Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


Journeying with my students

Posted on December 13, 2015 by jimparedes

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HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 13, 2015 – 12:00am

A few days ago, I went to the cashier at the Ateneo de Manila University to collect my modest pay as a teacher. Yes, it is modest, but I feel good about it because it is money I earn doing something really important. I am passing on wisdom and knowledge to young people.

My subject is called “Special Topics in Performance and Practice” under the Communication Department. The semester ended last Dec. 3. It was a great class. I will not forget this semester.

I have been teaching on and off since 2000. This must be my sixth or seventh year of teaching. Every time a class ends, I go through a lot of wondering and self-examination. I ask myself if the lessons I have just taught will make a real difference in my students’ lives. Did I impart anything of value that will prepare them for the real world? Was it worth their time?

I go through feelings that I take the time to process. Despite the years, I still have mixed feelings about being a teacher. While I love the interaction and the discussions and the sharing of knowledge and experiences in class, I ask myself if I taught the syllabus as competently as I could have. It is always a good question to ask. I also ask myself if I gave enough time, attention, patience and understanding to every student in my class. Was I too lax? I often think I am. Was I too “unscholarly” or informal? Perhaps, yes, in the sense that I do not refer too much to scholarly writings and research to back up my syllabus.

In college, we had to refer to a lot of books and lecture notes to help us cope with class quizzes. Now, as a teacher, I find that I can pass on knowledge and wisdom to my students by going beyond the usual theoretical, intellectual approach to the subject then have them repeat it back to me.

While I may talk about theory in class, I make sure they have an experiential appreciation of it via homework and tasks. The papers I ask them to write are not about repeating what I said in class but about their reflections on the lessons based on their firsthand experience of the topic. I want them to “get out of their minds” and experience the “word made flesh,” so to speak.

I grade them not for parroting what I say but by how many quality insights they have gained. Thus, I am not at all offended when a student gives a totally contradictory reaction to what I say, as long as I see he has given it a lot of thought.

Perhaps because I am a performer, I tend to ask a lot of questions and engage my class in lively discussion. I want audience reaction. The sound of my own voice lecturing alone bores me and makes me consider that I may be boring my class to tears. When they challenge and question what I say, it means they are listening and thinking.

I can empathize with a lot of their questions and personal concerns. I see them struggling with self-doubt as young people often do. I realize that when they see me as an adult who takes them seriously, they open up.

In one of the topics in class called “The Creative Mind,” which calls for a lot of sharing of experiences, I often feel that my students project some kind of a father role onto me and I act as one, even if in a somewhat distant manner. To them, I am not just an authority figure. I actually feel the full trust they give me.

This particular batch of students I had this year was quite exceptional. There were some really creative students who often surprised and delighted not just this teacher but the entire class with their presentations and comments. There were also many who seemed shy and withdrawn at the beginning of the semester, but actually came out and bloomed before our eyes.

More than just learning facts, data and a few good lessons, students can actually awaken to their own strengths and capabilities, and the discovery of who they really are. I have seen some of them suddenly inspired not only by the attractions of the world around them, or what a teacher teaches them, but by their own awakening to their bigger identity, constantly creating and capable of generating their own inspiration from inside themselves.

They are the ones who go beyond their comfort zones, unafraid to make mistakes. They go beyond the intent of getting high grades into a full-blown love affair with the topics in class. They are motivated, happy and very engaging.

As a teacher, I emphasize the importance of submitting requirements on time. I tell them that true genius or brilliance is being in the right place at the right time. And so it goes with their work.

Lastly, this class was wonderful because we all embraced the same journey metaphor. We were all journeying, in one way or another. They were journeying to greater knowledge and to adulthood. I was journeying into deeper consciousness and passion about the sacredness and power of teaching and being a teacher.

1 to “Journeying with my students”

  1. Carmen Rosales says:

    Good article…Reminds me of when I was a student at UST…



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