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Teaching is fun

It is said that Lord of the Flies, the novel that made Sir William Golding’s literary career, was inspired by his experiences in the classroom as a teacher.  He allowed his students to argue and debate with complete freedom, resulting in a disorderly classroom that eventually inspired him to write Lord of the Flies.

The novel details the adventures of British school boys stranded on an island and how, in their attempt to govern themselves, they acted like barbarians with disastrous results.

Robert Frost, whose The Road Not Taken is my favorite American poem, once worked as a teacher to supplement his income from his fledgling literary career.

Indeed, people teach for various reasons.

I have been asked several times why I still want to teach now that I am retired. A friend even suggested, though without getting into details, that I should just spend my days having fun.  The assumption is since I am not getting any younger, I might as well do the things I have never done in my life.  Simply put, have fun before it’s too late.

But teaching can also be fun.

I first taught at the Ateneo de Davao University after I graduated from college. Looking back, it was the most fun and rewarding experience I ever had as a teacher. There was never a dull moment between me and my students.  I got to know their strengths and weaknesses.  I got to know their dreams and ambitions. I even got to know their most kept secrets, which oftentimes had something to do with relationships.  Socializing after class was the best because that was when friendship was formed between me and my students without fear of being judged.

Other interesting things happened in the classroom that would make my day. I got to laugh at my students’ jokes, at their funny excuses, and at their mannerisms, like scratching their heads when they didn’t know the answer or the way they pretended to be awake when in fact they were asleep.

So is teaching boring? Not at all.

I remember a quote which says that teaching is 25% knowledge and 75% theater. This is very true because teaching involves looking for creative ways to keep the students’ attention.  A teacher has to have a reservoir of teaching strategies that one can resort to when the need arises. With twenty students in the classroom, you have twenty different learning styles.  How does a teacher sustain their interest and attention?  That’s when a teacher acts like an actor, ready to be funny, to be strict, to be firm, to act like a father, or act like a friend or even a firm judge.

But beyond the “acting” that a teacher has to play, there are several reasons why I want to continue teaching.

First, the only way for me to learn a particular concept is to teach it. Through teaching I discover what I know and do not know. I am forced to study, do research and understand the meaning and implications of what I am going to teach. As I prepare my lessons, I ask questions and dig deeper into things, resulting in my own education even before I face my students. The process is very enlightening.

Second, I want to share with my students the little that I know about a particular subject matter. I look at knowledge not as a “private property” but a “public property” that needs to be shared. By sharing one’s knowledge, a teacher does not only provide information, but plays the crucial role of molding the students.  When I face my students, I’d like to think that I am teaching them about themselves, about others, and about their role in society. Most importantly, I’d like to think that I am teaching them how to think critically and thus, empower them in the process.

Thirdly, I enjoy the level of personal interactions that take place in and outside of the classroom. A teacher gets to meet different kinds of students and the meeting of minds oftentimes leads to a deeper personal relationship that lasts long after both have parted ways.  Misunderstanding may happen between a teacher and a student. But when looked at from a learning perspective, the experience is immensely insightful. Nothing can be more satisfying than knowing a student and everything that he or she values, believes, and even fears.

Lastly, teaching is gratifying not in the sense of financial gratification, but when you hear things like, “Thank you for guiding me,” “I will ask my friend to take your class,” or “By flunking me, you helped me understand the things that matter most in life.” Whenever I meet my former students, we are like a band of brothers.  We talk about the past but in a spirit of camaraderie.  Mutual misunderstanding and even animosities, if any, are long forgotten. But one thing always stands out which oftentimes remains unsaid – their gratefulness to their former teacher for being a part of their life’s journey.

So, come June, I expect to have fun In Naga City.