What Teaching Made Me

In the spirit of World Teachers’ Day, a quick introspective. 🙂

I was digging up my blog for an old piece I wrote back in ’03. I found it. At the ripe young age of 20, I had my heart set on teaching. It wasn’t the most ambitious thing in the world, but you can’t tell from this paragraph —

But, why teach? Simply put, I wish to convey a message of hope. Especially in a country such as ours that is fraught with despair and disillusionment, what I wish to create in my future students are new possibilities for themselves and for their country. During these times, we need “all hands on deck”; not a citizenry who will just “abandon ship.” Like my teachers of the past, I will criticize ruthlessly, but inspire creatively. I will push my students to their limits, but be fully aware of their individual talents and capabilities. I will be a mentor, maybe even a friend; bottom line is that they discover for themselves what they can do and that they do it the best they can. They can be leaders or writers or whatever they desire. I choose to teach as homage to the influences that have made an indelible mark on my life. To make my own mark in the betterment of others’ lives is an ambition that I am sure will fulfill me the greatest.

Convoluted, heady, and wordy but hey, I was twenty. I’m turning 28 in a few months.

I’m genuinely pleased though. It’s been quite a while but I still believe in the same things. I’m a little surprised though that back then, I already spoke about conveying a message of hope. All this while I thought it was something that slowly emerged as I mastered my ability to communicate and reach out. To this day I still believe that we need all hands on deck. We become the change we seek.

I am amused at the part about criticizing ruthlessly but inspiring creatively. I’d like to think that I’ve become kinder when it comes to dishing out criticism. I’ve always believed in the best in each person, and the years haven’t made me more cynical when it comes to this. Realistic in the sense of being practical, yes, but not cynical. And inspiring creatively? I’ll just make my work speak for itself.

Then there’s that part about being a mentor and maybe even a friend. Since then I’ve never really seen myself as one of those teachers who would form genuine give-or-take friendships with students. Pouring my heart out always felt uneasy, and I only do so when my personal story inspires them to better themselves. But regardless of the type of relationship, what’s clear to me is the objective: to help them discover for themselves what they can do and to help them do it the best they can. That’s why I enjoy working with AKSIS, the Batch, and the PTA. With them I get to be a coach, facilitator, and organizer as well. And together we all achieve great things — things I never imagined myself doing when I was a idealistic kid of twenty.

Of course, the past six years have had their ups and downs. I’ve had my fair share of failures and disappointments, but all they did was enrich me and make me stronger. I am now at that phase in teaching where I’m working on the foundation I’ve built through the years. I no longer undertake crazy experiments (as my earlier students will attest), but I’ve learned to take smarter, more calculated risks. The knowledge I have now at times feels very massive (I know more stuff than I have an idea what to do with), and yet I am still learning, developing, and taking chances. I’m still reading books and challenging my own paradigms and views. The problem, as has always been, is that I’m never really contented.

And why is that?

Because I’ve always believed that I am most fulfilled when I help others fulfill themselves. What I didn’t foresee then was that fulfilling myself wasn’t an end, but a means. By expanding the horizons of others, I’ve made mine infinite; anything can happen now. And what teaching has made me into is not that different from what I was back in twenty — convoluted, heady, and wordy.

The only difference now is that I’m still hopeful. I still believe. In a world given to cynicism and doubt, my students have done a mighty fine job of helping me keep the faith. This day may be for the likes of me, but we do it for them.

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