Teaching Articles

The Call of the Teaching Profession


During the hullabaloo of the first quarter, while I was busy running after students for their late projects and whatnot, someone asked me why I chose to be a teacher. I chuckle because I often ask myself that same question. Not to question my sanity, but to remind myself of the bigger picture.

I remember distinctly when I realized I wanted to be one. It was during one of Ma’am Margele Andres’ communication class at NEU.  I remember looking at her and really listening to her. I could feel the wealth of information just flowing out, just waiting for us to digest. Do you know that feeling you get when you read a good book, and you feel like you’re just watching a movie and not really reading? That’s what happened in that class.  She was confident, her words flowing out like silk. I could visualize exactly what she was talking about. She was in her zone and I had my moment of clarity.

I knew I wanted to be like her.

I wanted to ignite someone’s imagination, to help someone realize their potential. I wanted to be an educator and nine years later, here I am: making tests, grading essays, and planning lessons. Everything I’ve done academically from that day: the extra education courses, my M.A., the TESOL certification, the board examination and my PRC registration… I did all that so I could be a teacher. Someone who can make a difference. Idealistic, I know. I learned the hard way that teaching is not always a bed of roses and that it was so much more than just a job.

For one, teachers are often overworked. Time is such a precious commodity when you’re a teacher. While  I personally don’t bring home papers to grade, I do make my lesson plans, exams, handouts, and rubrics at home. We teach six full hours (sometimes eight or more) and still manage to orchestrate elaborate cultural events in school. We evaluate, calculate and tabulate  . We act as guardians inside the classroom, knowing full well the role we play in shaping the perceptions of the young minds charged in our care. We listen, advice, admonish and keep the peace within the four walls of our classroom. Teachers are human beings, juggling too many hats to count.

In addition to the grueling workload, teachers are often under-appreciated. Most of the time we are painted as the villain in some young person’s life. Honestly, nobody really wants to fail a student. However, teachers are not the only ones responsible for a child’s development.  Learning is a two-way street and so it’s not always a “teacher factor”. Learning has to take place both at home and at school. Students need to review, to balance their time, to prioritize activities that will benefit them. I try my best to teach my students this nugget of truth.

But all that pales in comparison to the feeling you get when you see your students bloom into confident young adults. As their teacher, I cherish their triumphs and victories as if they were my own. There are moments I won’t ever forget, like that time a parent approached me to say “You’re my son’s favorite teacher” or when my students graduated from college and sent a thank you note. It made me happy knowing that I made a difference. That’s why I chose to be a teacher.

And so I leave you with this food for thought:

“Your role as a leader is even more important than you might imagine. You have the power to help people become winners.” ― Ken Blanchard.

Teaching is not just a job and a teacher is not just a teacher. To my mentors and co-teachers, Happy World Teacher’s Day!






ED Tech, Teaching Articles

Ed Tech Baby Steps #1

Part of a teacher’s job is making sure that you provide updated content and deliver them in an interesting manner. To be interesting, you need to know what sparks your student’s interest and what keeps them motivated. One of way is to use technology in the classroom. While you no longer have to be the sole expert inside the classroom, knowing how tech works and making it work for you is essential to teaching in the 21st century.

Students relate more and dare I say, take you seriously when they know that you are knowledgeable. This includes your online presence and use of social media, gadgets and whatnot.  So what should a teacher do to keep up? Here are a few baby steps I learned along the way.

Learn to use Google Drive and Apps


First things, first~ backup your files. I can’t express this enough. You need to backup your files. Can you imagine losing all that data? You’ll never know when something will go wrong. So make sure that you back up your grade sheets, worksheets, test questions via the cloud.

Then… start exploring Google Apps. The first time I used Google Docs with my MA classmates, I thought it was hilarious. We were working on one document and there were five different cursors blinking and working on different sections of the word document.  I recommend you try Google Apps like Google Calendar, Google Sheets, Google Docs… Google Classroom! All these apps are integrated with collaboration functions that make working online a breeze. You can even make self-correcting quizzes online! The possibilities are literally endless!

