by Jayson M. Orozco
When I was a student, nothing seemed more exciting to me than the first day of school. Aside from getting to know new friends, finally I would have had the opportunity to use my new school stuffs from my bag to its smallest contents. But what gave me more sense of excitement was meeting my new teachers. Call it insanity or what, but every time I looked at these people, it seemed like I saw angels descended from heaven. But among these heavenly creatures, there were my favorites, and they were the ones I reckoned seraphim. During our class, I always made it a point to give my best foot forward so as not to disappoint them. They were that special to me like each of them had their own compartment in my memory bank with their epithets on it like Ma’am Square Root, Sir His-story, Ma’am Panitikan, etc.
I adored my teachers so much. Countless times I was asked if I wanted to become one, and countless times I gave a resounding “no”. For what reasons? Many, too many that I was even quick enough to think of even the silliest reasons just to abort that idea of becoming a teacher. So, when I entered college, I had that long list of the courses to pursue, and education did not even cross my mind. It was as though the whole universe was in favor of me when I was admitted in a prestigious university. To be at par with those few there gave me some sense of pride and the feeling of being assured of the future. I thought I’ve found a good start so I couldn’t help but anticipate that in no time I would land a good job in an office.
Life at the university was like a firework at the start. But like fireworks, the spark of excitement just faded away. I started to dread the atmosphere in the classroom feeling that it would suffocate me. The chairs to me had become a facility like that for a death penalty, and it looked like the blackboard had become the Sea of Tranquility. I couldn’t help it, but to me things were just irrelevant, and no matter how hard I tried, I just could not feel the slightest connection with them. I had always been absent in my classes, and that routine had gone worse until I decided to just quit. Yes, I’d lowered my flag, and some said I was a loser. It seemed like there was nothing else to look forward to anymore. Doubtless to say, I became the exact opposite of my old self except for one thing: Every time I looked at a teacher, I still saw halo over his/her head.
So what went wrong? That I wasn’t able to figure out. Still battling with depression, I somehow managed to continue my studies in other school, and this time I was made to take up Education major in Mathematics. What?! Already, I was at the most bottom part of the tunnel, and there was no any other way down for another demotion. And that left with me one choice, and that was to go up. So I took the offer of my parents to pursue a teaching course without raising an argument. But things had not changed much. I was the same student who was always in invisible mode. My appetite for numbers did not progress, not a notch. The more I had of it, the more I found it difficult to discover the negative and positive in me. At times, I had this view, which was not congruent with that of the majority. As a result, I turned out to be irrational whose values were not permissible to many.
For years, I had my life as que sera sera until I had my practicum. I volunteered to have it in a far flung area. Again, what made me do that was something I did not totally understand. There, I came face to face with the reality, and yes, it was harsh more than I could think of. My heart sank when I saw those students who had to break their back just to avail of education. How life had been treating them was so unfair, but they didn’t see it that way. They could not care less if they had to get to school on foot, sometimes barefooted, or even soaked through with rain. I could tell in the tone of their skin how much they had to stand the scorching heat of the sun. They did not complain at times they were starved, and the only option was to endure the pain of it. Some of them had to go fishing at night so they would have something for their allowance, and I did salute them that they managed to stay active in the class. Even without the aid of electricity, they were able to study and do their homework and projects. True that they were deprived in material aspect, but it was never an obstacle for them not to learn at their best.
With my day to day experience with my students, I came to realize I was a fool to think of myself less, and how it was so easy to me to just throw my hands up every time I was caught up in a difficult situation. All these issues about life were not unfamiliar to me for I’ve read them plenty of times in self-help books. But not a thing had gotten into my system until I met my students. I learned from them how important it is to maintain optimism most especially in the face of crisis. It was a lesson so difficult to me for my entire life, I earned every single thing from my parents. I was a big parasite. Yes, it was their experience that taught me that there is nothing in this world that I won’t be able to pull through. Though, the effect was not overnight, still I was so glad that I started to see hope again.
For my students, the school is the gateway to success, and education is their sole ticket to get there. With high hopes, they put their lives at stake just to learn. But hope alone won’t be enough for them to realize their dreams. More importantly they need individuals who would serve as their support system. Their teachers are one of them. It was then that I was reminded why I was there in the first place. I knew I had in me that would fill in their empty cup, and the thought of it brought me to that realization how indispensable a teacher is, and how huge such a responsibility. I realized that how I was going to teach x and y would create an impact on how they see themselves in the future, and more importantly how they cope with the inevitabilities at the present. That time I learned to conquer my fears. Despite the awkward feeling, I tried to be the best teacher I could be. I slept late at night to prepare my lessons. Just how much I was surprised to see my old self. What I did not understand was that each time I looked at my students, I felt some blast of energy within, and it felt like things just came out naturally. Like gears being meshed together, we created some kind of harmony.
Whether it is by chance or choice that I become a teacher, one thing is certain, God works in his ways. Things happen based on His perspectives, and to understand His ways is none of my business for in the first place, there is no any way I can. Like how a potter molds the clay, God has used his permissive will to allow my struggles to drown me so I would be able to see what design suits me best. For a long time that I’d been there on the bottom looking up, I discovered I had the teacher in me. It was something I could feel in every fiber of my being. Right, many times I said “no” to it, but deep within me, I knew I couldn’t be any better as an individual if I had not become one. Why I adored my teachers so much, simply because I just wanted to be like them. I knew right then we had common denominator.
It is such a privilege to be a part of the lives of my students, as much as they are of mine. I would say, it is their existence that defines mine. It is my experience with them that I discovered my worth as a person and the real essence of life. It had been for them that I was able to escape my self-dug dungeon, one thing I will take with profound sense of indebtedness for the rest of my life. I was once a quitter, but never a loser. It might be such a waste that I did not end up in an executive office, but where I am now is just the perfect place for me. In life, sometimes you just have to quit to start a new beginning. Sometimes you have to lose yourself for you to find it.
Now I know why I become a teacher. But, do I love being one? Yes, for it is when I am teaching that I experience the happiest hours in my life. And who wouldn’t be prouder to be one when Jesus Christ, the greatest man who ever walked this planet was a teacher himself.
Life doesn’t follow a script. We know it. When we were born, we did not carry a tag around our neck to tell us what we will become in the future. So take time to pause once in a while, and listen to that small voice within. Who knows like me, you also have the teacher in you.