If the power to do hard work is not a skill, it’s the best possible substitute for it. – James Garfield
I was never academically good in college. I spent more time actively working for the student government and writing for the school paper and, for a year or two, I played for the school’s varsity team (tuition fee was only one peso a semester for varsity players). I also held a fulltime job – I was a DJ in a music station with working hours that required me to be there as early as 6 a.m. until 1 p.m. and as late as 12 midnight. I went to school in between. Understandably, it took me six years to finish college and I barely passed the CPA board exams. So I consider it a miracle (or a mistake) when my school invited me to teach accounting.
It was therefore not surprising that when I started teaching, I had zero knowledge of what I was supposed to do and just enough (but not a lot) of what to teach. In the first few years of my teaching, I also had tough luck: my first boss wanted to help but didn’t know how to (she was not a CPA), the next boss wanted to help but was always sick, the third boss wasn’t any help at all. I was practically left to my own devices. There were no such things as solutions manuals (if there were any, then I missed them because I didn’t get any until the late, late 90s) and the internet. But there was one thing going for me: I worked hard.
I burned the midnight candle reading and re-reading my book, solving and resolving the problems, practicing my lectures over and over again. It was really, really hard work.
Oftentimes, when I face a lot of problems and am tempted to give up, I look back to those days. Thank God I went through them because now it seems nothing can get harder. I can always get by if I work hard. 🙂
Posted in Work
One baby step and we immediately hit a wall.
Continuing the story about our first visit to GK-Banago, when we left the village, RN and I were very excited but we had no idea how we could jumpstart our program so I asked AB if we could go over and observe an ALS class. She said yes, on Monday at 1:30. But on Monday morning, she sent an SMS saying the teacher from DepEd could not make it because of Brigada Eskwela. So, no class again for the adults.
I could not help remembering what AB said about the dwindling number of students – they were discouraged since classes could not be held regularly. (DepEd’s too busy for these adults? Or the ALS is not in their list of priorities?)
I told AB I wanted to get in touch with the teacher so I can ask her what T4T could do for these classes. She gave me a cellphone number and I sent the DepEd person a message but didn’t get any reply.
I didn’t want to waste time sitting here and waiting for next Monday not even knowing if the teacher would show up or not. So I surfed the net to gather more info from the DepEd site. There was no mention of ALS there and some information had not even been updated (the side banner tagged as EducNews bore the date Jan. 1-31, 2009). Ironically, this same government agency is launching its “internet connectivity project”. 😦
At this point, I am exasperated but I know I should brace myself for more walls and even deadends. It’s not fun having to deal with the government.
Continued from this post …
I was happy talking to AB. She impressed me as intelligent and someone who knows her work well. When I asked how we could help, she summarized their problem in a few sentences. She said the ALS – the Adult Learning System – had people from the education department visiting the village regularly to prepare the students for the government exams in October. But since there were other barangays to attend to, they no longer come three times a week but only once a week. This has discouraged many of the students so now, there are only 15 students left. That broke my heart.
AB said the government people teach “conversational English” but she felt this wasn’t effectively working. She believes the students would need “basic English” and “basic Math” instead. RN and I looked at each other. I guess we were both thinking of the same thing: English for me, Math for him but can we both do this without any help from other people? Many other things were on my mind as I listened to AB: do I have enough time to come here regularly – at least twice a week for 1-2 hours per visit – considering that I will also be teaching in the coming semester and RN would be away reviewing in Manila for the CPA licensure exams in October? What materials would I need? What are the things that I must do to prepare myself for this? No, thank God, I wasn’t thinking about the heat and the dust. RN and I had already made up our minds to help them. We’re going to do this and “not count the cost” (St. Ignatius’ prayer).
There was an urgent need for more tutors, AB summed everything up. Okay, we assured her, we’ll try to see what we can do. We’ll come back next week and talk to you again. She was profuse in her thanks (later she sent me an SMS that said “it was nice of you to come and thank you for your initiative to help”.) RN and I were happy … and very excited.
Teach for Tomorrow had just taken its first baby step. 😀
Continued from here …
There were plenty of kids and a few adults in what I guess was the village’s community center. I learned the guys who just left conducted catechism classes there for the traditional “Flores de Mayo” festival. (Good guys, God bless you all!) I was thinking, if we ever get to work with and for these guys, this is where we will also be holding classes: a very simple, almost primitive open structure with a thatched nipa roof, a few plastic chairs and plenty of dust on our feet and around us. (I brought Candy, my camera, but was too shy to take pictures.)