Utilize Social Media


I personally use Instagram to curate my student’s best works. I also use it to recognize my student’s achievements in real time. I post short announcements over Twitter and I use Pinterest when I’m tapped out of ideas and in need of inspiration!

Check your online presence


Believe me when I say that your students will check you online. They will look for your social media profiles: Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter… so do yourself a favor, Google yourself and check if there are any posts that you might not want your students to see. If you intend to add students to your Facebook account, set appropriate filters.

Own a blog


I know, it sounds like another task to add to that already long list of things that teachers have to do. Who has the time? But to be honest, maintaining a blog has saved me tons of time! I use my blog to upload presentations, videos, and handouts. I also post announcements, school schedules, and project deadlines so that students don’t need to ask me every time. It’s a win-win solution. They practice and learn personal accountability because the information is just a click away. You may also add it to your teacher portfolio as a visual representation of your teaching experience.  Another tip, make a separate email for school. I maintain a separate email for online submissions and organize them with filters. Students also email me specific questions that they wouldn’t usually ask in front of their peers so It’s a great way to bridge the communication gap with your students.

Use tech to your advantage


Aside from the obvious use of your laptop and projector for audio-visual lectures, you can explore other applications to make your lessons more interactive. You can also use your iPad apps for grade sheets and bubble tests. I personally love Zipgrade and Additio App. These apps have transformed the way I manage my time. I am still on the look out for other applications or software that will make my teaching life easier.  You can read out my Zipgrade experience here.

On a side note, you can even use gadgets to reward good behavior. Give the student a “Reward Coupon” to listen to music while working on a seat work. I’ve noticed that my hyperactive students tend to mellow down when they listen to their choice of music. So that can be a win-win situation right there. Of course, don’t forget to collect the gadget after your class so that they don’t abuse the privilege. Which reminds me, I’ll  have to post another article about using coupons to encourage good behavior in the classroom.

Understand how students cheat with gadgets and plagiarize content online.


Almost every teacher has had this problem: Plagiarism. They like to copy+paste contents (complete with hyperlinks!)! Some of them are lazy but most of them just don’t know that they are committing this mistake, so teach them the basics of plagiarism and citation early on. There are numerous websites that can help you check for plagiarism.

But cheating during exams is another problem altogether. Some students like to use black markers on their calculator’s cover. It’s not very visible but with the right angle and lighting, it’s easy enough to spot.

Some students also cheat with a smart watch and phones. Yep, those smart watches can receive text messages too. Needless to say, you should know what to watch out for. We were kids once too, so you know how creative they can get. 🙂

I hope you enjoyed reading about them and that you think about exploring some of the tips I’ve shared. Welcome to the 21st Century! Carpe Diem!





Teaching Articles

How to take the LET in Saudi Arabia

After I finished my Professional Teaching Certificate at UPOU, I knew that sooner or later I was going to take the Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET). After a few online searches I found out that there was a Special Professional Licensure Board Examination (SPLBE) here in the Middle East. And so I began preparing for my LET journey.

Reviewing for the LET


When I first saw the Table of Specifications for the LET exam, I was blown away. There was no way I could cram all that information in just a few months. So I set out to look for an online review center and enlisted the help of an old friend and co-teacher to help me refresh my Math skills.

I eventually found MyReviewCoach by Mind Gym. MyReviewCoach is the online branch of Mind Gym, a reputable review center in Metro Manila. They have 90% passing rate from past LETs and have a history of churning out LET Topnotchers. They upload reviewers and plenty of test drills so that their subscribers can practice as much as they want. I also bought an additional test booklet from Mind Gym.

