Can teachers free our children? (Part 2)

A two part series on Teachers’ Training in Iloilo under the Proof of Concept initiative on the devolution of basic education to  LGUs.

Part II. PS, I will make you read.

A teacher left a letter for Juan and it reads:

Dear  Juan,

Thank you for appreciating what we do for you. I will admit to you that it
is not easy and very frustrating at times.

In many ways, we are loved. But in some ways too, we are blamed for your
failure- to read, to learn and to be your best.

We realize we have to become our best too for you. Don’t worry, we will be
relentless and hardworking in creating miracles toward a better future for you,
for ourselves and for our country. Eventually, you will be free from ignorance,
poverty of learning and knowledge and inequality and inequity.

PS. I will make you read.

Your teacher, Maria

This letter anchored the new learnings and ideas the teachers gained from
the Synergeia training on Reading to become better miracle workers.

The teachers learned that:

A. Reading is about systematic phonics instruction from connecting sounds
with printed letters to the progression of phonics skills of sound recognition
and decoding words to vocabulary building and fluency to comprehension and

B. Teaching reading is about creativity and innovation. The power of stories
and storytelling stirs interest in reading, fosters listening, attention and
participation and boosts imagination.  Reading aloud to children combined
with actors’ voice, timing, expression, and a musician’s rhythm
matters.   “Acting out”  the words and making sound effects
stimulate the desire to read. 

The teachers read “Ang Batang  Bayani”  and  “The Man on the
Moon”  which are  both original stories by Synergeia’s Dr  Nene
Guevara. They also practiced reading three short  stories:  
“The Dark House”, “Si Lola Sima”,  and “The Little Red Hen”.  

C.  Reading is about the development of comprehension, higher-order
thinking, and analytical skills. At the core of this capacity is a teacher’s
ability to know and excel in the Art of Questioning.    The
questions teachers ask children from the stories being read must make children
explain,  describe or discuss and allow them to interpret, demonstrate or
solve.  Children must develop analytical skills by making differentiation, 
comparison or contrast and examination.   They must develop how
to evaluate by defending, arguing, critiquing and judging. 
They have to be motivated to exercise creativity by designing, developing and

D.  Teaching reading can benefit from arts education which can help:

◆    Develop social, emotional and interpersonal skills;

◆    Enrich  a child’s experience;

◆    Develop the ability to handle criticism;

◆    Increase  academic achievement; and

◆    Improve focus.

E. It is important for teachers to regularly monitor the progress of 
learners.  They must conduct pre and post assessment to determine if
learners improve over time.    

F. The use of data and its proper analysis is critical to proper and more
insightful monitoring and assessment.  The value of organizing and
validating data was emphasized.   Teachers must 
make the data simple and easy to understand.   Only
the important data must be included in the assessment and  to
ensure that percentages or ratios are calculated before making

G. The concept of personal well-being and happiness is integral to becoming
good teachers-miracle workers. If teachers take care of themselves, they can
teach better.

H. There is a need to further build capacities toward the implementation of
the so-called 15% solution by making the child whole –  “read, think and
create”.   Reading is important as it  will enable
children to learn other subjects like Science and Mathematics.

The teachers were able to affirm that teaching reading is indeed an art and
a collective pursuit that carries with it a big responsibility and commitment
to keep pushing and overcoming challenges and achieve results.

Can teachers really free our children?

Let us support our teachers and their quest for long-lasting freedom of our
children towards the better quality of life they rightfully deserve.


Can teachers free our children?

A two part series on Teachers’ Training in Iloilo under the Proof of Concept initiative on the devolution of basic education to  LGUs.

Part I. PS I Love You

As the children were leaving school, a teacher found a letter left on her desk. She opened it and felt awed and touched by what she read:

My dear teacher,

Thank you for all that you do for us. You have been so patient and understanding of us. We learn a lot from you everyday. Honestly, you are our idol. May God bless you!

PS. I love you.

Your pupil, Juan

In our society, our teachers are seen as very important people whom parents rely on for their children’s learning and education.

In fact, we celebrate our teachers’ contributions to our country’s education goals and its desired brighter future for this generation and the next.

