Saturday, June 13, 2009

Dear Cousin

IT’S BEEN a month now, since classes opened. Seeing your maroon vehicle parked outside school. I assumed you opted to go on teaching this semester. In our talk during the summer break, you were not sure whether to accept “loads” or not. I’m happy you did.

Being a teacher myself for over ten years, I know what pains sweat and chalk stained shirts, among others as well as moments of soul searching of the never ending kind one goes thru to be able to stand an hour or so before a class. For “shy” types like us the effort is probably double. Yet here we are, both finding ourselves positioned in a place where doors opened and opportunities pointed “go” for that is your mission. Like Jonas in the days of old egged by some Higher Purpose we do just that, active participants in the cultivation of hearts and intellects. In our case our wards are really young and impressionable minds, coming from sometimes incompatible social backgrounds, with varied religious, economic even political orientations. These minds may appear unwieldy at first. Remember they are in life’s phase where hormones and energies are nailed at peak levels. There’s a cauldron of “boiling” things our there inside their heads expressed in infinitely restless acts like reading novels, or doing homework during your time. One student curls his upper lip and puts a pencil there bother me no end. Yet, as teachers one has just to learn to be “above” hate and irritation (not an easy thing to do) and understand. Indeed I was told love equals understanding and that a true teacher cannot afford to be malicious to his or her students. One has to gently guide them back to the lesson’s main intent and purpose, with particular sensitivity to their peculiar upbringing, needs and wants. After all teachers exist because of and for students. The philosophy their welfare is our welfare, seems to me to go straight to the core of what it means to be a true “maestro or maestra”. We must, to borrow Abdu’l-Baha’s analogy, be like the seed that

sacrifices itself so that the seedling may grow to full fruition. I know older teachers losing voices or “precious” breaths due to chalk allergy and respiratory problems. Yet their tales of persistence going back to classes undaunted, for me bespeak of the essence of self-sacrifice and heroism that teaching profession is well known for.

Just watch young students eyes in unguarded times and you can see beyond those “black pools” strange things and feelings: initially and rather understandably there’s fear and hesitation yet these same eyes can easily tremble with boisterous laughter and mirth when placed in funny situations they could relate with. Give to them illustrations and explanations consistent with their experience and watch those eyes glow and widen. As soon as you capture their chief interests and “needs” these minds can be very easily switched to eager and moldable modes, fit for higher-finer-technical even moral learning. You will be surprised though many come from rural high schools yet a lot possess solid and brilliant minds, comparable with counterparts from bigger schools in Cebu. Well, maybe ours are not as outspoken or grammatically correct as their big city brethren but given reading and language exposure our homegrown minds can really be honed and motivated to deliver great results. Remember 9 of 11 passed the midwifery board last year.

Those eyes are my keys and portals to their hearts. Hearts that only wait for that soft smile of the teacher—one you already have in abundance—bearing the message: “hey everything’s gonna be all right”. When they “feel” this they not just lend their ears, but link their souls to yours, ready for growth. Indeed they would open up, in every imaginably wonderful way. This is our best gift and consolation.

(July 9-15, 2001)

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