Screenshot (341)

Truth be told, I wasn’t able to complete all the test drills because of my busy schedule as a full-time teacher. I seriously underestimated my teaching load this year. But I did use the reviewers a lot and I believe that it really helped me prepare for the LET. It certainly narrowed down the topics I needed to learn and save me the hassle of researching and filtering out important details. The reviewers were succinct. I definitely recommend MindGym’s MyReviewCoach.

Applying for the SPLBE LET Exam

I first inquired at the Embassy regarding the SPLBE and was referred to a representative at POLO, Sir Eli. I was informed that I should apply online through the PRC website, fill out the application form and complete the documents required:

  • Photocopy of Transcript of Records (with or without scanned picture and remarks “For Board Examination Purposes Only”)
  • Photocopy of Valid Passport
  • Four (4) passport-size pictures with complete name-tag in white background

I submitted my documents to him around June. The SPLBE is usually scheduled during the Hajj holidays, so that left me with roughly 3 months to review.

Around August, I was contacted by Ms. Mendoza from the Filipino Teachers Association in Saudi Arabia to inform me that my application was approved.


Ms. Mendoza told me that I needed to prepare for the final checking of documents by PRC delegates a few days before the exam. She also informed me of the Exam fee of 45 USD and the incidental fee of 250 SR to pay for the costs that the Filipino Organizations will incur for the actual exam venue, proctors and other materials.

I paid the 40 USD Exam fee and 5 USD bank fee through my husband’s AlRajhi Tahweel Account. Then I went to the Embassy on the assigned day to finalize my application. When I arrived at the Embassy, there were numbered tables and we had to go through each step of payment verification and document checking. After going through all the steps I was given my Exam Permit or Notice of Admission (NOA). After that I paid FTASA the incidental fee. Before I left the hall, I was given a clear plastic envelope and a brown envelope with a pencil, a copy of the exam schedule, table of specification, Examinee’s ID and a Lunch Food stub.

Recap of Total Costs:
150 SAR or 40 USD – Exam Fee to be deposited  to PRC’s bank account in the Philippines
18.75 SAR or 5 USD – Bank fee (Philippines)
18 SAR                         – Al Rajhi remittance fee
15 SAR                         – ID Photo Printing
250 SAR                       – Incidental Fee (Filipino Organizations organizing the SPLBE logistics)
451.75 SAR

Taking the SPLBE LET Exam


There were 20 LET examinees from Riyadh and we took the LET last September 25, 2015. We were instructed to not bring phones and bags but there were plenty of people who did. The proctors just asked us to turn the phones off and place the bags in front of the class.

The exam was three-part for Secondary Level Examinees, so it took us the whole day to finish the exam. There were breaks in between and I got to use my Lunch food stub. I also chewed on the same gum flavor that I used while reviewing.

Overall, I felt I did okay but not well enough to actually top the LET. I was confident enough with General Education and my Specialization but was a little confused by some questions on the Professional Ed part. All those theories can be confusing sometimes. I went home around 5pm.

Advice for would-be LETers

  1. Come prepared. Don’t forget your Notice of Admission (NOA) Slip. You will need it during the exam and later to verify your ratings.

  2. Bring 2 pencils with eraser, 1 black pen, a clear envelope and a brown envelope. They will take the brown envelope and return the clear envelope to you.

  3. I was a little sad to see that some of the examinees didn’t even bring a calculator, while some brought a non-scientific calculator. You can find a list of allowable non-programmable calculators on their website. I  used my Casio ES991 calculator.

  4. Bring your reviewer. We had plenty of time before and in between tests to review. I really regret not bringing my reviewer. I know it says on the PRC memo that reviewers, cellphones and bags are prohibited but, as I said earlier, your proctor will ask everyone to place their bags in front of the room away from you during the test. Just don’t be tempted to sneak in a cheat sheet because that will disqualify you from taking the test. Turn off your phone and reset all alarms. Phones are a big no-no.

  5. Answer the questionnaire first, then transfer your answers one by one to the answer sheet. Use your time wisely.

The Result

Waiting was never my strong point, but what’s the point of agonizing about something that I can’t machinate to move faster? Every once in a while people from school would ask me about the result which added to the anxiety. What if I failed!? Everyone seemed so confident about it.

