By Marivir R. Montebon
New York – Less is more.
A Filipino teacher in the Big Apple, Ronie Mataquel, encouraged fellow teachers to provide essential, meaningful assignments to their students at this time of the pandemic. “Less is more,” he said at the Women’s World digital conversation aired Sundays for the past 24 weeks of the pandemic that hit the US.
Mataquel teaches Math at the John Bowne High School in Flushing and is also an adjunct professor for the City University of New York. He is a co-founder and past president of a nationwide organization of Filipino American teachers, UNIFFIED.
He said it may not be wise to give so many assignments to students who are home-schooling rather than creative, more useful tools for learning. “I recall that I did not remember everything in school. Only the essential knowledge was remembered and became useful,” he said during a September episode of the Women’s World.
“As long as students are eager to learn and pass the class, that is what matters. You cannot define students by their grades in class,” he quipped. In his current classes, Mataquel observed that students were doing ‘slightly better’ with remote learning, which surprised him. He thought that teacher motivation and meaningful content matter.
Mataquel teaches remedial classes to students in order for them to pass the college entrance test in NYC. He has gained respect and numerous awards on that field, with all students under his wing having passing marks.
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio reopened the schools in the last week of October 2020, despite the resurgence of COVID19 cases in some parts of the city, including Flushing.
Like all teachers, Mataquel expressed concern with the reopening of schools. Facing the students is the scary part, he said, despite the maximum limit of 25 students per class. “Exposure to covid is highly possible despite the lessened number of students because you don’t know where the students are coming from.”
Mataquel teaches 5 subjects a day, spending 45 minutes per subject. Mondays and Wednesdays are ‘blended’ days, meaning some students are in class while the rest are online. For the rest of the week, all students are fully online.
Seventy-two percent of parents in the city prefer their children to go back to school, a city survey revealed. Mataquel opined that this was because parents needed to go out to work. “No one cooks for the children in the morning. The kids are given money and they buy food at school,” explained Mataquel who is also a parent to two teenage girls.
Mataquel said that teaching from home has its own challenges too. He and his wife are both teachers who must work from home while parenting their five-year-old who is doing online schooling as well.
“I just think that these days, we need to be more considerate with our students,” he told Women’s World hosts Merly Barlaan, Arceli Hernando, and this writer. # (Featured photo is Mr. Ronie Mataquel during his interview with Women’s World)