. Whenever I was there, I would often remember my San Pedro High School students who are as noisy yet participative and inquisitive as them.
Monstress. Last September 27, I watched the Monstress play at the American Cultural Center in San Francisco with my Pilipino Cultural Night classmates to observe and pick strategies for our upcoming PCN in May. Most of us lauded the minimalist and sublime approach of the I-hotel and openly shared our strong dislike for the overly decorated stage and forced accent and acting of the Monstress play. Watching the play, I realized that usually the one with an uncomplicated yet thoughtfully crafted plot that has minimal props and scene changes creates more impact than overly drawn plot with elaborate decorated stage that depicts several location changes. We even discussed it in class and agreed that a play could be as simple as someone walking down the street and encounters different people, animals, things, yet can portray the theme more and leave a sublime effect. In fact, I agreed that the more minimalist yet meaningful the play is, the stronger is its impact.
Mentors’ Training. On September 29, we had our first Mentors’ meeting and training. Through the training, I met new friends like Cathleen, Dave, Leo, Nassja who already transferred to universities but still part of the Kapatiran program. During the meeting, we had to work in groups of three to answer a puzzle. After answering ours which was “Sitting With It”, we guessed other groups’ words as well before processing the words as a community at the conference room. The activity taught us to help one another in resolving issues. I learned new words during the event such as: Conscious Riser, Boundary Setter, Sitting With It, etc which are all “roles less travelled by” as Bo pointed, which also explained the roles we need to take as mentors. As a mentor, I must encourage my mentee to solve issues on her own, become more of a listener, and a guide for her college success. It was pointed out that being a mentor does not mean being an expert in the mentee’s subjects. I should lead the mentee to school resources like the Tutorial Learning Center whenever if ever she raises help for her subjects.
Travel. Outside of Skyline, I feel blessed to meet Kaye from church who brought me to Six Flags on September 5, where I rode a Medusa Roller Coaster (the longest and worst), tried Tazmanian Devil and Sky Riser for the first time. I only did it because Kaye wanted to try them. What I enjoyed the most was the Dolphin Show. In fact, I waited for and watched again their 30-minute performance. On September 20, my relatives took me to Hearst Castle at San Simeon, a four-hour drive from Fremont, CA. The castle houses relics from different countries. Mr. Hearst put it up on a hill in the 1850s because he wanted to recapture his travels with his mom in Europe when he was a boy. Today, the Hearst Castle, as per request by Mr. Hearst on his deathbed, became a state park of California.
Stories. I admit that I have the best History professor. He has a different approach on Teaching History which I would like to share to professors of Ateneo de Davao University when I come back. Stressing that history does not define the “now” and that history should be used to critically reflect on the present, he requires portfolio that includes current events and a story of ourselves that tie with the theme or period discussed. His quizzes are different, too. Instead of just listing dates or identifying close-ended questions, he gives terms that we need to expound through a story, making the association easier. Honestly, I can re-discuss what he lectured because of his strategy. The story (quiz) should start with a historical context, followed by the challenge faced, the choices the people made to address the choice then, the significance of the term to the theme. Usually, the term is the choice in the story. It is difficult but it strengthens connection among pieces of information that allows a deeper understanding of history. I cannot wait to share his strategies to History professors back home.