We were told to expect the results around October 26 but the SPLBE LET results were released on November 5. I breathed a sigh of relief when I was told that I passed. My supervisors at the school were all pleased, and Hubby was so happy for me that he even joked about getting a tarpaulin printed. lol.

I was alarmed though that only 20 elementary teachers out of 65 examinees (30.77%) and 37 secondary teachers out of 109 examinees (33.94%) successfully passed the LET. People seem to think that the LET is easy but the numbers say otherwise. While there are many factors to consider, I think some of the examinees failed because they underestimated the exam and didn’t prepare enough for the LET. Like I said, some didn’t even bring calculators and we needed that to answer math questions quickly.

For now, I am just happy that I passed and my ratings were not bad. I’m a Board Passer! Yay! I am now officially, Teacher III. Alhamdulillah for Allah’s blessings upon me and the people he chose to help me. Special Thanks to Ma’am Joana for helping me with my Math refresher and to my Hubby for the tireless support.


ED Tech

ZipGrade App Review

We just finished our first quarterly exams. It’s the weekend and I’m sitting in front of my computer desk, sipping tea and NOT CHECKING.  I am actually spending the “weekend after” not checking or grading exams. Of course, I still have to grade essays and projects, but I don’t bring those home. I like to spend a productive weekend cleaning my house, doing other chores, planning lessons… but no checking!  I was able to do just that all thanks to this nifty little app called ZipGrade.

First off, I love tech in the classroom and I hate paper clutter. Sure… I love cutting and writing on them but I don’t want them lying around, piling up. It can be a very stressful and constant reminder of unfinished business. So when I started teaching I did my best to implement a paperless classroom. I accepted emailed assignments and I used my iPad to record grades and store my lesson plans.

I also wanted to automate my test grading since I had eight different classes and around 240 students at the time. But my previous school didn’t have a Scantron machine and I couldn’t find a decent grading app that was accessible, cheap, and user-friendly.  I ended up using answer sheets and just checked them manually. It did save me a bit of time flipping through test papers but it was not as efficient as an automated Scantron.

Fast forward to 2015, I came across ZipGrade and GradeCam. They both  function as an automated test checker but there was a big difference in terms of subscription fees. What I liked about GradeCam is that it scans paper quickly. You don’t need to align anything, just flash it in front of your webcam or phone cam and you’re good to go. However, their $15 monthly fee was a tad too expensive for me.

So I tried ZipGrade. At $6.99 per year, I felt that this was the more affordable alternative.  At first, I had a hard time trying to align the guide boxes and I had to make sure the papers lie flat before the app recognized it. But after grading 100 test papers, I eventually got the hang of it. I then came up with a work around using a tripod and phone mount.

I also timed myself and it took me about 15-20 seconds to align, scan and flip to the next answer sheet. It  takes longer to grade because it saves the photos it takes for record purposes. But that’s a good thing. It lets you keep a record of the test papers as graded.


During the preliminary exams, I made the mistake of altering the ZipGrade ID grid: I removed some of the boxes since I only needed 3 digits for my student’s ID numbers. The app couldn’t recognize their ID numbers and so I had to manually assign the graded answer sheets to each student. Lesson learned. So here’s my work around: I reverted to the old format and just pre-shaded some of the ID bubbles. Kids still forget their ZipGrade ID so maybe next quarter I’ll just use their School ID number. There is an option to print individual test sheets per student with the ZipGrade ID pre-assigned but it’s just not economically sound for my school as we only use Deskjet printers and rely heavily on our photocopier.


Back to the App, I experienced a cloud sync issue a few weeks after I used it for the Prelims. It wouldn’t sync the last batch of tests and I couldn’t see them on my iPad or web account. So I contacted ZipGrade and was happy with their response time. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was actually conversing with the app’s founder John Viebach and he was able to narrow down the issues and uploaded a beta update. Within a couple of days, my ZipGrade app was back to normal, synching wirelessly over the cloud.

