(2 of 3)
As with most immigrant workers, the financial incentive looms large for Filipino teachers who opt for the U.S. According to Ligaya Avenida, AIC's founder, a Filipino teacher earns from $9,000 to $12,000 a year. In Baltimore the average Filipino recruit makes $45,000 a year. Many Filipino teachers seeking to practice their craft in the U.S. shell out as much as $10,000 to recruiting agencies like AIC to secure interviews with American administrators and receive help with visas and other immigration documents. With some agencies, however, the teachers don't always get what they pay for. In fact, last year school officials in Texas, along with recruiters from a local agency, were charged with bilking Filipino hopefuls of cash and failing to find them jobs.
Still, Filipino teachers continue to clamor for positions in the U.S., and they're attractive candidates: they're highly educated--many have advanced degrees--they have tons of classroom experience and most are fluent in English. "We mainly had to make sure their English was intelligible to our kids," says Duque. "So I'd ask them about their favorite movie or their favorite actor. I tried to give them questions they didn't expect." In the end, Duque hired 109 new teachers.
But coming to the U.S. can be a culture shock for people who have worked in countries where educators are accorded great respect. Despite their country's poverty, teachers in the Philippines seldom have to deal with the discipline problems that plague many inner-city public schools in the U.S. In the Philippines students are ritually deferential to teachers and stand to address them. U.S. school districts try to smooth the transition. Tasha Franklin, director of training and teacher development for Baltimore's teaching residency program, led a four-hour workshop in October for the teachers Duque had hired in Manila.
After putting them at ease with softball questions about what inspired them to teach and how they responded to challenges, she asked them how classes in Baltimore compared with ones the teachers had had in the Philippines. Franklin, like most of Baltimore's students, is black, and the Filipino teachers were hesitant to respond at first, fearing they might offend her. "Back home it's so different. It's all obedience and respect," said one. "Here the students are, um, very direct, very bold." Franklin nodded but pushed for more. "Please don't be polite," she urged. Shyly at first but then with increasing frankness, the teachers spoke up:
"They get free lunches, and yet you hear them complain that they don't get anything from the government. In our country poverty means nothing--no food, nothing."
After calmly recording each observation on a blackboard, Franklin turned to her audience. "Being an urban teacher is a lot like being a cardiologist or a dermatologist," she explained. "You may be a doctor, but that doesn't mean you know the heart, or the skin as an organ. It's the same thing with the urban teacher. You have a set of skills that make you a good teacher. But here you need a new set of skills."