I looked around and initially cringed at the stinging heat and swirling dust. The colored houses looked pretty neat but this beauty ended where began a big open space with lots of fist sized stones in lieu of green grass. There were a volleyball net at the center and this nipa structure at a corner and lots of happy people who politely greeted us even if we were strangers. I instantly liked the place.
I introduced myself and RN and what we were there for – we wanted to know how we could help the adults who’re preparing to get the government exams for their high school diplomas. “Ah, Lupa!”, the woman who was cuddling an infant excitedly announced. “Ha? What’s Lupa?”, I asked. She said that’s the group preparing for the exams. The woman then called out for someone to call the Lupa coordinator so I failed to ask what the name stands for. I know it’s a Filipino term for soil or land but I couldn’t connect a high school diploma with either soil or land so I am sure it must be an acronym for something. Filipinos have really good talent when it comes to making acronyms! 🙂
AB, the GK coordinator, came. We introduced ourselves but she seemed puzzled and hesitant so I explained that I’m a teacher at the USLS and that BM, the GK provincial coordinator, told us about their problem. This lent us some credence. She was delighted when she heard the two names – USLS and BM. Apparently, USLS is already helping the village. I wanted to explain that we were doing this as a different group, not one associated with USLS (I know the school discourages such an association since ours was a non-accredited group) but there was no time to explain this – at least not for now. I made a mental note to clarify this with AB at a later time but right now, I was in a hurry to get this over and done with. I could feel the heat biting my skin.
Last part here …
Posted in Dream, Hope, Work
After postponing our GK date countless of times – I fell ill, then RN got hospitalized, then I got sick again plus many other things came up, we finally went to GK-Banago. We didn’t know the way but we went anyway. I reckoned the city’s so small, we’d never get lost. And our excitement for what might be in store for us could no longer stop us.
We met at 3 p.m. (we were punctual!), discussed a few things over coffee and off we went. It was not hard to find. From a few hundred feet away, I immediately saw a cluster of small colored houses. The trademark of GK! (I thought this was a good idea so one would immediately be able to identify GK villages without need of any street signs.)
When we got there, another van was about to leave and I right away knew that these guys had just finished their volunteer work. They were putting away empty containers of what could have been fruit juice, a guitar, a PA system, among others. Some happy young people in the van were waving to little kids who had big smiles on their faces and who were enthusiastically shouting their goodbyes and thank-yous. I felt a tinge of envy – these guys had gotten their kites flying and here we were, RN and I, with absolutely no idea what we’d be getting into or if we’d even be welcome here. (But I keep telling myself, as long as we are enthusiastic about this, nothing can stop us … either we’ll find a way or we’ll make one.)
This is like an echo of what Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his book, Outliers. As I pointed out in an earlier post, Gladwell gave, as examples, Bill Gates, Bill Joy and the Beatles and how they put in 10,000 hours to succeed in what they do.
To quote part of this article by David Brooks in The NY Times:
It’s not I.Q., a generally bad predictor of success, even in realms like chess. Instead, it’s deliberate practice. Top performers spend more hours (many more hours) rigorously practicing their craft.
He also cites two books which I hope to read in the future: Daniel Coyle’s “The Talent Code” and Geoff Colvin’s “Talent Is Overrated”. I read a review of the latter book in one issue of Fortune magazine last year. Colvin wrote that what makes Tiger Woods a huge success is not innate talent but deliberate practice (and, according to Brooks, a father intent on improving his skills). He reportedly would put a golf ball in a sandtrap and practice from that spot for hours.
Brooks conclude this short article with this …
Public discussion is smitten by genetics and what we’re “hard-wired” to do. And it’s true that genes place a leash on our capacities. But the brain is also phenomenally plastic. We construct ourselves through behavior. As Coyle observes, it’s not who you are, it’s what you do.
So the first order of the day is to muster enough discipline to start the first hour towards building up to 10,000 hours.
Posted in Inspire, Learn, Read, Work
Tagged 10000 hours, Daniel Coyle, David Brooks, discipline, genius, Geoff Colvin, Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers, The Talent Code
Today, a niece posed this question on Facebook after noting that she has to be productive because she has only two more weeks of summer left, “what to do, what to do?” My answers: 1- read a good book or books, 2- go somewhere you’ve never been before, 3- volunteer for a good cause. Her reply to no. 3 was, “any suggestions?”