Teachers are perceived as miracle workers who create a world of wonder where our children are freed from ignorance, poverty of knowledge, inequality and inequity, failures in reading and literacy and a dismal quality of life.

In a training workshop conducted by Synergeia under the Proof of Concept initiative on the devolution of basic education to  LGUs, many teachers from  12  Local Governments of  Iloilo, trooped to the venue with a heart and commitment to enable all grade three students to read well by  the end of  SY 2024-2025. Another miracle in the making?

The teachers expressed that  the concept of “miracle workers” raises some key beliefs and attributes that they will need to have or already have like:

◆ The role of teachers  is  crucial to the success of the school;

◆ Teachers  lay the foundation for learners  to become literate and  good citizens;

◆ Teachers serve  as  role models  to his/her  learners;

◆ Teachers must take care  of themselves – physically, emotionally and spiritually for when they feel good,  they will manifest these to their learners  and  co-teachers;

◆ Teachers must not stop or get tired of learning, of embracing change, of adapting new paradigms, of creating and  innovating;

◆ Teachers must be good actors  and be animated  to catch the attention of  learners;

◆ Teachers must not lose sight  of their mission to improve  the lives  of  children;

◆ Teachers  should share their  best practices  and  always  collaborate;  work as a team and  develop camaraderie;

◆ Teachers must regularly  consult  with parents about their children and find ways to address weaknesses  and harness the talents  of  children;

◆ It is crucial to focus on data  organization  and presentation in  interpreting  learners’ performance and  test  how effective learning interventions are;

◆ There is a need to have a good heart to better understand  learners’ struggles  and  challenges; and

◆ Teaching is an art.

Indeed, teaching children how to read and read well is an art.

In Synergeia’s roadmap for capacity building in reading and teaching reading, there is strong emphasis on the art of teaching sounds and blending, word recognition, of storytelling and other creativity tools, of comprehension and higher order learning, of appreciation of arts, history and culture and developing total personal well-being to perform better as teachers-miracle workers.

Part II. PS, I will make you read.

Training of Principals of Iloilo (Proof of Concept)

(A five part series on the Training of Principals in the Province of Iloilo under the Proof of Concept initiative on the Devolution of Basic Education Towards Better Reading Outcomes to LGUs )

Part 1: Riding on the Journey of Self-awareness

When you see a Principal, what comes to mind?

The Head of a school whose voice demands attention and response. The most powerful and intelligent leader who believes in his power to change situations and people. The penultimate talent whose skills and experiences are above everyone else and therefore possesses the utmost credibility and integrity worthy of the best in its class of school commanders.

So how do you train a Principal without getting a piercing look in the eye, a raised eyebrow or a fierce tone?

Synergeia recently conducted a two day training workshop for 120 school principals from 12  LGUs in the Province of Iloilo, the experimental group for the  Proof of Concept initiative on the  Devolution of Basic Education Towards Better Reading Outcomes to LGUs.

The training activity was aimed at building the capacities of principals to produce  100 per cent of  grade three students as independent readers by the end of school year 2024-2025.  

How did the training go?  In the end, why did the principals smile in gratitude, raise their right thumbs in approval, and pound their hearts in serious dedication and commitment to their mission of developing good readers of their grade three pupils? 

The importance of self-awareness was at the core of gaining acceptance of how the principals viewed their roles, attributes and characters in the jobs that they perform (internal) and how others see them while they do what they are mandated to fulfill (external).

Self-awareness is quite a rare quality. The boldness and courage with which Synergeia filed the spirits and demeanor of the principals to ride on this journey of self-awareness was remarkable. 

And the journey became more exciting because the principals didn’t ask “why” but “what” they can learn to see themselves more clearly. They were unanimous in their belief that no matter how much they have achieved, there is always more to learn. 

In the process, the principals acknowledged that school leadership is a multifaceted and high expectations role that requires them to think, behave and relate as:

A. CEO of a school 

B. Mentor

C. Listener and Consensus Builder

D. Team Lead and Collaborator

E. Role Models

F. Culture builders of learning and achievement

They also recognized that there are challenges confronting them which they must collectively overcome with the help of their local leaders. 

