7 Things I learned After 5 Years of Teaching

After teaching in college for more than 5 years, I can summarize the lessons I’ve learned. I realized that the lessons can only be ‘learned’ through experience.

  1. Teaching is complicated.

They say teaching is a profession that creates all other professions. Her students may become future scientists, engineers, lawyers, CEO’s even terrorists or politicians. That’s why the skillset required for somebody to become a teacher is complex.


A teacher must be intelligent. She must have a mastery of her specialization. However, an intelligent teacher doesn’t necessarily equate to a good teacher. It complicates things because I met and even sat on classes whose teachers are intelligent yet the class hates them very much. It reflects in the evaluation and the outcome of the class (high mortality rate, students drop when he’s the teacher etc.) Interestingly, they have thick CV’s with outstanding academic and even industry qualifications.


And I experienced that. In my first year of teaching, the mortality rate is high, with a passing of 30-40% in my subjects. Students were failing and I didn’t adjust. I realized I was wrong. There’s something wrong with how I handled the class.


I realized it’s not only important that you are intelligent about your topic. You need to make sure that students understand and appreciate the topic you are teaching. And that’s the most difficult part.


I adjusted. There should be games, activities, debate, film viewing. I needed to improve on my voice, visual aids. I put more pictures and less text in the slides. I created handouts and I created my own lab exercises. Later, I got more and more students who pass the course and at the same time, enjoyed the subject. Some even shifted to security, which happens to be my specialization. It’s a fulfilling feeling to see these changes.


  1. Teaching requires a lot of patience.

Professor Leonida Africa, the school’s in-house teaching formator, emphasized in her seminar with the newbie teachers that students’ appreciation of the lessons take time. Sometimes, the appreciation of what you have taught will only be realized years after graduation- at work or even when the student has already his own family.


I remember I was easily distracted by the students who were not paying attention during the discussion- chatting, looking at the windows, using the computer etc. Then, I was disappointed when they failed the exam and claimed that the lessons were not explained properly. But you vividly remembered that you discussed it and they were not listening attentively.


I realized after that I did the same thing they did back when I was a student. I realized that as I prepare the so-much-effort-handouts that the students will just lose after a week, the students have their own challenges as well. They have other subjects to attend to other than your course. They have deadlines and deliverables too. They have personal or even financial problems to attend to.


The teacher must understand that. Years later, I think my patience was already on the borderline of numbness. Kidding aside, explaining things again and giving extra time to help a student out are normal activities that I do now.


  1. Teaching doesn’t end after the paid hours.

This is true especially for part-timers like me. Part-timers are only paid per hour of class time. So, let’s say you have a 4-hour class in a week, then you are paid for 4 hours. The time you spend to prepare for your lesson is not paid. The time you spend to check the test papers is not paid. The time that students spend for consultation about the course is not paid.


But I’m not throwing this against the school or students. To say the least, there are things that money cannot buy. Money cannot buy the love and passion for teaching. I’m not even sure how the school can quantify its value fairly. 😊


I’m not singling out part-timers. Full-timers experience it too. Especially when teachers entertain and answer students during the weekends or in the middle of the night when the deadline of the project is on the next day. And so much more.


I must emphasize the time because I work full time in the industry. Normally, we are paid during work hours only and we don’t (and are not allowed to) work afterwards unless there is an OT pay.


  1. Teachers don’t discriminate based on grades.

Similar to my realization # 1, it is the duty of the teacher to ensure that the student understands the lesson. Teachers should not be contented if somebody gets a perfect score in the exam if there are some who failed it miserably. You should investigate further and determine why they failed and what help you can provide.


One essential realization about this was given to me by my immediate superior and Dean, Ms. Rhea Valbuena in one of our casual talks. I was amazed and challenged at the same time with what she said. She said (non-verbatim) that there’s not much problem with teaching “A” (top) students. Whether or not the teacher teaches, the “A” student will remain an “A” student. A great teacher can transform a “C” student to an “A” student.


From then on, I paid attention to those who might need me more. I checked on those who were frequently absent or tardy and talked to them. Those who were consistently getting low grades in the exercises were given more reinforcements- additional readings and seat works to catch up. I adapted the learning log system that I learned from my teachers in the graduate school, Mr. Jerald De La Rosa and Mr. Josefiel Javier where they can write their experience, insights and challenges in the course. Later, we can both track the progress.


  1. Teachers are adaptable to the culture and environment.

In relation again with realization #1, one of the complexities of being a teacher is being adaptable to the culture and environment. For instance, the shift from teaching a senior class to a freshmen class is not easy. There are concepts that you expect they know but they innocently do not. Freshmen classes are relatively noisier and careless. So, you must adapt.


It will also be different when you handle a class with mixed irregular students from different years. It will also be different if you are teaching the same course with students taking it the second or third time around.


I experienced teaching a class that I usually handle but the students were full time employees. Some were advanced while some were catching up. The most challenging part was that everybody was older than me.


  1. Teachers are like parents.

To act like a parent is a huge responsibility. Aside from teaching your students, you must support, take care and at times scold and get angry with them too. Students are like your children. Whatever happens to them will reflect on the type of “parenting” you did.


I was proud when I saw some of my former students in the Coca-Cola office elevator one time. They were my colleagues already in the industry!


  1. Teaching is not for everybody.

Well, after reading the first 6 realizations, I think we can agree that teaching is not for everybody. Again, teaching not only requires the mastery of the subject. The extra effort and time needed are demanding. Lastly, as the saying goes, “Teaching is about the outcome, not the income.” The previous statement cannot be any truer.



Join the Conversation


  1. I know that I was not one of your best student Sir, failing my OPESYS back in 2014, but I wish you could have stayed, I have wasted so much time prioritizing unimportant things in my life. Now that the time has come that I want to take the COMSEC track under your tutelage, you are now gone, thank you for being my Professor in two of subjects. I hope life fairs well for you Sir. the last time I spoke to you was in a symposium speaker about social jackers – J. O. / J. C.

  2. Thank you, Sir Justin for this wonderful sharing of your learning experiences. As I was reading through it, I had some flashbacks in my mind…these will serve as an inspiration to be better each time I face a new class, be more compassionate and understanding of my students. I wish you well in all your undertakings and hope that we can have you back in the academe soon! All the best and God bless you!

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