Personal Column: Driven to Succeed


Iyra Sembrano, Staff Writer

Iyra Sembrano, Staff Writer
Iyra Sembrano, Staff Writer

Loneliness and isolation can make a man give up or put up a fight. It is not easy for a human being to leave their normal life, for they will need time to grow and be accepted by their new environment. Just five years ago, the rollercoaster of life was treating me fairly well, until it encountered a loop that I almost did not survive.

I was a foreign individual thrown into a completely different environment who had to adapt to the changes in a blink, and I’d have to say that it took me some time to fully understand the “American” ways. I still remember it vividly, the first day of school started, and I attended my first “American” math class. As soon as the bell rang, my first “American” math teacher gave us a bell ringer that consisted of solving some basic algebra problems. Through the eyes of a foreign individual, I saw the difference between the American student’s level of math and eagerness to learn as compared to a student from a third world country. That was the first time when I realized that American students did not value education as much as we did back home. While I was going through a breeze in answering my math problems, I looked around, and not one student even attempted to “solve for x”. It seemed so unusual to me that it was just the first day of school, and the Americans were so out of it already. I was the only one who received a “100” that day, and I was pretty impressed with myself. I never received a grade lower than a 90 during that year, and I finished the year strong with the highest average in my math class.

It was then that I also realized that the typical American student was so behind with their level of math as compared to our level of math in the Philippines. At first, I could not tell why it was like that. Was it because I went to a private school back home and now I’m going to an American public school? Or was it really because of the student’s motivation to learn math?

Over the years, I finally figured out that it was really the American student’s motivation to learn math, which explained why they weren’t improving in their mathematical skills. Coming from a third world country, the American public education system is quite impressive in my opinion; everything is provided for, and all you have to do is go to school and receive an education to better your future. Back home, it was different for the public school students, my mother, who’s also a teacher told me otherwise as she also observed the quality of education here. She would tell me stories of how her students back home really wanted to go to school, but they couldn’t because they didn’t have enough money for transportation, or clothes to wear, or even food for them to last the day. It somehow saddened me that the Americans were taking all of this for granted. I sometimes found myself filled with disgust and anger because the individuals from back home would have taken advantage of these opportunities given to them.

And without a doubt, the reason why Filipinos excel in other countries is their eagerness to learn, to accept their mistakes, and to try again. Everything is spoon-fed, and the Americans still do not want to open their mouths.

With regards to this matter, is the provision of calculators for every math class, yet these students still do not have the basic skills to use such an “advanced” calculator. In the Philippines, we never used calculators, ever. We were all asked to solve our equations by hand on our papers and so did our teachers on the whiteboard. There were no excuses.

Sometimes, I really regret why I didn’t focus as much on my math classes when I was still there. I wish I could go back, and solve those extra problems I didn’t do because I was too lazy. Anything can be solved without a calculator, and it even makes everything more accurate if you solve your math problems by hand because then you could go back and trace your mistakes if your calculation was wrong. However, I’d also have to admit that I have grown overly dependent on my calculator to solve my problems because it makes everything a lot easier.

All my years of schooling never made me feel like a failure because I always excelled in my classes. Failing one quiz did not tell me to quit, but it pushed me to keep trying until I found the right answer. I tend to focus on the bigger picture, on how these skills learned will apply in the future someday. I do not have the mindset of someone who feels like a failure because they failed to try. I am determined to receive good grades, and graduate at the top of my class. I did not take anything given to me for granted, but instead used them to further my education.