The other day, I saw my Grade 2 student whose been notorious for screaming and throwing tantrums in class when things don’t go her way, head to the bathroom. She’s been adamantly excusing herself often in class lately to sort of like take “little breaks.” When I saw her locked herself in, I sneakily followed her and slipped inside the other cubicle and in my best imitation of a deep booming voice, I said her name twice. I heard a shuffle and a quickly reply, “Who’s that? Who are you! I am not afraid of you.” I continued, “I am your guardian angel, gooooo back to the classssrooooom…go back to the classssrooom.” In all sassiness, she shot back , “No you’re not. Who are you? I’m not afraid of you…What are you doing in there…angel, what angel…” But then, I heard her hurriedly go out of the cubicle, mumble a few words, and do a hasty exit. When I was certain that the coast was clear, I went out to wash my hands in the sink. When I looked up, I almost fell to my knees laughing because I saw her hiding behind the door, whispering to herself, “Who are you? I am not afraid of you.” and when she carefully peeked and saw me, she triumphantly shouted, “I kneeeew it! I knew it!!! Ha!” with matching slap on the wall. She returned back to the classroom skipping, obviously in high spirits, while I stood there laughing till my sides hurt.
In my 14 years of teaching and handling preschool and primary kids, this is what I learned: to truly survive in teaching, you have to learn not to take yourself or your students TOO seriously. You have to allow more room for humor because humor/laughter is always the best way to (especially) a (difficult) student’s heart. Always. Happy teacher’s day to my fellow teachers.
I get amused whenever I receive different reactions from people when I tell them that I am a teacher. Some would look at me with wonder, while some with pity and regret. I can only assume that this kind of reaction stems from certain misconceptions about the teaching profession, the popular one being that, teachers are the most overworked but underpaid workers. If we would look closely though at other professions, one can say pretty much the same thing about them as well. People often have the tendency to look at the downside of teaching without realizing that teachers would probably rank the highest if a survey is to be conducted as to who among the work force feel most fulfilled about their job.
I never dreamed that I would become a teacher. It was never part of my grand plans when I was mapping out my future in college. I had already set my eyes on becoming one of those smart yuppies that you can see walking along the sleek streets of Makati. And I must admit, I did live the dream for a while, up until the time that God finally put his foot down when he realized that I should be getting down to the serious business of touching lives. I often smile in wonder when I think of how everything fell into place like a thousand puzzle pieces that fit snugly and perfectly into a whole when I finally decided to give teaching a try. I never imagined that I would go this far and actually love it this much. I feel like I have finally found my place in the world.
I love being a teacher because there is so much room to grow in this profession. You would learn many things that you probably would not even think of trying before. When I started teaching in preschool, I can’t hardly carry a tune or would have two left feet when dancing. By the end of my first year as a preschool teacher, I can belt out a mighty “I am a Little Tea Pot” and can do the “Hokie Pokie’ dance gracefully. I love the fact that I can be just about anything and everything inside the classroom. I can be a motivational speaker who can effect change, a performer and director who can move students into action, a facilitator who can bring out the best ideas from my students, or a counselor and mentor who can inspire positive behavior from students.
Like any other profession, teaching can be just as demanding. What probably sets it apart from others is that despite the endless lesson plans that need to be submitted and executed, the many papers to be checked, and grades to be computed, I still find enough time and energy to appreciate and enjoy the many simple yet extraordinary things that bring me so much joy every day. Burnout and stress are fleeting, and are things that can be cured by something as simple as a drawing from a student with a little note that says, you are the best teacher in the world. Though the pay of a teacher may not be as high as that of a salesman or businessman, the rewards are just as great, like seeing a wonderful transformation in a student happen right before your very eyes.
I am glad that God led me to this profession. I often imagine what I would say come judgment day when God would ask me to enumerate the things that I have done that would make me deserving of that one way ticket to heaven. I imagined that the architect beside me would eagerly volunteer that he built the world. The police officer at my side would be proud to admit that he purged the world of bad guys. The doctor across from me without a doubt would declare that he cured the world from sickness. The lawyer, who arguably would be the smartest looking among all of us, would most likely insist that he made everything right in the world. When I reach that moment when all eyes are on me including God’s, I imagine myself saying with all my hear t and with so much conviction that, I not only taught these people the necessary skills that made them the best in their fields, I showed them how to love and inspired them to care. And these are what truly move people to change the world for the better. For really, that’s how a teacher leaves a mark, that is how a teacher touches a life. That is also what made me love teaching, so much so that, I succumb to the call of this vocation without thinking twice.
