Conrado Sotelo, LET Top 2: A call for national transformation through a new breed of teachers

Still waters run deep.

It was the first time that I heard and saw Conrado Sotelo talk before many last Saturday, June 8, when he dropped by to inspire MindGym’s Batch 2 LETers of September 2013. Conrado is the March 2013 Licensure Examination for Teachers’ Top 2 for Secondary Education.

He was a relatively quiet reviewee. When he was with us for the March 2013 LET coaching sessions, he reminded me of the young men during my time (in the 1980s) who sported long hair and had “ligaw tingin” looks (smiling mysteriously while making side glances at their lady target). He was seated at the back very close to one of the comfort rooms. I recall saying to him many times: Quota na ba? and I’d say Mag TOP ka ha Conrad!, to which he always replied “sana nga po” and his usual smile.

March 2013 LET Secondary Top 2 - Conrado Sotelo Speech

Here it is: Conrad’s signature “mystery smile”. Taken while playing icebreakers with co-LETers

His talk last Saturday before MindGym’s LETers was candid, natural, and inspiring. He talked about his extreme online gaming interest, his challenges in moving from a lucrative nursing career to teaching, the perks of being a topnotcher and his desire to help the country through education. He shared some of his winning LET tips as well.

Many of our LEters had to keep him from leaving after his speech as they requested not only for group photos (to let The Law of Attraction take effect) but even solo pictures, pushed their way to get a handshake, rubbed his arm (as one does with statues of saints supposed to have miraculous powers) and asked that their MindGym LETers’ Choice affirmation sheet be autographed by him.

I may not exactly recall everything he said last Saturday but I will definitely remember his last gesture before he ended his talk. He asked permission to pray for the LETers’ success in their September 2013 exams. What a touching gesture for someone who had to stay late with us, instead of rehearsing for his LET oath-taking speech at PRC the following day!

Early this morning, I texted him for a copy of his speech which his batmchmates said inspired many during the event.

He sent us his speech, with this note:

Sir Albert at Coach Alice, gusto ko pong i-share po sa inyo iyong copy po ng speech na binahagi ko po sa nakaraang Oath Taking. Tingin ko po nakatulong iyong pagdalaw ko sa MG last Saturday dahil na inspire po ako noong gabi na iyon. Maraming salamat po muli sa inyo pong support. God bless you more!

What a humble Top 2!

New teachers, read his speech and be challenged to walk the “daang matuwid” for the good of our nation.

Mabuhay Ang Mga Bagong Guro ng Pilipinas

September 2013 LET Secondary Top 2 - Conrado Sotelo SpeechGood afternoon. It is a tremendous privilege and honor to be here speaking to everyone especially to my fellow professional teachers.

For me, the word “professional” evokes childhood memories. I remember when I was in elementary, I would always tell my classmates that I was a professional so you can imagine how annoying I was back then. “Professional kaya ito.

Now before you start thinking that I had some issues as I was growing up, can anyone still remember the movie A Bug’s Life? The mean grasshoppers and how Flik saved the entire ant colony? In the very beginning of the movie, some ants are traveling in a line when a leaf falls down and blocks their path. The ants panic and then Mr. Soil, a head ant in their colony, came and said, “Do not panic, do not panic. We are trained professionals. Now, stay calm.

Image from Pixar-planet

“..do not panic. We are trained professionals. Now, stay calm.” Image from Pixar-planet

That opening scene made a mark to me, that was why in elementary I would always want to be identified as a professional. Strangely, I was a self-proclaimed professional video game player, a professional Filipino card game player also known as “teks”, a professional holen or jolen player and many more. At a young age, I started to desire to be known as a professional, although I did not fully understand what it really meant to be one.

Reflecting upon my weird childhood experience, I can’t help but ask myself, “Did I really understand what it meant to be a professional?” Years of schooling, however, shaped my definition of a professional: It means being adept, competent, and skillful in his or her field of expertise. A professional, in the ideal sense of the word, is a person with a strong commitment to self-development for the benefit of his or her stakeholders. It is about being trustworthy, reliable, and committed.

We have gathered here because we belong to the new batch of professional teachers of the Republic of the Philippines. Congratulations for we made it.

In the official records of PRC we are not just merely professionals. We are in their records as professional teachers. We are professional teachers. We are honored and privileged to be called teachers and we can now be part of something beyond ourselves, something bigger than life.

Teachers influence students, families, communities and nations. A teacher’s influence can even transcend time. A well-known quote by Henry Adams goes,

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.

