Retropost: So now what are we to do, keep this fire alive inside

From a journal entry written on July 7, 2014:

It’s the last day of classes tomorrow. I’ll miss the Eng1 kids. I have a really good class this midyear sem. They’re bright but not complacent or self-satisfied, and they seem eager to learn, to question, and to engage with the readings and with each other during class discussions. I always feel happy and grateful when I get a class like this.

Two weeks ago, I happened to ride a Philcoa-bound jeep with one of my students, who talked about how she woke up early each day to go to Manila from Antipolo to train with the UP volleyball team, then traveled to Diliman for afternoon classes, and back to Manila to train again in the evenings before she went home and worked on her assignments (this made me feel kinda guilty because I realized that my course requirements could be taxing, especially with the hectic pace of the midyear sem—two readings per session, a daily journal entry, workshops, etc.). I was astonished by her burdensome daily commute, so I asked her why she didn’t just opt to forego classes this midyear sem so she could have some rest, and she said, “But I like going to class and listening to the discussions. I play volleyball so I could go to class.”

That struck me. With the shifting demographics of UP (thanks a lot, TOFI) and my experiences with some students who felt entitled to high grades just because, sometimes I lose faith in my conviction that these kids take their education very seriously, that they’re here not just for grades that will qualify them for a diploma that will land them cushy jobs, but, more importantly, they’re here to learn. They strive for this privilege (which should be a right) to hone their skills, expand their minds, challenge themselves and the world they live in.

I must try to keep this in mind whenever I step into a classroom (or feel like not stepping into a classroom because I’m tired or ill or not in the mood or whatever). I entered the academe largely for selfish reasons: I love learning, I live to learn, I enjoy having nerdy discussions with people and writing about ideas I encounter, and I thought it would be nice to be paid to do those things. But engaging with these kids and their writings everyday impresses upon me the significance of this task of teaching, a task that I don’t always feel up to.

If I stopped often to think much about it, I’m sure I’d feel overwhelmed by its implications—for instance, some of the most influential persons in my life, who’ve shaped who I am today, were my teachers, and I handle like a hundred students every regular sem! I always try to do my best (but you know what they say about one’s “best”—sometimes it’s not good enough) and strive to learn from past mistakes to get better, but I doubt that I’d ever really feel ready and worthy to be a teacher. But I can keep evolving, and dedicate myself to the work of helping cultivate these individuals whose minds I have the privilege and the responsibility to plumb and prod.

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