During RC's Final Examination - 19 October 2009

Room 303: My First Sharpening Room

It was 19 July 2009 when I finally met my first love, first class at the Sharpening Room. The thought of sitting on what I consider a cathedra in the academe excited me but when I was nearing the door of Room 303 that very day, I became overwrought. I was bombarded with butterflies in my stomach. Howbeit, the moment I sat on my cathedra and looked at the faces of the students in that Sharpening Room, I felt like the Aura gave me the plenipotentiary license to be in charge. Then when I began talking, every atom of the butterflies disappeared. I used every corner of the platform and the classroom as I was delivering the overview of the  course. Seeing the students’ eyes following my every move made me more confident. It must be the roaring voice or my tiger look that got them well behaved. I don’t really know, but I want to believe there’s something–which I prefer to call power for now–that made them act accordingly on that first day until the last day of the semester. Whatever that is, I’m glad I have it. Succumbing to the philomath in me will probably help me a lot on this.

My first class at Room 303 was an attestation that it is not bad to employ unorthodox methods of teaching. Disregarding the precepts on how to review the students for the Civil Service Stenographer Exam (CSSE) started the journey towards the road that was never trekked by the hoary mentors of CSSE in that university. I chose to do it my way knowing that implementing the old ways, so to say, will mean losing the interest of the students.

Refresher Course (RC) is a six-hour subject where stenography, through a series of dictations, and speed building activities, with the use of a typewriter, are its major concerns. I am definitely against the monotonous routine. To date, RC still tops the list of the most boring subjects in our school so I was determined to change that.

Picture this: Dictation is done by of course dictating templates of memorandum and other kinds of business correspondence that usually start with either Dear Mr. Juan Dela Cruz or Dear Ms. Tapia. And, it couldn’t be more pestering if the dictator sounds like a howling cat.

The materials for typing exercises should be taken as well from obsolete books which follow the old classic pangram: The quick brown fox jumped over a lazy dog.

Doing these activities every meeting for six hours will probably consume their fingers, irritate their ears, and break their backbones.

Those are only two of the immemorial ways of delivering the tasks. Therefore, as I said, I chose to walk on the road that was never traveled before. The articles I used for my dictation and speed building exercises were all taken from books, magazines, blogs, etc. I also gave more emphasis to sharpening the blades of their English bailiwicks by covering different usages of Punctuation Marks and Spelling Rules (Most Commonly Misspelled Words, British and American Spelling, Common Causes of Misspelling, Commonly Confused Words, and Spelling Tips), Proper Pronunciation, and Common and Fatal Grammar Mistakes of Students Today (e.g. advices, to showed, i am, philippines, masteral, cope up, my favorite tv shows is, and their so annoying) that affects directly their Shorthand Transcriptions as I had observed and recorded.

As a stenographer, I firmly believe that knowledge of the English Language is most vital in passing the CSSE. Learning how to improve speed in typing is just secondary. Speed is acquired through constant practice even at home. The rationale: Improving speed in typing is like texting; doing it more often awards mastery of the keys and speed. Although there is Tagalog Steno, the English Stenography is what’s the Civil Service Commission uses in the conduct of the exam. Hence, I concentrated more on teaching them topics essential to stenography. Out of the six hours of every session, I only allocated two hours for Dictation and Speed Building. The alternatives:

1. I required each student to type 15-20 pages of what we call “articles” for speed building and mastering the keys.

2. For stenography, I challenged them to copy the lyrics of whatever unfamiliar songs they may hear on the radio by way of stenography. I also demanded that all the words typed on the 15-20 pages of articles be wrapped with shorthand writing.

The most enjoyable day of my stay in the Sharpening Room was when my students dramatized every lesson and other activities we had ranging from specific topics to the way I frown and sit. Who would have thought that dramatization can be utilized in Refresher Course. That was also anticipative for me because it was the time I witnessed the fun of applying this teaching method in vogue today: The Learner-Centered Paradigm. Dramatization is only one of the ways to apply the method, but in RC, that’s the most effective and fun way, if not the only way, to optimize it. This kind of activity gives a hundred percent participation of the students as they bring out their creativity and for knowing whether or not they remembered the tips and lessons given to them.

Thanks to the Aura up there because I succeeded in my mission to produce successful examinees since then.

My most notable achievement from this endeavor was being the mentor of the school’s top-notcher of the said exam that year. It is actually more than enough because the truth is, I only aimed for one successful examinee yet I got more than than what I’ve asked for–with a top-notcher in it.

My first set of “pencils” in that Sharpening Room taught me the most important lessons so far in my teaching career: to have faith in what I can do and that every student’s wish is to matter inside the classroom. The latter prodded me to keep an eye on favoritism and continue utilizing the learner-centered paradigm as an essential ingredient of my RC syllabus to stabilize the interest of the students.

-Sequel to “My NZT-48 Story