Although today teaching appears to be an underrated profession, I believe, and I trust that you are with me on this one, that being a teacher is one of the most important leadership positions in society. If I ask you, “Who has influenced your life the most?” I have a strong feeling that teachers are one of them. Why is that so? I think it is because teachers in general change the way we understand ourselves and help shape our worldviews. I am sure that at this very moment, you can think of teachers who, in one way or another, changed your life. In my case, I can still remember my teachers who stirred in me the desire to be a lifelong learner and an educator. I used to be one of the students who would attend classes unmotivated, but I was blessed to have teachers who were patient in keeping me interested in their lessons.

And of course, how can I forget my first teachers? I am forever grateful to them, my parents, for having guided me since time immemorial. I owe them the person I am today.

***

According to a landmark study conducted by researchers from Harvard and Columbia University which was released last year (Chetty, Friedman, & Rockoff, 2011), elementary and middle-school teachers who helped raise their students’ standardized test scores seemed to have a lasting impact on their students’ lives beyond academics, including lower teenage-pregnancy, higher college attendance rate and raising a child’s cumulative income to $50,000. This research implies that a great teacher is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to each year’s students. I know this research was conducted in another country, but nonetheless, this report reveals the enduring effect and value of an excellent teacher.

Here in the Philippines, formal education is highly regarded because of the belief of many that in order to fight poverty; one must send his or her children to school for them to earn college degrees. In a country where poverty is a serious issue, education is viewed as a means by which a person can live decently and securely. While it is true that education will aid a person to get past financial challenges, focusing too much on the financial gains might minimize the significance of an equally important role of education, which is the development of character and civic consciousness. As teachers we can help in developing and sharpening the knowledge and skills of our students so they can be active agents who can contribute significantly to nation building and eventually towards our journey to daang matawid. In order to do that, we need to consult wise elders, seasoned teachers, and books written by great thinkers. Tayo ay papunta pa lamang sila ay pabalik na.

Let me close this speech with some nuggets of wisdom from a reflection about education for human flourishing by Fred Sanders (2010), a leading theologian and teacher who is currently an Associate Professor at Torrey Honors Institute in Biola University:

“There’s no easier job in the world than being a bad teacher. It’s a cinch, with short hours and plenty of long vacations. The pay’s not always great, but as long as your standards are low, and all you’re looking for is an easy job, I recommend being a really rotten teacher. Be really awful. Cobble together some industry-standard lesson plans and re-run them every year; grade superficially and with an emphasis on numbers; kick back and watch the seasons change as the sea of young faces before you renews itself year after year.

“But as soon as you decide to be a pretty good teacher, you’ve let yourself in for a world of trouble. If that stack of papers needs thoughtful grading and a quick turn-around, you’re in for long hours of intense focus. If you have to re-think every sentence to make sure it connects with this particular group of students, you’re in for a high-energy workout. And if you decide to try for excellence, to really make a difference for your students, then you’ve moved to The Other Side of teaching, and you find that there are few jobs harder than being a good teacher. It’s not just that you’ll have to put in a lot of hours. It’s that you’ll have to think.

“The really hard part about teaching is the thinking. Because if you want to help people as an educator, you have to know what people are for, why they exist, what it would mean for them to be fulfilled, and what Good their existence is ordered toward. Suddenly, you are up to your chin in the most important philosophical questions that can ever be asked. (Sanders, 2010)”


So my fellow teachers, seizing the role of a teacher with energy, determination and even excitement, let us expect nothing less than transformation. Maraming salamat po at mabuhay ang mga bagong guro ng bansang Pilipinas!

References:

Conrad at MindGym Victory Party for March 2013 LET Topnotchers and Passers

Conrad at MindGym Victory Party for March 2013 LET Topnotchers and Passers

Now, I am convinced by Conrad that sometimes people who say little have very profound thoughts and can move much when they talk with their hearts.

About Mo/am Alice

As Education Administrator/Director of MindGym, she tackles the center’s day-to-day affairs and gives its learners the warmth, care, and support that only the “heart” could afford to deliver. As one of the main coaches for MindGym’s Intensive Coaching for LET, she infuses practical lessons not only for LET success but for life as a teacher. She vows to be a lifelong learner. Follow her on Twitter.

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3 Responses to Conrado Sotelo, LET Top 2: A call for national transformation through a new breed of teachers

  1. ELYN GULANDRINA 2013/06/13 at 12:31 pm #

    hi po, ask ko lang po kung may schedule po ba kau ng LET review every monday po. schedule of my exam will be on sept.2013

  2. ralph 2013/09/03 at 6:36 pm #

    a “salute” from ralph to sir conrad.