Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Paper faces on parade.
Hide your face so the world will never find you.

Over dinner, I watched him study me.  His eyes are sharp and searching, devouring and not missing any details.  I have nothing to hide so I meet the scrutiny, unfazed.  I cannot get it out of my head as our eyes meet what he told me a few nights before: "Deep inside, I'm insecure.  What other people see, that is the real me."  He smiles at me, but he knows I can see past it.  I can see the longing in his eyes, and because he knows I can see it, he doesn't bother hiding it.

We all hide behind masks.  It is only natural for us to do so.  In front of my boss, I am perpetually upbeat and ready to help.  In front of my friends, I am all smiles and tough love.  In front of those most important to me, I am vulnerable and honest.  It is human nature.  We adapt to the situation.  We put on the most appropriate mask.  It is a necessity for social acceptance.  I believe that deep inside, we all have some form of psychosis. That we all have a weakness.  We are only human, after all. Instinct tells us to hide these weaknesses so we can survive.  To reveal our true selves is to admit that there are no longer any threats.

We live in a world of masks.  We're all characters in a universal masquerade.  It is a rare relief when the smoke clears and the mirrors break and under my scrutinizing eyes, he welcomes this and honors me.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Article: Learning and Scientific Reasoning

By Lei Bao, Tianfan Cai, Kathy Koenig, Kai Fang, Jing Han, Jing Wang, Qing Lu, Lin Ding, Lili Cui, Ying Luo, Yufeng Wang, Lieming Li, and Nianle Wu

From http://www.physics.ohio-state.edu/

I'm posting this excerpt in line with my last post about the purpose of Physics 1.

"The development of general scientific abilities is critical to enable students of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to successfully handle open-ended real-world tasks in future careers. Teaching goals in STEM education include fostering content knowledge and developing general scientific abilities. One such ability, scientific reasoning, is related to cognitive abilities such as critical thinking and reasoning. Scientific reasoning skills can be developed through training and can be transferred. Training in scientific reasoning may also have a long-term impact on student academic achievement... The results from this study are consistent with existing research, which suggests that current education and assessment in the STEM disciplines often emphasize factual recall over deep understanding of science reasoning...Relations between instructional methods and the development of scientific reasoning have...shown that inquiry-based science instruction promotes scientific reasoning abilities. The current style of content-rich STEM education, even when carried out at a rigorous level, has little impact on the development of students' scientific reasoning abilities. It seems that it is not what we teach, but rather how we teach, that makes a difference in student learning of higher-order abilities in scientific reasoning. Because students ideally need to develop both content knowledge and transferrable reasoning skills, researchers and educators must invest more in the development of a balanced method of education, such as incorporating more inquiry-based learning that targets both goals."

This excerpt from an article we read in 290 was sobering to me. I've always known what I needed to impart, but the question became: did I do it? Can I do it?
I see three major dilemmas that could make imparting the skill of scientific reasoning difficult.

1. Lack of conceptual foundations - tertiary level subjects are meant to develop these reasoning skills, right? But it is not easy to accomplish if the students are not equipped with the proper conceptual background. We can teach these concepts, but that takes time away from asking the more important questions: the whys and the hows. And these questions take time to answer!
2. Language barrier - Our books are in English. Our students speak Filipino. Our exams are in English. Our students think in Filipino. Our science is in English. Our lives are in Filipino. 'Nuff said. Bow.
3. Teacher factor - I tend to forget the important question when I am writing out lectures: What do my students need to learn? Oftentimes, I forget that this is infinitely more important than What do I need to finish discussing? Most teachers focus more on the syllabus they created rather than the students they are teaching. I'm guilty of rushing lectures to finish the subject coverage only to saturate the learning curve of most of my students. If only for this, I owe my students an apology.

But still, here's to hoping against hope that I imparted some skills to my students.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Melancholy of Ma'am Kristine: Reminiscing

A Short Story, a Long Entry

When I graduated, two things were clear: (1) I want to teach, and (2) I was not going to teach in UP Diliman. For personal reasons which I would rather not discuss, I decided that the only way I would work in UP was if I were to become a researcher. And so I am. But what about teaching?

In some strange alternate universe, I could be a Pulitzer Prize winner or a Broadway star. But closer to the current reality--if things had gone just a bit differently (ie. I chose to work on my thesis instead of going to Europe with my mom) my first job would have been at an exclusive school for boys. While I was accepted despite the fact that I had yet to graduate, the interview with the head honchos, mostly comprised of a bunch of priests, turned me off a bit.

Priest : You want to become a teacher here? This is a Catholic school exclusive for boys.
Eia : I’m aware of that, father.
Priest : You’re young and beautiful, what would you do if one of the students courts you?
Eia : I would reject him. I am their teacher, after all. It wouldn’t be right or professional.
Priest : But what if they’re insistent and give you gifts?
Eia : My answer would depend on the gifts, of course.

(Eia is politely shown the office door.)

Eia : Humorless old man, can’t even take a joke.

Fine, so I really didn’t do that (like I'd have the courage to). Of course I answered politely and let them hear what they wanted to hear. But, seriously, the thought that I would have to face off with a bunch of hormonal teenage boys twice my size every single day brought to mind images of naughty videos and ecchi manga. And two years ago, unlikely as they were, those images were daunting.

Now, it was shortly after that interview that I realized I didn’t want to work in a high school. Despite that, on a whim, I sent my resume to my alma mater. Of course, the person in charge of screening applicants just had to be Mrs. Cobblepot (as in the Penguin, Cobblepot, Pisay graduates would understand) whose only memory of me was that she never saw me in her year 3 science research class (7:30AM is an unholy hour for a class).

Mrs. C : Nag-aapply kang teacher? Dito sa Pisay?
Eia : Opo.
Mrs. C : May TOR ka?
Eia : (hands in TOR) Heto po.

(Mrs. C laughs hysterically)

Mrs. C : Nag-aapply kang teacher? Dito? Sa Pisay?
Eia : Ma'am, yun na po ba ang punchline?

Of course, that’s a gross exaggeration of what happened, but you get the picture. I was never a stellar student. Some places like to look at grades. End of story. And, to be honest, if I had been accepted, I would have hesitated taking the job. I hated that place when I was a student, and I wouldn’t be in my right mind if I chose to go back. The intense competition and the drama that results from pushing angst-ridden smart kids too hard is really not my cup of tea. Let them grow up before they face me.

And so, I decided to teach college students. Because I didn't want to work in Ateneo and found DLSU to be too far away from my current world. It was during a my dad's childhood friends' Christmas reunion that PLP was brought up. They told me I should try to apply there. A lot of people offered to help me get in I consistently replied “Thanks. I'll think on it”. After half a year of thinking, I got into a tricycle and was on my way. Or, at least, I was almost on my way.

Eia : Kuya, sa Pasig University po.
Driver : Saan yun?
Eia : Malapit lang daw po e.
Driver : Saan nga?
Eia : Sundan daw po natin yung mga sign.

After a few minutes of discussing, the driver finally agreed to take me to “Pasig University” (note to self: not even tricycle drivers can get you to your destination if you don't know where it is). He nearly brought me to another university had I not seen the sign near McDo directing people to Alcalde Jose. But, I eventually reached PLP. I went to the HRD. I submitted my resume and the rest is history.