Overall, works as advertised and at a price that I could afford. I love the item analysis feature and the statistics per quiz. It really helps me visualize how effective my assessments are. I like that the Apple version identifies which student’s papers  I haven’t scanned yet. I wish they could do this with the Android version too.

ZipGrade is such a boon for my teaching practice that I can’t imagine not using it from now on. I look back and I imagine all those hours I lost grading 100-item test! Now if I could only find a affordable app to grade oral reading fluency. Hehehe.

{Please note that I am not paid to talk about this app. This is just my personal experience with ZipGrade and I found it really helpful in managing my time as a teacher and homemaker.}


Teaching Articles

The Art of Student Planning

Kids today are busier than ever. They have eight subjects each day, assignments, projects, student council meetings, varsity or band practice, youth org meetings. Let’s not forget that they  also need to carve out time for spiritual activities, family and friends. With so many activities lined up, it’s so easy to feel overwhelmed, fatigued and stretched out. Most kids will just shut down and do nothing – a sort of escapism from all the responsibilities that they don’t know how to juggle.

The problem lies with time management. Often, young adults are overwhelmed by the responsibilities expected from them because they never learned to manage their time. They say yes to everything, forget about prior commitments and then end up with too much on their plate.

In line with our  Values Education lessons about personal growth and development, I’ve decided to encourage my students to practice the lost art of student planning. I recently assigned a Student Planner as my year-long project for my 8th grade students under Values Education. It’s my hope that this will help train my students to be  mindful of how they spend their time.

The Project’s Goals

  1. Teach students to map out their weekly schedules so that they can identify time-wasting activities and focus on enriching and important activities.
  2. Encourage students to jot down important information, submission deadlines and appointments so they can have a visual representation of how their time should be spent.
  3. Help alleviate unnecessary stress brought about by deadlines and cramming.
  4. Create a sense of accomplishment each time a student strikes off a task from his list.

How to Setup a Planner

While there are ready-made planners but my students are free to choose what type of planner they want to use. Their choice of planner will also depend on their personality, if they like to make lists or they like to map out their day using boxes. They can use a ready-made planner, a printable planner, or a regular notebook.

Here are two of many planner formats to draw inspiration from:

Bullet Journal design by Ryder Carrol

Passion Planner designed by Angelia Trinidad

My personal tips on maintaining a student planner:

  1. Always bring it with you. It’s important to always have your planner with you so that you can check your schedule before committing to a new task.
  2. Choose one that’s easy to carry. Use a planner that’s portable so you can always carry it with you and jot down information anytime you need to.
  3. Highlight deadlines. This will help you find important dates faster.
  4. Map out important dates like exams and events. This way you can plan activities around important events.
  5. Use codes to help you differentiate events, tasks, appointments.
  6. Be consistent! Always use the same color for specific details like dates or exams.
  7. Always update your planner before you sleep. Cross out tasks you’ve already accomplished and reschedule postponed tasks.

Free Resource

I’ve rounded up a few blogs that offer free downloadable and printable planners to serve as inspiration or resource for my students.

  1. Weekly Passion Planner
  2. Full Download 2015 Passion Planner
  3. Uncommongrad.com’s Simple Weekly Planner
  4. Heather Ink’s Weekly Planner
  5. Rabiscarte’s free 2015 Planner
  6. OrphanSurvivalGuide’s Student Planner
  7. The Organized Student’s Free Planner Pages
Teaching Articles

The Good Box: Positive Reinforcement in the Classroom


I wanted to reward my students for good behavior. In the past, I gave small gifts to students who got the highest score in my exams. I even had a star chart placed next to my board, so that they can see their class achievements outside the classroom.

This year, I’ve decided to implement “The Good Box”. When my students do a good deed in class, a teacher can add her name to the box. At the end of the month, we will draw one winner from the Good Box. We also have a reward for Cleanest Student of the Month.


