Check out Experiences, the official Teach for the Philippines blog! #Leaveyourmark
Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter for more updates on the program.
Teach is not the answer. Teach is the question; Yes! is the answer.
Application to the 2017 Cohort is now closed. Stay tuned for the next Cohort application in July!

Teacher Delfin: “Mag-aaral Ako sa Ateneo.”

Delfin's students KC and Andrie


Today, I did the riskiest thing I’ve ever done as a teacher – bring two of my students with me to Ateneo de Manila University.


I have too many things to say about how today went, so I’ll try to keep this short enough before it reaches that too-long-didn’t-read level. I will most likely fail in this attempt, however.


Let me introduce to you two of my students – Kurt Christian (KC) and Mark Andrie (spelled Andrie, pronounced Andrei). In an attempt to at least make some impact on these two kids a la Sabrina Ongkiko’s on her student Darwin, I thought of bringing my students. I got more than I expected.


KC is one of my favorite students (secret lang to!) but he’s a non-reader. He has a difficult time reading even the most basic of words, which is why it was to no surprise that in all his subjects, his grades were terrible. He only passed one class. Values class, with a grade of 80. Literacy was the first barrier that prohibited him from performing well in assessments. But he’s still one of my favorite students. Mayroon siyang aangas-angas na dating, at kung maglakad ay parang siga. Hindi naman siya gaanong katangkad, at 8 years old naman siya, ang nararapat lang para sa Grade 3.


Today, I brought KC and his bestfriend Andrie to Ateneo. Inasmuch as I wanted it to be an experience for them, it turned out that it was much more of an experience for me.


If our immersions in college would lead us to high-need communities, for KC and Andrie, going to Ateneo was like an immersion for them. Even in the car ride going to Ateneo, KC was getting motion sickness and was on the verge of vomiting.


I told them to meet me in our school at 2pm. By 1:00, they were already there waiting. They were playing on the blackboard, and Andrie kept on scribbling the word “Ateneo” on the blackboard.


Pagod na pagod na ako pagdating namin sa Ateneo, pero nawala itong lahat nang makita ko silang tumatakbo sa bagong oval ng Ateneo. Nang hindi sila magulo dahil sa kanilang pagpapanood sa Blue Eagle Gym. Nang sumilip sila sa chess room dahil naglalaro pala sila noon. Nang ayaw nilang umalis ng swimming pool dahil nanibago sila sa lalim at linis nito. Nang nag-tricycle kami kahit na gutom na gutom sila, dahil sa pag-asang makitang naglalaro si Kiefer (Ravena). Nawala ang lahat ng pagod ko nang kuminang ang mga mata ni KC noong inaabangan niya ang “bell” ng Ateneo at tumakbo palabas para hanapin ang ingay.


“Cher, nag-aaral ka po ba gamit ang kompyuter?”


“Oo, minsan nung college ako. Mahirap kasi pag walang kompyuter.”


“Talaga ‘cher? Nakita ko nga yung isang classroom ang daming naka-kompyuter. Paglaki ko, ‘cher, papabili ako kay papa ng kompyuter.”


“O sige! San ka mag-aaral?”


“Dito, ‘Cher! Maganda dito eh.”


They sat in my statistics class (level up from solving word problems!), and before my students came, I gave them my markers so they could write on the whiteboard.


They wrote “mag-aaral ako sa Ateneo.”


Here I have a non-reader, who struggled blending each and every syllable of this phrase, just to write it on the board.


Before eating in McDo and going home, I obviously had to process and synthesize this experience for them – I did have an objective: I CAN + I WANT. I may have been successful with the I WANT, so I had to do something about the I CAN.


After going to Moro, we sat on the benches near the High School. I called KC to come and talk to me. I showed him his report card.


“O, kamusta naman Ateneo, KC?”


“[big smile] ang ganda, ‘cher.”


“Gusto mong mag-aral dito?”


“Oo, ‘cher!”


“Teka, may ipapakita ko sa iyo. Ito yung report card mo. Tingnan mo yung likod. Isa lang yung grade. Sa tingin mo, bakit yan lang yung grade?”


“Kasi makulit po.”


“Hindi. Hulaan mo bakit.”


“Kasi hindi po ako marunong mag-basa.”


“Hindi dahil dun.”


-no replies-


“Hindi kasi umabot yung grades mo sa pasado, KC.”


-still no reply-


“Matalino ka ba, KC?”


-shakes head-


“Bakit? Sino nagsabi sayo?”


“Ako, ‘cher.”


“Bakit mo nasabi na hindi ka matalino?”


“Medyo napansin ko na rin kasi, ‘cher.”


“KC, tumingin ka sa akin. Tuwing nagdududa ka sa sarili mo, tandaan mo ang sasabihin ko – matalino kang bata. Wag kang makinig sa kahit sino kung sinabi nilang hindi ka matalino. Sabi ni Teacher – matalino kang bata. Huwag mo kakalimutan yun.”


At that moment, KC’s eyes started to water, he looked at the ground, covered his face, then started to cry.


“KC, may pramis si teacher sayo. Kung mag-aral ka nang mabuti, pramis ko tutulungan kita para makapag-aral dito sa Ateneo. Pero kailangang mag-pramis ka rin sa’kin.”


After all the expectations setting, I asked,


“So anong makikita natin na grade dito sa second grading?”




“Taasan pa natin!”


“‘Sang daan, ‘cher!”


Paminsan-minsan, kailangan nating magbigay ng pagtitiwala sa mga taong hindi naniniwala sa kanilang sarili. Kahit kailangang manggugol ng isang buong araw – dahil sa simpleng paniniwala na ito, malayo ang kanilang mararating habang-buhay.


Mag-aaral ka sa Ateneo. Promise.


Delfin Stephen D. Villafuerte, 21, graduated valedictorian from Ateneo de Manila University in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Management Engineering and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics (Honors Program). He is one of five Fellows teaching in General Roxas Elementary School.


Why does education matter?  Click here to see what some of our champions have to say.