I was recently catching up with a friend over dinner.
She got excited when she found out that I was working for a start-up social enterprise.
“Teach for the Philippines! Wow. What’s a normal day like for you?” she asked.
My answer was anticlimactic: answering emails, writing documents, and sitting in meetings with officials.
“That sounds like my office job,” she said with a frown. I laughed and shrugged off her comment.
Acquaintances have always held the idea that my job involved two things: teaching in a classroom or coming up with ideas in a cushy bean bag. In truth, the closest thing I have come to teaching was when I substituted for a Fellow for 5 minutes to illustrate fact and fiction. Another truth: There are no cushy bean bags in our office, though we do share a comfortable couch.
I’m part of the Teach for the Philippines home team. We run a range of office operations – from finance to external relations to strategy. I’m behind the scenes, making sure that process and paperwork are in order. When our Fellows are affecting lives in classrooms, I’m in government offices, collaborating with our partners. When they are treating kids to field trips, I’m taking a team to City Council hearings for our official approval. When they are checking test papers, I’m examining legal documents.
Like our teachers in the classroom, I have taken on my task as a steep learning curve. In less than two years, I have sifted through countless laws, legal documents, and policies to better understand the role that we could play in education. I have engaged public servants twice my age, asking how we could work together. I have made judgments calls for the organization’s long-term direction, always uncertain but determined to create public good.
Being the same age as the Fellows, I’m often asked, “Why don’t you teach instead?” It’s an obvious question. The tangibles are more apparent, the impacts seem more direct.
I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but the office work stimulates me. I have never been under so much pressure. It’s a job that keeps me on permanent tip toes. Every challenge seems insurmountable – until the next one comes along. Through it all, good work still gets done. After a long week, my colleagues and I eat together to breathe a little.
To my friend’s disappointment, my job does sound a lot like hers.
But some days, I go out on the field to our classrooms. Last week, I was at Kapitbahayan Elementary School in Navotas.
I was sitting at the back of the class, as Teacher Kevin read an interactive story book to his students. He asked a question to check if they understood the story. A flurry of hands sprang up; an excited chorus of “Teacher, teacher, teacher!” rang around the room.
What’s a normal day like for me?
It’s probably like any office job. But I’m always inspired by the work that our teachers do.
Jake Rivera graduated from UP Diliman in 2012 with a degree in Broadcast Communication. On days when he’s not managing Government Relations, you can find him puttering in the kitchen cooking the few key staples he’s mastered over the few months of living on his own. Spot Jake in the picture!