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Ask the Filmmaker and Teachers

Filmmaker Ramona Diaz and the teachers from The Learning talked to viewers about the documentary in a live chat on September 22, 2011.



POV: We are excited to have filmmaker Ramona Diaz and some of the teachers joining us for a live chat at 5 PM ET today. Please feel free to enter your questions in the chat window and we will put them in the queue for this evening's chat.

POV: Hello everyone! We are going to be starting in a few minutes

POV: First here are a few comments from our viewers:

Comment From Robert
I enjoyed "The Learning" very much. Ramona Diaz did a great job of allowing us to see a snapshot of these women's lives, challenges and tribulations. I really liked the women in the film and their resilient and friendly personalities and commend them on their determination and perseverance in doing their jobs to the best of their abilities.

Comment From NY Pnoy (via POV website)
Any education accomplished by any teacher (American or Filipina) have to be considered a miracle. I admire anyone who decide to enter the teaching profession and I do not blame any teacher who decide to leave the profession. Kudos to the Filipina teachers for staying.

POV: So I think we are going to start now

POV: We want to welcome the teachers from the film!

dorotea godinez: hi

Angel Alim-Flores: Hello everyone.

Ramona Diaz: Hello!

rhea: Hello!

Comment From Pablo
Ramona, are there unique challenges to filming in the Philippines? I'm hoping you can speak to some of them.

Ramona Diaz: I'm used to filming in the Phils so there were no great challenges for me. The local crew are great and very talented. But just be sure you know what light you'll need and all that.

Ramona Diaz: Some of the equipment you might need might not be available. But otherwise I love shooting in the country.

Comment From Josh
What was the biggest surprise you had in making the film?

Ramona Diaz: The greatest surprise was that I was given so much access to the teachers and the schools - so that's a good surprise. I was also very heartened with the people who…

Ramona Diaz: work in the pubic school system in B'more. You hear so many negative things about public school systems in this country but I met some of the most wonderful people…

POV: We would also like to welcome Grace who just arrived!

Grace Gonzales-Amper: hello

Ramona Diaz: who are working on the ground and making things "work."

POV: On that same vein:

Comment From Josh
For the teachers: what was your biggest surprise in your first year of teaching in the U.S.?

rhea: The biggest surprise was seeing the children having so much freedom in expressing themselves..positively or negatively.

rhea: This is so much different from the kind of students that we have in the Philippines. They would speak politely and carefully, being so scared of the teacher's look.

Grace Gonzales-Amper: The biggest surprise for me was with regards to the culture. That was the first time I encountered students who really voiced out their opinions even if they offend someone…

Grace Gonzales-Amper: I see students hugging in the halls and sometimes kissing.That was a shock to me.

Angel Alim-Flores: my biggest surprise was the way they treat the teachers...and their lack of basic Math skills in the 7th & 8th grade level...I was able to use the same teaching materials that I actually used for the 5th graders in the Philippines.

dorotea godinez: my biggest surprise was inspite of the students' misbehavior, they apologize for doing so.

Comment From Finn
For the teachers: what are you up to now? do you still teach in baltimore?

dorotea godinez: i am still teaching at Renaissance Academy. This year is my 6th year in this school.

rhea: I am still teaching in Baltimore City. I'm in a different school now....a school that I so love. I'm a reading intervention teacher now. There is a video update about me at POV. org.

POV: The teachers have provided updates on what's happened in their lives since the camera's stopped rolling. You can watch the videos after this chat concludes at http://www.pbs.org/pov/learning/film_update.php

http://www.pbs.org/pov/learning/film_update.phpRamona Diaz: The most amazing thing about the teachers is that they are still teaching in the public school systems and have not given up on the students! They've also formed bonds with the students that otherwise would not have been possible had they left the first year.

POV: We have a question from Keisha:

Comment From Keisha
Has this film been screened in the Philippines? How has being a part of the this documentary/seeing it with friends and family affected this experience for the teachers?

Angel Alim-Flores: I am still teaching in the US...unfortunately, I just accepted an offer in Philadelphia PA.there is no certainty with Baltimore City if they will sponsor us for permanent residency.I don't want to leave Baltimore but I also have to think of our future especially my family…

Grace Gonzales-Amper: I'm still in Baltimore, teaching at the same school. My son, Gaddiel, is with me as well as my husband. I also gave birth to another boy named Gavriel Josiah three years ago.

Ramona Diaz: No the film has not screened in the Phils yet. It will mid-2012, as part of a festival. Log on to cinediaz.com for updates. Thanks!

