Friday, August 31, 2012

A Mentor’s Musing: On Teachers and Teaching

(In which the rumination seem endless.)

In one of Communication Skills classes, we discussed a story entitled A Classroom Full of Flowers by Janice Anderson Connely. It is one of the many inspiring stories about teaching which highlight the priceless fulfillment it gives despite the herculean tasks a teacher must triumph over. The hanging question for the class was whether or not they would want to be teachers after reading the story.

The story was inspiring all right. But just like any student assigned to read a text longer than five sentences, my students never ran out of excuses for failing to read the story. And so we had to use the classic approach for this situation, we read and discussed the text on the same day. But we managed to get through it.

When the time comes for the hanging question to be answered, I got surprisingly interesting responses. One of my female students said:

“I wouldn’t want to be a teacher. It is indeed fulfilling but teachers do not only teach. They do lesson plans and check papers and bring work home and are always tired. There are other jobs that are as fulfilling but less exhausting than teaching.”

You can just imagine how much it hit me. I often marvel at the bacteria-like multiplication ability of student papers and quizzes plus other documents in my shelf I start to wonder how big a teacher’s shelf should really be.

The discussion went on and another very classic reason why teaching is considered more of a calling than a career was discussed: salary. And then I asked them if they believe that a bigger paycheck would make education better in the Philippines. One young man wearing baggy pants and baggy university shirt and who walks as if he’s the reincarnation of Fernando Poe, Jr. raised his hand to answer. He said:

“It depends, ma’am.”

You see, students nowadays like to answer in installments. And whenever this situation arises I tell them that much as I would hate to cause their disappointment, I am not, and will never be, a pawnshop.

“I don’t think so, ma’am,” he continued, “Because it also depends on the students.”

Very true. Especially when the only thing they have to do to assure a fruitful discussion the next session was to read, a task they would chose to ignore. I saw another female hand in the air.

“I think it does, ma’am,” she said, “Most teachers choose to work out of the country because of the salary. And they are more often than not the best teachers. Filipino students will be taught by them if they will receive high salaries here.”

That actually reminded me of Mrs. Josette Biyo in a leadership seminar I attended to when I was in the university. She mentioned that teachers working abroad would rather stay in the Philippines to teach if not for compensation reasons. Filipino students, they believe, are easier to handle. And whenever a foreign student creates trouble (punch a classmate on the face or set another girl’s hair on fire during lessons) they will mutter _______ (insert currency on the blank) to themselves like a mantra.

Let me get this straight. I love being in the classroom. I have always thought that I belong in the classroom way back my university days. But my fleeting blissful moments in that sacred place would always be confronted by the fact that my job doesn’t end there. And never will. During these ruminations I am always reminded by the advice my college literature professor told us English majors: Corporate institutions are best for the youth for when you are young, you are energetic, idealistic and ambitious. Educational institutions, on the other hand, welcome the older ones with wider arms. When you grow old you become relaxed, practical and wise.

I would really like to succumb to the seductive thought of thinking about all these the whole night, then read Book 2 of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, or even write another blog post about the first book. But I realized I have consumed a good twenty minutes for this one and I still have papers to check.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Lost Diary of Don Juan by Douglas Carlton Abrams

(In which old diaries are still the best.)


One thing, among others, that is considerably underrated nowadays is privacy. Almost all of us posts not only what we're thinking but also what we're eating, doing, seeing, as well as who we're hating or loving and all the other stuff that used to be private at least half a decade ago when internet access was a luxury and blogs and networking sites were uncommon. At the rise of these groundbreaking technological innovations, almost everybody can see what's in other people's minds, hearts or stomach even if (sometimes) they don't want to. It has indeed become an age of public diaries.
But honestly, if there's something more joyfully intrusive and sneakier in the past than stalking someone on Facebook now, it's peeking into someone else's diary. Now reading someone else's diary in its entirety is another story. It somehow becomes something like reading or watching prohibited media - still taboo, yet without the adrenaline rush and the mystery. Fortunately, though, that's not always the case. Take Abram's first novel for example, in which he offers a traverse in the mind of one of the most notorious (if not the most already) womanizer of all time, Don Juan..
Abandoned in a monastery and raised by Sevillian nuns, Don Juan Tenorio grew up to be the romantic figure that he was known today after a tragic love affair. He rose up to nobility through the help of Marquis de la Mota. He worked as a thief, a spy, and a galeantador, seducer of women. He seduced women after women of various colors, social and marital status. Loved by virgins and wives and widows, he was terribly abhorred by husbands and most specially the Holy Inquisition. Just when he thought that he was only capable of giving women pleasure, he found Doña Ana, the girl he willed to give his heart and fight for, even at the expense of his friendship with the Marquis.
Starting with the editor’s disclaimer regarding the diary’s authenticity and ending with the last entry by Don Juan’s coachman, readers are bound to be intoxicated with the life of this love guru. Told in his eloquent voice and masterful lectures on love and passion, one would perhaps cease seeing Don Juan as an insouciant bed hopper but as a person in need and worthy of love and companionship.