Associating teaching with cabinets which hold treasure within it---may it be practical knowledge about teaching, essential skills to survive the jungle of the classroom, or strategies to help our students improve--is all about having a good cabinet collection that seemingly blend in together to create an identity that is completely mine.  Taken from several influences, my style of teaching, the philosophies and theories I strongly lean towards to, the strategies I overtly use, and everything else that shaped my current practice has evolved overtime through the dialogues, discussions, reading, and learning that I have had with these strong influences.  

     Cabinets come in different styles that mark its maker.  Some have door panels with mirrors that seem to reflect back the style of the owner, some have elaborate carvings that may seem to communicate the  owner's intricate personality, while some come in different shapes like that of the pyramidal structure featured above which could be a vision of the levels of priorities designated by its owner. Still others have display windows that may suggest the maker's understanding that owners want to showcase what's inside of their cabinets.  Different style, different reasons, and more importantly different ways of organizing the contents held within.  Just like the cabinets depicted are of different design, style, and function, so too are the people who helped me articulate my understanding of what teaching should be.  These influences helped shape my view of learning, both of my own and my students.  

     In Okun's autobiography exercise, I have identified that there were no significant influences in my childhood that led me to the teaching profession.  Growing up, my mother was overseas while my father juggled law school with work.  Though my grandmother was a teacher, I don't feel that my choice to become one was of her influence.  However, the desire to always help out came from my parents.  I remember the dedication they have shown in helping me with my schoolwork.  In a way I feel that it will be a betrayal if I don't help others out when I have been shown how to respond to need early on.

     By fourth year high school, I knew that I wanted to work with kids.  My choices were down to pediatric medicine, psychology, and education.  I pursued education.  Still, my passion for teaching was not ignited as I go through the teacher preparation program.  It was during my student-teaching that I truly connected to the importance of teaching.  As I interacted with my students, the significance of knowing them and their interest, and the role of purposeful planning shed its light.  In many ways, I feel that my greatest influence at that point in 2001 was my 5th and 6th grade students.  These students came from marginalized families who, despite the limitations brought about by poverty, were hungry for knowledge and learning.  I served as their science and history practicum teacher and in the 3 months that I worked with them I have seen how influential teachers can be if they choose to be one.  That public school made me their liaison person with the Department of Education which ensures that whatever request they have will be seen through.  I was even tasked to help one of their graduating student prepare the speech she was going to give in front of then Philippine President Joseph Estrada.  But of all the exciting experiences that I was able to have with these students, the most memorable will have to be the stargazing field trip that I took them to.  It was their first time to ever leave their community.  As we enter the vicinity of the University of the Philippines, all their jaws dropped in awe as they took in the scenery and the beauty of the university.  Fields with trees were the total opposite of their tenement-ridden, dirty and polluted streets.  As they begged me to stay the night to experience more, I rushed to call their parents to get their permission to extend the waiver til the next morning.  My dad, always supportive of my endeavors, who drove us to the field trip site went home to gather the necessary things we will need as we changed course and stayed overnight.  This was their first ever trip and we were surrounded by hundreds of other students from other schools who came in well prepared.  The engagement these students displayed moved me to advocate for them in bold ways.  I sought the organizer who was the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration director at that time, introduced myself and my class, and requested that we be included in any lecture prepared for the program.  I held discussion circles of which students of other school participated in to make them form connections with what we have discussed in class and what we were experiencing at that moment.  Because of our tenacity, we were always the first one invited to see new sightings of Venus and Mars.  My students were ecstatic!  People were actually paying attention to them--they were the center of attention!  The sparks in their eyes inspired me to always, always take advantage of teaching moments when all are in-sync.

     My other influences will come in the form of early influential readings by Dr. Antonio N. Torralba, Ph.D author of The Joys of Teaching (Be a Teacher...A Great One) and The First Days of School by Harry Wong.  Dr. Torralba, in particular, helped shaped my teaching philosophy back in 2002 as I applied for my M.A. in Educational Administration.  Harry Wong's book was like the sturdy cabinet that one acquire as you start life in your new apartment.  It was practical, functional, and essential.  This is the cabinet you keep until you're ready to venture out and purchase a newer one.  Dr. Torralba's book, on the other hand, is like that little accent cabinet you buy because it gives you that "my style", "this is me" feeling.  His book was comfortable in many ways because in it I found affirmation of what I was already doing in my practice.
     The sphere of influence changed as I migrated to the U.S. in 2004.  There was a clear mismatch in terms of practice and student engagement between here and back home which called for meaningful dialogues with mentors such as Virginia Welch from Fairfax County's Office for Children, Dr. Sebastian Ziraba who acknowledged my potentials, and countless others who have guided me in my pursuit for growth as a teacher.   

~An excerpt from my personal journal...Reflecting on Okun June 28, 2012~

"Experience is not what happens to you, it's what you do with what happens to you."

~Kegan, 1983

     In realizing how upbringing and what social/financial standing had afforded me in terms of experiences, I have developed a sense of gratitude and a sense of sharing what I have with others...In seeing "the other side of town", I came to realize how lucky I am to have had the kind of parents that I have.  I believe they afforded me these experiences by allowing me to lead my life by the choices I made while supporting me no matter what.

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