Sometimes I get tired of teaching. As much as I love my job, there are times when I just wish I was back at my old office desk pacifying an irate client, negotiating a sale or poring over sales reports. There are also times when I long for the freedom of time I had when I was doing field work.
I call this my low teaching moments. This feeling just sneaks up on me like a thief in the night, usually after a particularly difficult day or sometimes just out of nowhere. God is good though or should I say cunning, for He knows just when to send his angels in disguise my way to subtly disperse the feeling away. Usually it’s a pack of kids laughing at my silly jokes, a thoughtful little note from a student left conspicuously at my desk, or a serious dressing down from my well, “so-called” friends…the storm of angels surely come…until the feeling is gone.
Right now, I am staring at the face of another school year, feeling that same feeling slowly creeping in once again and wondering when the comforting storm from heaven will come…
You know what I like about teaching? It’s that part where you sometimes get stunned by the unexpected things that students do. Those “wow’ moments. I had a lot of those moments this school year. That is why even though I keep telling my students I wouldn’t miss them and I’m glad to send them off to intermediate, there is still that part of me that is just a bit wistful, a bit sad actually, for I will truly truly miss their craziness.
No matter what they say, there will always be one or two students who will take those soft spots in every teacher’s heart. In my case, there were actually two. One is a toughie who was at the start a bit wary of me. She didn’t trust me right away like the other girls, instead I had to win her trust. She was a bully in the making and the self-appointed class leader. She was not afraid to challenge authority. She was and still is quite a handful. But I discovered that underneath the toughness is a kid who often needs reassurance and a boost in her confidence. The kind of relationship that we had is one that I will never forget. She is my toughie who is actually a softie. The other one is the classic problem kid, she was somebody who had been marked and branded as the hard headed one since first grade. She came to my class a spitfire. She was so damned honest she often leaves her classmates bleeding with her sharp tongue. She always sends someone crying to me often last year. I guess my patience and blind faith in her paid off, because when classes resumed after Christmas break, she was a totally different kid. She is my stone who is actually a jewel.
For the last quarter we were talking about rights, citizen’s roles and government. For my student’s last project, they had to come up with a law based on a problem that they observed happening in school. One of the reminders was not to make the obvious ones like no-littering or anti-noise pollution laws anymore. While I was checking their project, I can’t help but laugh at a few. Here are some…Anti-Gossip Law (no blackmailing, no back stabbing and no teasing, those who will violate this law will clean the bathrooms for several weeks)… Anti-Rumor Law (you should not make someone look bad, you should not believe in rumors, you should not mind rumors, you should not make rumors that no one will enjoy-hahahaha, all rumor makers will take the place of auxiliaries (cleaning ladies) for one week). ..No Showing Off Law (no bringing of fancy stuffs, no bragging, no flipping of hair—where did that come from,hahaha, those who will violate these law will have to donate the fancy stuffs to Gawad Kalinga)…No breaking of Promises Law (this law prohibits students from breaking their promises, students should not ditch, curse or forget their best friends at all times–there’s bitterness somewhere here-hahaha)…Sitting Properly Law (all should obey this law, no crossing of legs, putting feet up, slouching, sitting on top of the table and removing of shoes inside the classroom, those who will violate this law will sit in an electric chair)…Well, we can definitely learn a thing or two from kids.
My students fulfilled some of my wishes this year, that is for me to see clearly the good change I made in them and for them to change something in me for the better…I remember, the other day while I was checking the diary, my attention was caught by a small brass lamp that one of my student was holding, it was a prop for their role play in Language. While I was admiring it, I jokingly said, “Do you think a genie will come out of this thing?” They said ‘Yes miss, try it” and so I made a show of rubbing it and was surprised when suddenly my students laughed uncontrollably and pointed at my side. When I looked up, true enough there standing beside me was a genie… my student Jeannie Shin saying “Miss, your wish is my command” With these kids around you really don’t need a fairy tale genie, they will make your wishes come true if you just believe in them.:)