On Languages and History

Thoughts for us international teachers:

  1. How do we make sure that the concepts and content we teach are relevant and within our local context, while maintaining global perspectives?

  2. How much history do we know about the current country we are in and whose perspective/hat are we carrying in learning about it? How do we instill critical thinking and culture appreciation in teaching and learning humanities and societies?

  3. How does translanguaging happen in our classroom?  How much do we really know about the language learning process of multi-lingual children?  How much of our language teaching and learning influence our students’ worldview?

The other day, I saw an FB post about how Filipinos uphold white supremacy, stating: ‘We show preference to those with light skin. We tell kids to pinch their noses to make them tall. We mock heavy Filipino accents. We elevate white mixed Pinoys, while persecuting indigenous people.’ It is sad because is it’s true.  This is the kind of mentality I grew up with. Friends made fun of friends and batch mates who can’t speak the kind of English we see on American movies and I was surrounded by strict grammarians. The funny thing is when I started traveling, I met people from all over the world and learned that about 7 billion people in this planet don’t care about me not having proper American English and accent.  I don’t know where the pressure to be fluent in English came from, it just existed in me and many of my peers throughout our youth, as if the better you are with it, the more educated you are. So yes, I don’t deny the white supremacy mentality that I grew up with, but as it was normalized then, I didn’t really know how ridiculous it was and I am also not proud of it. I don’t think I consciously and intentionally uphold it, and I don’t think many of my Filipino friends do either. In retrospect: it’s really weird but logical considering the Philippine’s history of colonialism.

My childhood friend, Anna Miren, was super spot on with her Instagram post and I do think that her point is the very culprit of this issue. In her recent post connecting PH to #blacklivesmatter, she highlighted her beautiful experience with our very own aetas, our negritos, our very own blacks, and wishes that our schools teach a ‘deeper multi-cultural Philippine history’. In my education (and perhaps Miren’s as we studied in the same school), I learned more about the rule of the Spanish and the Americans, more than the way of life of our indigenous and who they really are. I wish our history classes helped us understand more the stories and roots of our native people, their food, our languages, art, tattoos, beliefs and values. I have to commend my school though for teaching us many folk songs and instruments, and I think my best friend who went to the same school would agree to this. I hope, too, that within the lessons on Spanish and American colonialism, students are taught to critically think about the practical consequences (both positive and negative) of these events, because in my opinion, this is how we truly appreciate the literature, poetry and lives (and death) of our national heroes- having colonial mentality as one of the consequences.

To this day, I still struggle a bit with pronouns- he, she, it, they, they’re all people to me. I still get corrected by my colleagues and Filipino friends, but I’m more thankful for it than shameful. I also love my brown skin and have no shame playing tennis under the piercing sun at noon. It’s interesting for me to learn how many shades of brown and black are there. I’ve been called brown, morena, tan, caramel, but yes my Filipino friends still call me negra, which I full heartedly embrace. I teach my students English, but I also teach them Tagalog. I teach them Hindi expressions, and I sometimes unintentionally speak to them in Russian. In my class, they can speak whatever language they want, even Korean since my students are obsessed with Black Pink and BTS. I’ve started learning Vietnamese so soon enough hopefully I get to converse with them using their mother tongue. I’ve made peace with my potato nose because it’s pretty special as it has become my family’s legacy.

Today is the independence day of the Philippines:  Maligayang Araw ng Kalyaan, Pilipinas!  True independence come from within us, where we value the discovery and re-discovery of who we are, and what we normalize is the appreciation of our very roots, language and local efforts.  Hopefully, this will give us a place in the world where we radiate national identity and security vs. white supremacy, nor any kind of supremacy.

Read aloud with a Twist!


Last March 6, we celebrated the World’s Read Aloud Day with a twist!  My class celebrated it by reading aloud the Indian folktale “How the Summer Queen Came to Kashmir” to a Grade 4 class from an international school in Hong Kong.  The read aloud was done through Skype.  We thought that by reading aloud the said tale, it will help students from Hong Kong know more about the rich culture and places of India.  The other class read aloud poems from the book called Joyful Noise by Paul Fleischman.  We had a great time listening to the poems as they read it creatively.