Angel Alim-Flores: I have worked in BCPSS for five years, and up until now, I don’t see any clarity with my status. In the meeting with the International Teachers yesterday, Dr. Alonzo made it clear that BCPSS will only sponsor teachers who fall under critical areas. Times have changed, my subject area used to be under the critical area, but now, it’s left hanging in the air. The result of the Market Study, which will be determined in six months, will dictate which teachers will be sponsored by the district

POV: Since you talked about visas, Angel:

Comment From Gabriel
Really fantastic film, Ramona. And thanks to POV for broadcasting it. I'm curious to know if any of the teachers have been affected by what went on with the Prince George's County controversy. Are your visas being threatened?

dorotea godinez: from my own point of view, I will just leave it to the LORD...Thy will be done!

Ramona Diaz: Or Dr. Alonso too.

Comment From Eric
Amen, and I'll be praying for you all

rhea: BCPSS is doing its best in working on immigration matters. Dr. Alonso has committed to sponsoring us. The only thing is...it is up to the Labor Department to determine criteria. Whatever it is, it is out of BCPSS' control. I guess, we just have to save money to prepare for hard times.

Grace Gonzales-Amper: Yes, we are affected in one way or another, by what happened in PG. We are now uncertain if we will be able to hold on to our jobs here…

Ramona Diaz: It will be a shame if BCPSS looses these teachers. I hope DOL sees that.

Grace Gonzales-Amper: But, based on our meeting yesterday, I believe the district is doing the best they can to retain the international teachers. Alonso said we are not Prince George's.

POV: So now we have a question for Ramona about the making of the film:

Comment From Jess
Ramona- how did you find this story? what's your relationship to the teachers?

Ramona Diaz: I read a story about BCPSS (B'more Pubic School System)recruiting Filipino teachers in the Baltimore Sun. I found it so odd. I had heard about nurses, but teachers?…

Ramona Diaz: So I called the reporter and one thing led to another. I was sure there was a story there. As far as my relationship to the teachers, I've been in their lives for six years…

Ramona Diaz: now and they SOMETIMES still return my calls, so I think it's okay. But I'll let them reply to that too.

rhea: It was not hard to be comfortable around Ramona. She was known as the maker of the docu film Imelda...and she was right there with us! She has become a friend :)

Ramona Diaz: Aawww Rhea!

POV: In reference to your previous question you can read more about what's happening with Filipino teachers in Prince George's County on our blog: http://www.pbs.org/pov/blog/2011/09/the-learning-katrina-abarcar-katarungan.php

Grace Gonzales-Amper: I completely agree.

dorotea godinez: sipsip rhea

Ramona Diaz: This is out of control! Thanks everyone.

POV: Since we were talking about your inspiration Ramona:

Comment From Anne
Ramona, I read you're making a film about Journey! This is such a different subject matter. What inspires you when you go to make a doc?

Ramona Diaz: I follow stories that I think are interesting. With Journey - how can you go wrong - Filipino fronting an iconic American band. Something has to happen, right? And again they gave me permission so film, access is key. I had to to do it or I'll forever regret it.

POV: So we are getting a lot of questions for our teachers now:

Comment From Xin
I love the scene where Angel is performing a Filipino dance with her students. Have you all found other opportunities for cross-cultural exchange with your students?

Ramona Diaz: I'm not sure they still do it but when I was filming them, Angel esp, used to greet her students every morning with "magandang umaga" which means good morning in Tagalog.

rhea: I taught my Kindergarten students a Filipino Christmas Song "Pasko na Naman" (It's Christmas Again). They sang it during our school winter program. Everyone was amazed listening to 4-5 year olds singing a totally different song!

Grace Gonzales-Amper: Yes we did. We teach them some Filipino words and we started a Filipino club in our school. At the end of each school year, the Filipino teachers in my school pool some money to serve Filipino food to the teachers.

dorotea godinez: i taught my advisory class Filipino songs like "Pinoy Ako" and of course with a dancing choreo and some Filipino words as well like Magandang Umaga, mabait, maganda, etc.

Angel Alim-Flores: Thanks Xin. American students are very interested to learn Filipino dance,Filipino language and taste Filipino food..

Ramona Diaz: It was so great to hear the students try to tackle the songs. Great and funny too.

POV: So along the lines of culture clash:

Comment From Lynn
I would like to ask the teachers who decided to move permanently to Baltimore: What do you want for your family in America, and what do you think they will miss out on from the Phillipines?

Comment From Kathy
Did you all feel that you were adequately trained/prepared for the schools that you were placed in in the US? Do you have suggestions for how things could be improved in the school systems, both here and in the Philippines?

Grace Gonzales-Amper: We were briefed on the culture and we were told to read about Baltimore…

rhea: We had a Summer Institute for new teachers before we started teaching. We also had lots of preparations in the Phil. Looking back, my first year went smoothly and great...that means, I was prepared.

Angel Alim-Flores: BCPSS tried their best to train and prepare us for the big battle in the classroom...but again, theories may or may not work in the actual classroom.

Grace Gonzales-Amper: I was prepared academically so i think, over all, I was prepared.

dorotea godinez: being adequately trained/prepared or not is not a question but it is how "we" or "me" as a neophyte deal with the strange situation.

