Not that I expected it to end in a different way, but my first semester teaching at the Ateneo de Manila ended yesterday as garb-less as I have always wanted it. I gave my students their final writing activity before their final paper, and off I left, in a hurry as usual.
I was wearing my orange shirt, a collared plaid. It’s been a while since I wore a cotton long-sleeved shirt, a radical departure from the simple tees and well-worn pairs of Levi’s and Converse that I donned during regular class meetings this semester. But since yesterday was my last day of lectures, I thought of enduring the discomfort of wearing the orange long-sleeved top on a crammed train coach and doing a little bit extra (like how how marketing experts refer to it) by appearing quite presentable for my students.
My transfer from UP to Ateneo was a major career move I didn’t have enough time to ponder upon as I needed to come up with a good decision by the last week of summer of this year. Not long after, I already found myself teaching (a bit jittery at first) in a university I did not even consider going to when I was still a baffled high school senior. Firstly, I knew then it was an expensive school to study in; secondly, Manila was too far; and thirdly, my options were limited then.
Being a responsible young adult now and not wanting to anymore rely on my parents for food and rent, the choice for me were only between working and going hungry. The latter was very attractive and admittedly tempting, but my better judgment told me that to the former I must go.
I felt I did not give myself enough time to adjust to the new environment, the schedule, the people, and most especially the culture of Ateneo. But whoever was given the luxury of adjusting? I mustered all courage to transition as fast as I could during the past awkward five months. I saw myself clumsily climbing the platform every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, delivering lectures, moderating discussions, and hinting on the superiority of several schools of thoughts I passionately believe in. In my sometimes rapid speeches but most often constrained bombast, I would often catch my mind introspecting and throwing, up until now, unanswered questions of whether I was doing enough, whether this really is the job I want to be doing until I would be too old to think it shameful to consider changing careers, or whether I am good enough for this job.
I remember a German friend of mine who at 27 started teaching at a university in Germany. She told me how she sometimes felt unsure of herself and unsure her students understood the things she said in class. Teaching at a university halfway around the world, I didn’t know young teachers like us could share similar experience and opinions of ourselves and our job.
We both have very little experience in teaching, but we can only be better teachers through experience, but how do we gain experience? We teach. I guess, this is the dilemma of young people who chose to, or by circumstance, do teaching as a profession.
One of my very inquisitive students asked me several meetings ago why I require them to have all their activities so far written by hand. My reply was pragmatic: writing by hand minimizes the tendency of succumbing to the temptation of plagiarism, conscious or not. I kept myself from telling them that my reason is more romantic than practical. Two, three years from now, when they graduate and leave school, hardly will they have a chance to write with their hand using a pen. If only I could let them hold on to that beautiful feeling of holding a pen, immortalizing their thoughts on a piece of paper, and one day unearthing those pieces of paper from college stored in a forgotten box and rediscovering something they have long lost.
If it is a consolation, I truly love what I am doing. I remain a happy, young man.
In November, a new semester will commence. I shall continue teaching at the Ateneo while taking graduate degree in Journalism at UP. The idea scares me as I have two other jobs now aside from this one in Ateneo. And as it is, I barely am able to maintain all three of them in a state of homeostasis. But I’ll give it a try. I’ll get sick. I’ll be downtrodden. I’ll refuse believing and start doubting myself along the way. But people in their twenties find these things, these thoughts exciting. They love wallowing in their fears and endless self-doubt. I am a man in my twenties, and I find nothing wrong with these. I am living a full life.
I know I have not maxed out my potentials yet. I want to know where the limits lie.