It is the first time that my class had this engagement.  There were challenges like communication, arranging the schedule and the quality of the internet connection.  In the actual read aloud, it was hard to hear and understand each other, but somehow we got through the event smoothly.  Everyone seemed to enjoy, especially the part when my students and the other class were given the opportunity to say hi to each other.  I think in away, my class was amazed seeing other kids from another part of the world.

What I love the most about the engagement is that first of all, it promoted global mindedness by taking part on an event that is celebrated worldwide.  Tanja Galleti, a primary Librarian from an international school in Hong Kong, just twitted about the event.  I replied back as I was interested with it.  She had this wonderful idea of reading aloud through Skype, and I thought that was a good opportunity for my class.  Without her help and initiative, this event would have not been possible.  She was the one who arranged the schedule between me and Andrea Onken, the Grade 4 teacher from Hong Kong, despite her busy schedule.  Of course, much thanks to Andrea as well, as she was also open to do the read aloud with my class.  With this simple interactive activity, we know that we have encouraged reading around the world.


Secondly, I like that we showed that education is border-less.  In that simple 30 minutes read aloud from both classes, my class learned how to observe and listen, how to model certain behaviour from other students from a different country, and how to use technology to help us learn.  That simple 30 minutes was an opportunity for my students to be communicators, to be open-minded, and a chance to develop self-management skills.  That simple 30 minutes gave us the opportunity to have new friends.

Thirdly, I like how the three of us- Tanja, Andrea and I- were all strangers to each other, yet are united by the same aim and love for collaboration, technology and a global approach to learning.  I don’t know them personally, and I’ve never even worked with them before, but this certainly showed that when there is a goal, openness and some sense of familiarity, strangers can be great company.  Thank you Tanja, Andrea and your wonderful students.  More and more educators are collaborating on-line and I believe that this is one of the best practices a teacher could ever take advantage of.  So thank you for all the selfless teachers out there who keep on sharing and sharing and sharing!  It’s a small world after all, and there is this simple girl in India who highly appreciates you all.

Like what I said, simple as the engagement may be, it brought things that are essential to teaching and learning.  Simple effort like this gives an opportunity for us and our students to be internationally minded.  I’m definitely looking forward to doing this again.

21st Century Learning

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn – Alvin Toffle
I must admit, thinking about 21st century teaching and learning can be very overwhelming…but we all gotta try and start somewhere.  Things we should know about 21st century learning:
9 Characteristics of 21st Century Learning
21st Century Learning
21st Century Learning Model
 Aand..words from Alvin Toffler
Alvin Toffle
“If you don’t have a strategy, you’re part of someone else’s strategy. ”
“You’ve got to think about big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.”
“The secret message communicated to most young people today by the society around them is that they are not needed, that the society will run itself quite nicely until they – at some distant point in the future – will take over the reigns. Yet the fact is that the society is not running itself nicely… because the rest of us need all the energy, brains, imagination and talent that young people can bring to bear down on our difficulties. For society to attempt to solve its desperate problems without the full participation of even very young people is imbecile.”
“Change is not merely necessary to life – it is life.”
“The future always comes too fast and in the wrong order.”
“To survive, to avert what we have termed future shock, the individual must become infinitely more adaptable and capable than ever before. We must search out totally new ways to anchor ourselves, for all the old roots – religion, nation, community, family, or profession – are now shaking under the hurricane impact of the accelerative thrust. It is no longer resources that limit decisions, it is the decision that makes the resources.”

…enough. 🙂



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As a PYP teacher, this site has been helping me A LOT. It is such a warm community of teachers and school staff, all trying to help everyone with their teaching and learning. I feel valued in this community even if I just joined recently. The members are very inspiring, too!

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