Philippine native adapts to new country, new school
by Ali Drake
Caroline Gopun wants to show her students that math is fun. The 34-year-old native of Ilollo City in the Philippines, came over this year as part of the Global Schools Network, a transfer program where teachers travel to other countries for a new experience. Gopun, who teaches first grade at Poplin Elementary, said she became a teacher to follow her mother’s example and help people.
“I want to inspire people and share what I have learned,” Gopun said. “I think the best way to do that is in this profession, that’s why I decided to become a teacher. It feels good to bring out the best in my students and you can see that there is a change in them.”
Gopun’s mother taught for 35 years in a public school in the Philippines, near where she grew up.
Since moving to the new school, Gopun said she’s faced some difficulties settling in.
“So far everything is a little bit hard since I have to adjust in school, my new place, and my family is not here yet so I have to do everything on my own,” Gopun said. “There is a 12 hour time difference – morning here will be night in the Philippines.” She also misses eating rice at every meal and finds American restaurant portion sizes to be strangely large.
“I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to learn about [the] U.S. educational system and culture, and also to share my culture and knowledge,” Gopun said, when asked why she decided to make the move.
There are some similarities but many differences in the education systems in North Carolina and in the Philippines, Gopun said. In the Philippines, there are not as many computers; there also are more students in classes, sometimes more than 50 students for each teacher. The school days are longer, and lunch is not served at schools, something Gopun had to get used to.
“Here everything is given in a silver platter,” Gopun said.
The curriculum is similar; first graders in both the Philippines and North Carolina learn about english, math, science and social studies, “but we have to include Filipino language – Tagalog – in our curriculum, and some other private schools incorporate a third language, like Chinese, because there are a lot of Filipino-Chinese [families] that want to preserve their culture.”
“We are not compensated the way that we should be,” Gopun said, when asked about her biggest challenge as a teacher. “In terms of teaching inside the classroom, there is no worst part because everything is a learning process and that is a good thing. I have a chance to improve myself and examine what other things I need to improve or work on.”
When Gopun is not in the classroom, she enjoys reading as her main hobby. She also plans to travel especially to the beaches of North and South Carolina.