Among them, the principals cited conflicts with parents, protection of teachers from aggression, differences in viewpoints with other school officials and superiors, problems in classroom infrastructure and supplies, constant changing of positions and tedious workload.

But the most compelling one was the set of values and skills that they must adhere to as a guide for their decisions, actions and interactions with others. 

Part II. Rediscovering The Roles Of The Principals

The training was anchored on the outcome of the self-awareness process where the principals rediscovered their roles and how they visualized their transformation as multi-dimensional leaders in their schools. 


The principals identified a CEO as the highest leader in an organization or corporation who oversees everything from its vision to execution to sustainability. 

They pictured the CEO as the guy who:

• Identifies the problems and priorities;

• Establishes systems and defines processes; 

• Sets performance targets or  expected  outcomes;

• Implements programs that will achieve  expected outcomes; and 

• Undertakes the monitoring/assessment/evaluation of  program results  vs  expected outcomes. 

The principals agreed that their role is like that of a CEO who is responsible and accountable for the school’s performance in terms of learning outcomes, stakeholder management and resource generation.

B. As a Mentor

The principals identified a mentor as one who:

• Welcomes and values opinions,  ideas,  advice from other people;

• Trusts and shows appreciation for teachers’  work ;

• Knows, emphasizes and understands concerns of teachers;

• Fosters democracy, objectivity, fairness and equity in decision-making and conflict resolution;

• Focuses on issues without being influenced or pressured by others, including politicians; and 

• Ensures transparency, flexibility and accountability. 

The principals further agreed that as mentors, they must be role models to inspire others and through time, earn their respect and admiration.

C. As Listener and Consensus Builder

Through a case study, the principals were exposed to a potential scenario which raised the questions of how a decision-making process can be more effective through a participatory model characterized by collective listening, insighting and consensus building. 

Specifically, the case study revolved around a situation where a principal employed the School Governing Council or SGC to gather inputs and ideas on how the school could increase its potential to obtain a higher passing rate on the National Achievement Test for its students.

The principals found that while a participatory model helps in developing the values of shared responsibility, accountability and transparency and in strengthening empowerment and involvement of stakeholders, there are some 

disadvantages. These included inefficiency, lack of competency of some stakeholders, and invariably the prevalence of a less solution-oriented discussion. 

Ultimately, the principals agreed that there is good in a more consultative and inclusive process but there is scope for improving how it is done to ensure diversity, equity, transparency and integrity of decision-making. This is most relevant in school programs requiring community support like  the Brigada Eskwela,  school donation drive, and beautification/cleanliness projects.

D. As Team Leader and Collaborator

The concept of team building and collaboration was introduced through creative exercises which resulted in the affirmation of certain truths for the principals, including: a. People have similarities and differences in beliefs, ideas, perspectives and experiences; b. Diversity brings about a different level of quality in the way people think, behave and act which on balance, offers a more thoughtful and provocative alternative to generating community-centric wisdom and building consensus. 

The principals acknowledged that the team-building process, from  Forming,  to Storming,  Norming and Performing, is difficult and challenging. But with courage, determination, open communication and alignment in strategy and objectives, the principals agreed that their role as team builders and collaborators can succeed in creating more productive and high impact initiatives in reading and education. 

E. As Culture Builders of Reading, Learning and Achievement

The principals recognized that as effective school leaders, they help build and shape the culture of their schools in reading, learning and achievement, influence educational outcomes, and impact the lives of students, teachers, staff and communities. 

Culture building is a huge mission that not only rests on the shoulders of principals but on the entire educational ecosystem which needs to work together and support each other.

The principals discussed  various forms  of support from the LSB/LGU,  DepEd, teachers, parents  and community leaders and members, including:

a. LSB 

• school building, classroom

• teaching and learning materials

• salaries  or allowances  of non-teaching personnel 

b. Teachers 

• home visitation;  one to one student tutorials/remediation 

• community outreach – advocacy campaign,  check students’ absenteeism

• conduct of  sessions  with parents 

• create school FB page to showcase  school programs and accomplishments and achievement scores