Angel Alim-Flores: It was tough especially in the middle school, I already experienced teaching in 4 different middle schools in Baltimore but it's the same problem...students who are unprepared,unmotivated…

rhea: When I moved here, I wanted to have excellent health care for me and my family. I also wanted my son to have a great education, and a convenient life.

Grace Gonzales-Amper: My family wants to stay here because life is easy here. We will miss our relatives, my mother, and my husband misses his mom too. He's a Mama's favorite.

Comment From Eric
Thank you all for the encouragement you have for sure have shown many

Comment From Patti Kluck Anderson (FB)
Amazing strong women. So devoted to every aspect in their lives.

Grace Gonzales-Amper: thank you.

Angel Alim-Flores: I would love for my parents and siblings to be here in the US but it's hard for them to get a visa…

dorotea godinez: I want my sons to get a job and save money for their future. They will miss their relatives and friends.

POV: So we only have a few minutes left with Ramona and teachers and it seems a lot of viewers want to know:

POV: For the teachers: what is the most enjoyable part of teaching in the U.S.?

POV: And for Ramona: what was the most enjoyable part of making this film?

Ramona Diaz: The most enjoyable part of making the film was that I got to know these four women. The Learning is really a homage to all the Overseas Filipino Workers who work all over the world to give their families better lives back home. I wanted to tell their story. In the process, I got to know them and understand where their courage and determination emanate from. They're immensely inspiring women.

Grace Gonzales-Amper: What I really enjoy about teaching is it's my chance to share what I've learned, all the rigor in Math, to students outside my culture. I just enjoy teaching Math. I also get to broaden my horizon and be more open-minded to the opinions of my students…

Grace Gonzales-Amper: a

Angel Alim-Flores: The most enjoyable part of my teaching here in the US is that I have a chance every day to touch at least 1 student's life. I am blessed to have this opportunity to teach them Math and also touch their heart.It is my prayer to inspire them & encourage them to reach their goals & dreams.

Grace Gonzales-Amper: and to learn from my colleagues.

rhea: I would like to focus more on what is fulfilling rather than enjoyable, because most of the time, teaching is more challenging than enjoyable. I am so fulfilled whenever I move up the reading levels of my students, specially those who seemed very academically challenged at the beginning of the school year.

Angel Alim-Flores: I love that every day my students are learning from me and I am also learning from them.

Grace Gonzales-Amper: When students appreciate me for what I do for them, that gives me joy.

dorotea godinez: when my students to some extent confide with me their personal problems and in return I encourage and give them advice is enjoyable. This means a lot to me because they allow me to be part of their lives.

rhea: When I hear the little ones say my last name correctly, it's enjoyable!

POV: We want to thank all of you for being here with us this evening!

Grace Gonzales-Amper: Thank you too. This is a wonderful experience for me.

Ramona Diaz: It was a pleasure. And I personally want to thank all four women who made themselves available for this chat. Thanks sooooo much! I know you're sick of hearing from me already. :)

rhea: You're very welcome! Thank you for providing a venue for discussion for us and the viewers of the film.

Grace Gonzales-Amper: I pray that we can stay here in the US longer than we like too.

POV: Our readers can catch an update with the teachers here: http://www.pbs.org/pov/learning/film_update.php

Angel Alim-Flores: You're very welcome..Thanks for welcoming us to be part of the discussion.

Ramona Diaz: Yes, that's what I hope too Grace, for all of you.

rhea: Thank you Ramona! You made me so comfortable in front of cameras.. now I don't have problems doing my video for my National Boards.

Grace Gonzales-Amper: me too rhea.

Angel Alim-Flores: Thanks Ramona

dorotea godinez: thanks ramona for the opportunity of making us actors and actresses through our own little and huge ways,,love you ramona..

Grace Gonzales-Amper: thanks ramona.

Ramona Diaz: Knock 'em dead in Philadelphia Angel. B'more will miss you!

Angel Alim-Flores: Thanks Ramona!!

Grace Gonzales-Amper: POV Thanks.

rhea:Thank you to all !!!

Angel Alim-Flores: Thanks PoV

dorotea godinez: thanks POV

Angel Alim-Flores: I will miss Baltimore

rhea: The Learning part 2?

Angel Alim-Flores: Yeah!!!

Ramona Diaz: The Learned.

POV: Thank you all for being with us tonight!

POV: You can catch the full film streaming on the POV website here: http://www.pbs.org/pov/learning/full.php

POV: And check out deleted scenes and other special features here: http://www.pbs.org/pov/learning/index.php





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While I was born and raised in the Philippines, I’ve lived my entire adult life in the United States. I’m both an insider and an outsider, which allows me to have a distinct point of view.”

— Ramona Diaz, Filmmaker

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