  1. To qualify for the Good Box program, a subject teacher must nominate a student using the Good Box.
  2. To qualify for the Good Box program, the student must not have a disciplinary record for that month.
  3. To qualify for the Good Box program, the student must have perfect attendance for that month.
  4. To qualify for the Cleanest Student Award, the student must keep her area clean for the entire month. The basis will be the CLAYGO (Clean As You Go) form, checked by assigned class officers and class adviser.
  5. The draw will be done in front of the class.
  6. A winner cannot win both awards.
  7. A winner cannot win two months in a row.
  8. The class adviser reserves the right to redraw a name.

There you go, that’s my stab at positive reinforcement.

Teaching Articles

The How and Why of Interactive Notebooks

The Interactive Notebook System (INS) is designed to teach students to better note-taking skills and allow them to synthesize what they’ve learned in their own creative way. Students may use any type of notebook as long as they meet the following criteria:

  1. Size – it should be at least A5 or regular sized notebook. Students may choose  to use an A5 binder provided that students will always have notepaper at hand. The notebook should not be attached to other subject’s notebook, (i.e. Cattleya binders, 3-in-1 notebooks, etc.).
  2. Durability – the binding should be sturdy because we will be pasting a lot of materials to the page
  3. Thickness – at least 100 pages.

The “INPUT” page is where all the teacher-driven  information, handouts, lectures and testable information are written or pasted. We will use  a simplified  version of the Cornell Note-taking Method to help students take notes more efficiently.

This is a simple guide to the Cornell Note-taking Method by Writer’s Bloc

The “OUTPUT” page is where the students rearrange information to suit their personal learning styles. Activities for this page may be teacher-prompted or freestyle depending on the topic at hand. We do “OUTPUTS” as a form of lesson summary but we only do it after 4-5 different lessons.

This is a great example of an OUTPUT page made by Sunni Brown.

We keep a unified table of contents for the INS and everyone should have the same material or topic for the same page. I check the notebooks randomly, for this reason the students need to make sure that their notebooks are always updated.The notebooks will be done in class as seatwork and graded based on the following Rubric:

Please check the RESOURCE page for the printable materials we may use per subject and year level.  Some are my design while others are from amazing designers and teachers who share their materials online  through blogs and the TeacherPayTeacher marketplace. I will do my best to attribute and link to the correct sources as much as possible.

Teaching Articles

New School, New Class, New Room

After a two-year hiatus, I’m back in the workforce. While I loved the time I spent focusing on our home, I had to admit that I missed teaching. I missed the grind. This year, I’ll be teaching at my High School Alma Mater. I feel that in a way, I’ll be giving back to a community that I grew up in. This is where I first discovered my talents and now I get to share those talents to a new generation of IPSR students. I’m happy to be back.

We finished our In-service Training a few days before school started and while we had to finish the first quarter course outlines,  I had one more hurdle to tackle: my classroom.


Our community-supported school is non-profit and like most schools, the responsibility of decorating the classroom falls on the teacher’s shoulder (and pocket).  Yes, the school is doing their routine maintenance but my room needs more TLC than most. Thus, my dilemma.

I really believe that a room’s color and decor affects the learner’s mood and drive. I mean, how can I inspire students to think creatively when there’s so much visual clutter to distract them from the task? I knew that I needed to repaint the room, at least. Three days before the school opened, we did just that. By we, I meant me, my husband, his uncle and the school maintenance staff.  This involved coming to school on a weekend just to finalize everything. But it was worth it.


My new classroom isn’t fully decorated yet. But it will be. For now I’m just happy that it’s new paint color is easy on the eyes. It makes me smile each time I enter the room and I know that my students also appreciate the new look. They’re actually quite attached to it now.

Update: Our very kind PTG group covered the cost of painting materials! Thank you, PTG President, Mrs. Inovejas for the support!