• weekly meeting of teachers e.g.  LAC sessions

• encourage  parental support and commitment; collaborate with parents 

c. Parents

• parental support e.g.   follow up of lessons  at home; become para-teachers 

• peer to peer learning and parents  mentoring 

• regular meeting with teachers;  build  rapport with teachers 

d. DepEd

• a dedicated room in school to be used as  audio visual room for creative learning 

• additional plantilla position for teachers  in Batad  who will focus on struggling readers 

e. Principals

• presence and visibility in school daily

• classroom monitoring and follow up

• teacher motivation

• participatory model in decision making

• high intellectual and emotional quotient (IQ and EQ) 

• passion for mentoring and belief in teachers’ capacity and efforts 

•role models 

F. As Role Models

To become outstanding role models, the principals were equipped with knowledge about personality development and leadership to boost their self-image and confidence  while they are performing their jobs. 

The principals agreed that combined with competency and professionalism, a remarkable personality imbued with belief and trust in one’s capability and power to make a difference in their schools will boost their potential for higher success in their mission.

 Part III. Learning the Value of Data and Its Use

The principals were asked, which is better – too much data,  lacking data or  no data?  

This question extends to many local chief  executives  who may not appreciate achievement scores  or performance data. 

The development of the principals’ capacity to use, understand, analyze and manage data to design reading and learning programmes is thus a major objective of this training programme.

The concepts of ratios and percentages were introduced to understanding performance data and thus provide a more rational basis for interpretation and analysis and ultimately, better judgment and decision-making. 

Using data on reading performance and percentage and ratio analysis, the principals drew some interpretations, such as, 

• Grade 4 female students  perform better than male students.

• There still are  Grade 6  students  who are struggling readers.

• There are more male struggling readers  than  female. 

• There are more  female  independent readers than male. 

This showed that using the reading scores, the appropriate interventions  and teaching strategies  can  be  designed  to address the reading problem.  For instance,  Grade 6 students  need  remediation  because  there still are  struggling readers.  

The principals agreed that the proper use, analysis and presentation of data is a strategic tool for deriving sound, timely and effective solutions to reading and learning gaps and issues. It will also facilitate community participation and engagement and elevate discussions to a more data-based insighting and ideation on the best options to address problems.

Part IV. Parting Words from the Local Leaders

What sets the Province of Iloilo apart in this noble experiment on the devolution of basic education to LGUs is how their local leaders talk and walk their talk in the continuing quest for improving the future of our children through reading and education.

Governor Toto Defensor relentlessly emphasized the urgency of turning around from this reading and education crisis which essentially is becoming a threat to our national security.

Mayor Jerry Trenas strongly framed education as a process of “forming” beyond “informing” to deepen our understanding of people, of human capital, who need to be developed and capacitated through education as the fundamental drivers of economic and social transformation of our nation.

With these voices inspiring communities to think and act with a deeper sense of commitment and resolve for better education, how can LGUs fail? 

Part V.  Delivering Through Commitment and Action

Motivated and driven by their local leaders’ call for commitment and action, the principals consolidated their individual school work plans  aimed towards achieving the goal  of making every Grade 3 student a reader by the end of SY 2024-2025.

The plans included:

1) Conducting a pre-assessment of  students  to  get a baseline  and know their  weaknesses and  needs  in reading;

2) Meeting with teachers, parents and other stakeholders  including the Mayor and LSB mayors to develop a comprehensive reading plan; 

3) Strategic planning for reading and  learning interventions like remediation, provision of reading materials,  etc ;  

4) Training of teachers  on better  strategies and approaches to improve  reading, peer-to-peer mentoring, sharing of  creative teaching  strategies and principals’ mentoring of teachers;

5) Training of  parents to support  reading lessons at home;

6) Conducting home visitation of struggling readers  and doing one-to-one tutorials;

7) Monitoring progress of  students’  performance through regular classroom observation and monitoring by principals; 

8) Sharing of teachers’  best practices which can be done during  Learning Action Cell  (LAC)  sessions;   

9) Conducting students’ post-assessment;

10) Organizing assessment, analyzing results and preparing evaluation reports;

11) Presenting the  results  to school stakeholders  and the LGU/LSB and providing recognition and incentives  to the highest performing class; and 

12) Planning for the sustainability of the reading program with the support of  LGU/LSB.