Why I Teach

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My student in my Batch 1 who dressed up for an exercise on ASEAN.

Teaching was my first job in Xavier School. I wanted to stay longer but the oldtimers warned that I must leave the school to explore and figure things out; that I’ll find my way back somehow.  They were right, of course. So I left XS, did corporate work for a good number of years, built a family, did the things I was supposed to do, and led a good life. But while corporate pays well, my gut said teach.

When the opportunity to teach Business Communication part-time in Ateneo Rockwell (MBA) came in February 2016, I was game. I didn’t even ask about the rate and just did what I had to do. We were asked to revise the syllabus so that it’s relevant to business needs. We asked ourselves what graduate students should be learning. I gave a curriculum proposal, wrote and re-wrote it with the other teachers in the team, and got it approved. In May 2016, I embarked on a journey with my first batch of 25 students. It’s been two years now and 104 more students since. No wonder I keep forgetting names when I bump into them!

Every semester, I’d improve on my slides to make sure that my messages are clear and my examples are relevant. On days when my work load was heavy doing development work, I prayed for energy. Sometimes, I worried. Was I getting through? Were they learning? Did I cover what I was supposed to? Were they enjoying the class? It was important to me that we didn’t drag ourselves to class. Learning has to be fun – even in graduate school, or especially in graduate school where everyone is so serious. I also begged my students to stop worrying about grades and to focus on learning. A bad midterm grade won’t make or break their careers or alter the course of their lives.

I know that 14 sessions aren’t enough to drill down subject-verb agreement, pronoun-antecedent, and organization. So I just do my best each time. I remind them to always begin with an outline and to say exactly what they want to say. I told them that English is just like Math in the sense that there are rules and they have to know these rules. Like Math, it’s based on logic too. Words have to be coherent. A group of related sentences constitutes a paragraph. A concluding paragraph provides the reader closure. Cliches are lame and unimaginative. Always we have to write like the human beings that we are and avoid words like peripatetic and cantakerous. Who uses peripatetic anyway?

Although teaching exhausted me, I looked forward to Monday evenings (and eventually, Saturday mornings). Somehow, I always found some reserve energy to lecture, share, listen, laugh, and learn from my students. I learned about Spin Designer Hostel, agro-chemicals, jewelry restoration, German sausages, and a site called writersdiet.com from my first batch. I had two diocesan priests in my second batch, friends to this day, and I taught them how to organize their homilies better. My third batch was the first one to do a digital communication proposal for an MSME (micro, small, and medium enterprises).  Of course, they grumbled about the assignment (they always grumble) – but they rose to the challenge. Batch 3 said it was gratifying to help fledgling businesses with their branding issues and to act as consultants. Before a panel of communication professionals, they presented their proposal with nice pictures and well thought out copies. God blessed me with good friends who can be coerced with “para sa Diyos at bayan” (for God and country) to go to Makati to critique these proposals. I am currently teaching my fourth batch and am halfway through the term. I just learned that there is a BPO devoted to sifting through fake news. How wonderful is that?

In a couple of weeks’ time, I will say goodbye to this batch and close another semester. Beyond all the grammar lessons and reminders to read and enlarge themselves, I always remind my students to be good, decent people. To be aware of what’s going on and to ask the right questions. To behave as professionals, develop their skills and good name, and to take care of their online persona too.

I still can’t afford a Joya loft on my teacher’s salary but I can always treat family and friends to a good meal and coffee at the mall. Never mind that Mocha Uson makes more money. I believe in doing things that make me whole and happy. Teaching has given me this and more.

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