Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Teacher's Journey (Thus Far)... Part III of III

This is the third of a three-part account of my journey in life as a teacher. It's something I really wanted to write for ages, and now's the best time for me to do it. Hopefully, you guys will like it.

.:Enter Reedley:.

You can see the letters by now, and I'm definitely proud of my students in RIS. What most of the people may not know is that I actually got this job through sheer guts.

For years, I've been saying that while I do admire my professors, the regard and respect I have for high school and grade school teachers is incomparable. I sincerely didn't think I had it in me, and I really doubted my ability to teach high school. After all, weren't "patience" and "temper" the two biggest issues I had in my previous relationship? High school and grade school were likely to test my patience and temper in ways I never conceived possible.

When I had my demo teaching, I performed Blindsight for Ms. Estrada, who at the time, didn't know I was a mentalist. It tied in perfectly with my lecture, and it definitely got the attention of the students. Still, I wasn't quite sure what I was in for. I wanted to teach, but my Gawd, high school? I just got rejected by the college English Department of Ateneo... how was I going to hack it in Reedley, an international school, no less?

But the teaching demo went well. The next challenge that harkened to my own thoughts about teaching came from the headmaster, Mr. Castro himself.

Mr. Castro: I don't think you have what it takes, Marcelle. You're smart, you have a lot going for you, but I don't think you have it in you to teach high school.

I don't know what got into me, but I had to respond to that. It would've made my life easier if I just agreed and walked away from there, but something in what he said, despite the fact that it affirmed to me my own belief that I didn't have what it takes, made me see it not as an affirmation of my weakness, but as a challenge. And I rose to the challenge, even if at the time, I didn't think it was the smartest thing to do. Prior to the "challenge", he already warned me about the pay...

Marcelle: Sir, with all due respect, I do think I have what it takes. I may not have had direct experience teaching high school, but I've never backed down from a challenge.

I may never know if Mr. Castro does this to every employee, but it definitely struck a nerve with me and he told me that he respected my guts to disagree with him. And that was what made me feel that I was so close to really getting this job... I went against my own mental limitations. I always believed I couldn't hack it, but I went in anyways.

I won't be the judge of my own tenure here, then... I can turn the question over to my students... guys, did I hack it? Was I worthy? To be honest, sometimes, I still ask myself if I really made it.

.:Three Quarters Later...:.

And so I had my three classes: Columbia, Carnegie, and Yale. It was a wonderful three quarters with all of them.

From Post Secret to political ramblings, from bonus questions, to Liquid Metal, from MP3 players during JRP (Shhh....) to "sneaky-sneaky" moments, I laughed, I cried, I smiled, and I learned with my students. They really made me feel I was doing something good... I wasn't just teaching them English. I was preparing them for life. With my Philosophy background and radio history, I had a range of experience wider than the average person's in my age group, and I wanted them to see that teachers are people, too...

Teachers are people who care about their students above and beyond the call of their job description.

Teachers are people who dream that their students will someday be better than they can ever hope to be.

Teachers are people who laugh, who cry, who feel guilt, who feel pain. They have feelings, but they find it necessary to be superhuman. Not for themselves, but for their students. No matter how tired, no matter how stressed, never mind if they're secretly going through heartaches. The show must go on.

Teachers are people who eat, go to the mall, and watch movies. There's absolutely nothing weird about that.

In turn, the students showed me that they were willing to listen to me. Whether it be a lecture about Holden Caulfield or Shakespeare or the Philippine government, whether it be a debate or an interview, the students delivered. They pushed themselves hard.

The coming year holds a lot of mysteries. I still don't know if I'll be teaching in Ateneo this coming schoolyear, but I know I will never forget being a part of the Reedley family, even for just a year. I miss them already, and my contract isn't up yet.

With every single student whose life I somehow touch for the better, I know it's worth every single sleepless night. Every single tear. Every single deadly deadline. Every single cut I have to take from my own Masters. Every single headache. Every single everything.

I will never regret being a teacher. This is my calling. This is my life.

1 comment:

Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

As a former high school English teacher myself (and as someone who fully believes teaching is her calling as well, and hopes to return to it someday), I totally empathized with this 3-part blog post. Very beautifully written.

P.S. I took Philo 101 and 102 under Jon Bulaong, back when he was still an MA candidate. Sadly, I didn't do particularly well in his classes, but I did pick up his habit of starting my own classes with St. Ignatius' Prayer for Generosity. :)