June 9, 2023

Among all the sayings, “To teach is to learn,” holds the  most water and becomes true when you take a group of teenagers and ask them if they are up to the challenge of teaching 7th and 8th graders in their modules. 

This is what keeps the Interact Club of the Rotary Community Corps – Breakfast Feeding for Learning, Inc. busy apart from their own high school modules in this blended learning times.

What once was an adult domain before the pandemic, the tutorials for children with learning challenges is now a child’s world, thanks to Pacita Panaguiton, president of the BFLI, who prepared the former beneficiaries of her services into the second-generation teachers at her center.

Paz said these eight leaders were asked if they would like to learn how to help their younger siblings answer the school lessons and they readily accepted and underwent the training.

Now, on their second year of helping, the adolescents themselves have expanded the grades that they handle, reaching out to the third generation of tutors, their younger siblings at the BFLI. What used to be Paz’s and a handful of parent’s duties, is now multiplied into more academically prepared youngsters who are passing on what they learned. From once needing the focus and food, they are now the smart and patient mentors.

“This pandemic is a blessing,” says Paz because her center is bustling with activities that are building up the community of parents and children into musically talented individuals apart from the academic activities in the morning. It is amazing to see that the children eagerly take up a variety of instruments to play, (thanks to another patient teacher, Johnny Martinez) instead of being glued to their gadgets for games or more than studies.

Mark Ron de Vera, president of the Interact Club and sister, Angel, devote their Friday mornings as Grades 7 and 8 tutors together with Niflin Ireneo and Vea Amor Ban-ngon.

On Thursdays, Mico Delim, April Sadcuyan, Valerie Pocdo and Amor handle Grade 5 and 6 in the different learning modules that their students find difficult to answer.

Mark said Mathematics is his favorite subject and what he finds as more comfortable competency to teach.

Last year, he was challenged to balance the minutes of his day for the volunteer work on the tutorials and his own modules. This year, he balances his time for other interests. He enjoys himself in his important role.

Amor, the artist among them, is quiet but overflows with energy to do everything. When asked what she feels while helping, the smile is her explanation.

Angel and Niflyn who were asked if it was difficult, said that they refer to each other about lessons they don’t remember.

Mico, April, and Valerie are epitomes of patience who say that they know how it is to be shouted at when they don’t understand something and don’t want to give the same scary experience to the ones who need them now.

Mark says there are other students who need help outside of their BFLI community and they want to share the same academic service. He adds that even teaching others how to play the musical instruments is in the plans of their Interact Club. He realizes that the bonds that they share are not the same outside of their community and knows more organizing is needed.

Paz says that the mothers in the tutorial group were relieved to cede their roles to the children because they hardly understood their arithmetic and algebra was beyond their knowledge. She expanded her abilities with a handful of mothers that covered reading and the basics of  additions and subtractions but not the details in the modules that cover learning areas that they are not ready for.

Taking a Filipino module for Grade 3, she pointed out that there were many words that she was not familiar with, words that could not be taught or simplified because the Filipino dictionary is not available. Having the children teach the children is based on what they remember from their teachers and can share with younger ones. She is amazed at the opportunities and blessings brought by the Covid-19 for their own community. The resources from the six years of guiding the children gave them back the strength that they built in their learners.

Food has been integrated in the daily tutorials because this is the ingredient that fuels learning. The quarantine also limited the family budgets in the homes of the children whose parents’work opportunities were limited. Hunger must be overcome too. At the BFLI, the kitchen is warm with healthy food for the tutors, the students, and parents who prepare the meals. This part, according to Paz, God continues to provide through emissaries. It is another element that makes the working bonds of the BFLI stronger. Mothers are grouped and assigned tasks for this, sometimes, the older children have taken the initiative to play the role.

Since June, the element of music has filled the walls of the center. At first, the ukuleles, gifts from a relative of Paz, were made available for a few children, then later the mothers found the interest to play the instruments too.

This was sparked by maestro Johnny Martinez who was equally inspired by his growing number of students from all ages. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the notes flowed out of the room in varied rhythms. Then, the guitars, melodiums, flutes, keyboards, lyres, and bandurrias are a few of the instruments that they have learned to play since then. The efforts will crescendo into a concert for their community with fathers who have joined in too. Even here, the children are teaching the younger ones to play the instruments they have learned to play.

The teaching has not ended in the academic realm but has gone on to the finer domains of personality and character development. But Paz has pointed out the most important detail in this process, we are learning more from the children about the best part of life, joy.

Belated happy Teacher’s Day to all the tutors and mentors.

May your tribes increase.