By Dr. Josita B. Carmen, CESO V
Schools Division Superintendent
Surigao del Sur

Dr. Josita B. Carmen, CESO V, Schools Division Superintendent Surigao del Sur Division

“When we see a turtle on top of a fence what is your conclusion? Surely, it got help from others, right?” (African proverb)

Turtle has a special meaning to me since my Grade 2 teacher likened me to it as I had the tendency to raise and withdraw my hand during class recitations. That remark from my lone teacher triggered a whole year of bullying from my classmates. Hence, my aversion to self-contained classes. Suspending the whole class and closing the classroom when the teacher is absent may affect the psyche of learners, but the least favorite learner usually suffers in the long haul. In my case, a nurturing mentor came along in Grade 3 to lift my spirit up and I finally made it to the honors list. She was my first mentor.

I believe in the mentoring program after my rewarding experience at the University of Asia and the Pacific (UAP). The school’s institutional culture hinges on personalized mentoring program in which the mentor journeys with the mentee all the way to the end of the course. At the start of classes, a mentor is assigned to nurture the personal, spiritual and professional growth of mentees who are grouped by pair or by five. Assignment of mentor was based on background and experience that would best complement the mentees.

Learning was leisurely with weekly mentoring chats, recollections, and field trips to historical places. Chats covered some unclear concepts, moral issues and even personal and career plans.

Relationship with the mentor, mentee and co- mentee is sustained even after the course. Our “get togs” also gave us an opportunity to huddle with the University President Jesus Estanislao, the former Secretary of Finance touted as DBP’s miracle worker. He was unpretentious as he ate KFC’s chicken in a takeout box and drank juice in plastic cups with a simple backdrop from an LCD. In stark contrast with our grand table setting, skirting and stage. Recitation of the University Credo which advocated integrity in leading our lives was emphasized. (Bislig City ‘s singing of DepEd Vision and mission could be a carryover of this). Best of all, UAP prides in its 100% graduation rate.

Mentoring program made me feel I am somebody deserving the attention and not just a number in the statistics of the University. Upon my return, we contextualized the program with buddy-buddy system for the learners and shadowing of the master teachers and NEPP mentors to co- teachers. In Bislig City National High School, results showed a greater scope of competencies covered and National Achievement Test results increased from 46% to 66% with lower percentage of failures. Of course, there were other factors, but the mentoring program played a big role.

In Bon-ot, my niece told me about a teacher who inspired her in Math. The teacher employed a strategy of using noodles and biscuits as prizes. For someone who is not able to have three square meals a day, it meant a lot to her. It was a meaningful incentive that met a need. Because it’s a small school, the teacher was able to follow her through up to the next grade level. Mentoring has limits in terms of number, but when applied according to each one’s level, it will have a multiplying effect for the critical mass.

Photo source: http://ikejakson.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/the-post-turtle-story/

With this new normal, the challenge of inspiring our learners takes on a new dimension. With probable lesser face-to-face encounter, we must come up with ways to make them feel important and instill in their hearts the love for learning which will be their ticket to a bright future.

Like the health workers who have shown their heroism, we mentors must continue to be heroes to our mentees, seizing every opportunity to lift their spirits up, making them feel like a turtle on top of a fence.

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[N.B. This article was originally published in An Madayaw, the official publication of the Schools Division of Surigao del Sur, Volume 6, Issue 16, April 2020 edition]