When the student is ready
After my recent column on teachers that have had a great influence on my life, my son Roel, a Literature major from De La Salle University and a writing mentor for Write Things, shares his own thoughts on teaching and learning:
Decades ago, especially as a high school student, the notion of becoming an educator would have seemed as preposterous as a noontime-show clown potentially becoming president of a country due to constitutional manipulation. Anything can happen, as many of us can attest.
Like most card-carrying youth in revolt, my rebellion was hastily clad in loud music, chiseled in subversive lingo, and carelessly aimed at anyone even slightly representing institutions. Thus, teachers only took caricatural forms: bungling Mr. Weatherbee out to nab me for all the unscrupulous things plotted in my naïve brain, or self-important Principal Rooney masterminding the downfall of anything even remotely resembling a Bueller.
As I grew older, becoming uncannily blessed to be given the opportunity to mentor young minds willing to learn the wonders of language and literature the past five years, I realized I’ve been surrounded by luminous teachers all my life. Teachers who taught me ideas and values found way beyond the pages of a textbook. Always resistant to the flimsy idea that “You will use this someday!” especially during Math classes – as to this day I’ve never found myself consciously applying the intricacies of the Pythagorean theorem or factoring quadratics – I ironically feel indebted to the many mentors I’ve had as I glean their indelible influence in all aspects of my life.
In college, with my blank spreadsheet stifling me like the garbage compactor on the Death Star during an Accountancy 101 midterm, I brazenly walked out and headed to the Literature department to take a gamble and shift courses. “Seize the day!” Mr. Keating advised. Follow your passion. He was right. I was swiftly reaffirmed that true passion radiates from many realms, not just from concepts and words on a page. DLSU’s many literary doctors proved to be quintessential embodiments of such:
One of my very first literature professors, Dr. Shirley Lua, once described by a seatmate as “a human bomb” while she ever-valiantly made Rizal’s Noli and El Fili relevant and scintillating with a kind of mania that would easily put the most rabid Whovian to shame. The ageless one, Dr. David Bayot, with astonishing urgency showed me how literary theory/criticism was as vital as the air I breathe. Dr. Marj Evasco, unparalleled poetry Jedi, showed by example how craft alongside what you teach and what you love more than life is, and must be, as inseparable as a Lannister and paid debts. The colossal Dr. Isagani Cruz, warmly brilliant, first made me believe that teachers are tasked to change the world, and it can be done if one teaches sturdily enough, vigorously enough, vehemently enough.
They’d each gloriously drool and salivate given the chance to impart what they love, with an inextinguishable fire in the eyes, never having to hard-sell or argue for the unmistakable power of words, stories and poetry. Teaching the lesson for the day with every ounce of heart and soul they had was enough. And I’ve never been the same since.
My years as a literature major under those beloved mentors not only made me competent to teach the same field, but armed me to read the world, never allowing it to overwhelm or manipulate me. With a consistently refuelled arsenal of creativity and critical thinking, I translate signs thrown at me and live accordingly. Allowing me to see parallels between vital career moves made by trusted late night sages and my own watershed moments, and instead of clutching at magical cosmic workings, I create a narrative which realigns my vision. It’s the same joyous warfare that makes me easily distinguish political agenda fuelled by fake news, devious historical revisionism, and psychopathic presidential promises that are as lethally inutile as a pseudo-intellectual-themed meme used for a senatorial bid. The world is a dangerous place, if one takes it on unarmed.
It’s a tired cliché, about the master appearing when the student is ready, and that teaching is a craft. What lies at the core is how learning is a similar art, and that true learning takes place beyond the halls of schools, and occurs continually if one is always ready.
It’s safe to say I’ve been a dedicated learner all my adult life, which allowed more lustrous teachers to impart their wisdom. The same way beloved writers such as Albert Camus have taught me that recognizing and embracing the absurd is merely the catalyst for deeper personal meaning to be won, my maternal uncles have shown me that ideals can only be yours if you’ve truly sacrificed in their name. And while a bookshelf luminary such as Jorge Luis Borges taught me that true, indivisible sight comes from within, my paternal uncles and a perpetually impassioned literary aunt have proven to me time and again that one always fights for what one loves.
While their infinite bookshelves served as a playground offering lessons in a manner of thinking wider and more fortified than the Great Wall of the Seven Kingdoms, my parents patiently taught me incorruptible values on how especially the most trying circumstances entail nothing short of grace, character, dignity, integrity, and love for family and country.
Great teachers abound as long as one is always willing. While preparing to wed in exactly a month, the radiant woman I choose to marry has also taught me an important lesson which will serve me well: free from any variables or exponents, four Liverpool lads were right when they calculated, “The love you take is equal to the love you make.” Down to the decimal.
Creative writing classes for kids and teens Young Writers’ Hangout on November 10 (1:30pm-3pm; stand-alone session) at Fully Booked BGC. For details and registration, email email@example.com. * * *