Sunday, January 28, 2018

Life’s Greatest Lessons from the Preschool

Choosing the path to be with the four and five-year-olds could be full of plethora of challenges but it’s definitely refreshing to listen to their words and experience their sweetest gestures. Almost 14 years of teaching and here in their small world, I learned life’s greatest lessons from little people with big hearts.

On Being Different

Five months of working at the preschool, not one kid asked me why I look different or why do I have an accent. There was only one time that my being ‘different’ was mentioned. I was reading the book entitled ‘It’s Okay to be Different’ to a five-year-old kid, when I pointed to myself and said, “Your hair is blond and mine is black. We’re different.” He looked at my eyes and told me with all the sincerity he could muster, “I like you because you’re different.”

On Friendship and Forgiveness

A kid screamed and I asked what happened. She said that her best friend told her that ‘She’s breaking up with her and they’re no longer friends’. I tried to explain that when she says those words, she hurts her friend’s feelings. She answered me, “It’s okay. I only said it but I still love her.” After a while, they were playing happily again. For them, forgiveness comes easy.

On Marriage
For being small, they could be very persistent.
1st Kid to the 2nd Kid: I love you and I will marry you.
2nd Kid: I will marry you, too!
3rd Kid to the 2nd Kid: No, I will marry you!
4th Kid to the 1st Kid: What about me? I will marry you!
5th Kid: My mom and dad got married yesterday. I will marry, Ms. Nina!
Me: I’m already married.
5th Kid: I don’t care. I will marry you.

On Love
The purest love that you could ever receive will come from these little people with big hearts.

A five-year-old boy almost asleep takes my hand, puts it on his heart, and hugs it, “I love you and you’re my family.”

A five-year-old girl was talking excitedly about going to her grandma’s house, “My grandma has the best house! Can I bring you with me, please?”

On Settling an Argument
Three kids were talking after an argument.
Kid 1 to Kid 2: You hurt my feelings. That was not so nice.
Kid 2: No, you hurt my feelings!
Kid 3 to Kid 2: Stop it. You’re hurting her feelings. You’re being mean.
Kid 2: No, you’re being mean.
Kid 1: I’m sorry. Let’s just play.

On Death
Death is simple. It's about losing but looking at the brighter side of things.

Kid: Ms. Nina, you have four dogs, right?
Me: No, we have three.
Kid: So, if one dies it's okay. You will still have two.

Monday, September 04, 2017

10 Months, 4 Seasons, Countless Life’s Lessons

The memory was still vivid like it happened not eons ago- multi-colored works of arts, a riot of colors mostly shades of yellow, red and orange, and views from above with objects that glistened like lilac hue. It was autumn and the scenery was painted distinctly on my mind since it was my first time in United States. 

The smell of ripe earth and the feel of mellow, golden sun on my skin left that taste of nostalgic reminiscences of so many firsts as soon as the plane landed on the airport. The joy was immeasurable when I saw the ‘Michigan’ sign. The first few days were days of tears as my husband and I would stare at each other still in disbelief that we were finally together.

The frigidity of winter rain came so fast as soon as I had my first ever celebration of Thanksgiving. Not surprisingly, it was also marked by another first- my first taste of turkey.

Soon, I watched my boots over the frozen sidewalk. Not long after, my first glimpse of the white snowflakes as they fell from the sky. My husband watched me as my eyes grew huge in bewilderment, and like a child, I jumped up and down trying to catch the soft pieces but they ended in my mouth instead.

My first Christmas with my husband couldn’t be more perfect- carols playing softly, his arms around me, and miles and miles of trees blanketed in snow.


Just as I thought it couldn’t get any colder, the snow melted away. From the once barren brown trees sprang new signs of life. The air was scented with flowers blooming. The air was warmer and the cold breeze finally became gentler and breathed new life to once desolate landscape.

Again, my first glimpse of the magical fairy tale where brilliant rays of new life emerged. It was also my first birthday here marked by another first with a ten-mile-walk at Pictured Rocks and an eight-mile-bike at Mackinaw Island- two of the top destinations in Michigan.

The old adage hit me with reality again. Time indeed flies so fast. As I basked at the scorching heat and the ball of fire in the sky blazed a brilliant amber, there was this dawn of realization that summer completed my four seasons. Though the word ‘firsts’ probably capped off everything, I could not deny the fact that my new life here is also a collection of new learning experiences.

Countless Lessons
Yes, there were myriads of lessons. Cleaning the table after eating at fast-food restaurants would be on top of the list. Then the rest could just be summed up with the seasons- raking leaves during fall, plowing snow during winter, and mowing grass during spring and summer. Yes, starting anew was a bit scary and definitely was not easy but so long as you fill your hearts with faith, hope and love, then life is worth basking in the beauty of the four seasons. Officially celebrating my ten months here in the U.S.A., four seasons, and countless life's lessons. 

"This life is an enduring and complex journey, but finally I have reached the point in my story where I am appreciative of where I've been, proud of where I am, and excited about where I have yet to go.”

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Miracle of Five Minutes

On average, a teacher spends about 45 minutes with the students every day. However, with the aim of completing the required lesson plans and the overwhelming number of students in each class, teachers are usually guilty of failing to make a REAL teacher-student connection.

Several studies have shown that a teacher has great impact in the trajectory of students and a constructive relationship can build a strong connection for learning. Specific lessons are easily forgotten but a student does not forget how a teacher makes a difference in his life.

Recently, I noticed my students interrupting me at the middle of discussion so eager to share about variety of things. Sometimes, they are totally off the topic and it has something to do more with their struggles and exciting news they have for the day. That’s when I thought of giving them five minutes before the start of the lesson to write everything they want to share. The result was amazing. Writing for five minutes gives them a moment to be quiet and think about their day. In the same way, it also enlightens me about what they are going through. The next day, I usually give them encouraging short notes which is related to what they wrote the previous class.

The activity obviously makes them feel more important and their class participation is a lot better. Kids want to feel that they are not only noticed because they have done something wrong but because a teacher cares. I am sure that they will treasure more the five minutes I gave them than the rest of the time I discussed the lesson. Remember, "Students do not care how much you know until they know how much you care".

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Are you a Korean?

More than a month of teaching here and I am already collecting unforgettable memories. My students range from 1st to 6th graders and they are so adorable! Here are some of my memorable and sometimes hilarious experience with them.

Scene 1 (With the 6th Graders):
Student 1: Ms. Nina, are you a Korean?
Student 2: No, she’s not. She’s a Japanese.
Student 3: No. She’s Chinese.
Student 4: No. She’s an immigrant.
Student 5: So, you don’t like Trump?
Me: (Poker face) Let’s continue answering page…

Scene 2 (With the 1st graders):
Student 1: Ms. Nina, where are you from?
Student 2: Are you from Korea?
Me: From the Philippines.
Student 1: Where is that?
Student 2: Do you have TV there? Do you have electricity? Do the people speak English?
Student 1: Is that in China?

Scene 3 (With 6th Graders):
Student 1: Ms. Nina, do you know that I can tell the future?
Me: Oh, really? So, you can see my future?
Student 2: I know what I want to be in the future.
Us: What?
Student 2: A teacher because I want to help kids learn like what you are doing to us.


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