The joy of teaching

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated July 25, 2010 12:00 AM Comments (1) View comments

I started teaching again at the Ateneo de Manila Communications department after a hiatus of four years. I teach one subject called “Issues in Performance and Practice,” which is mostly a chop-suey discussion class about various topics from the history of OPM to the creative mind, from world music to nuances in languages and modern myths. It’s a fun class and I really look forward to my few hours every week engaging young minds.

I always start the semester by describing the course and telling them my expectations: a) to submit all papers on time, and b) to make an impression in the class so that I remember favorably who they are when I have to make a decision between a higher or lower final grade. And yes, I tell them that more than a concern for grades, they will probably benefit more if they don’t try to second guess what they will get but just show interest in the subjects we discuss. After all, I say to them half-seriously that their final grade comes to me via “divine guidance.”

I like informal banter but I also like to see involvement and genuine interest through the students’ comments and queries.

There is something about a classroom setting that excites me. As I look around and see young eager faces looking back at me, I am awake to the prospect that our sessions could create “Aha” moments that may affect some of my students (or me, for that matter) forever. I know that happened to me listening to a few of my teachers. They became major influences since meeting them in school and even through much of my adult life. As much as that can be exhilarating, there is also something sacred about it. I take very seriously the age-old saying: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I have seen it happen many times. And I believe that it cuts both ways. I learn as much as I teach. And sometimes, I get much more.

A few students can define the whole semester for a teacher and vice versa. They are the ones I feel a real connection with. They are the ones whose papers I am eager to read to find out their take on our discussions. They are the hungry minds who like to engage. They like to question as much as they like to be provoked. They make me optimistic when I imagine what they will be after they graduate.

Checking papers is the task I least enjoy as a teacher. So what I do is, after a few homework assignments, I pretty much get an idea who the good writers are and I put the papers of the best ones at the bottom of the pile to give me greater incentive to plod through a lot of uninspired writing.

There is a pre-set divine appointment that is kept when teacher and students take their roles seriously. There is an exchange of experience and wisdom and many small transformations can and do happen. I often tell myself (and sometimes I verbally express it to my students) that I consider all of them “A” students to begin with. All they have to do is maintain that grade. Many of them successfully maintain it.

At the end of every semester, I feel a sense of completion. A batch is finished and hopefully, they will take something from our interactions in the classroom and put them to good use in their lives. It’s goodbye for some even if some relationships extend beyond the semester, and turn into friendship or colleague status.

I have students from five to seven years back who still get in touch with me. One of them is now a co-lecturer in the department. I work with some of them in different projects from time to time. I have also written referrals for jobs some former students have applied for. Thank God, all of those I have recommended have done quite well.

I have even been asked by a few to be a ninong when they got married. It is such a tremendous honor to be asked by people whose minds I was somewhat instrumental in shaping, to be part of their lives forever. When they do, I meet with them and their prospective partners to discuss love, relationships and marriage. Always, I catch myself in the middle of those conversations still talking like their teacher and I smile. After all, the moment is a very teachable one.

When I ask them why they chose me as a ninong, I am humbled when they say that my class made an indelible impact on how they turned out. Some even claimed that it defined a lot of their college life, which is quite an extravagant claim. I am uncomfortable and embarrassed because I don’t know how long that will be true as they get older. I only hope and pray that whatever they got from our encounters in the classroom will be for the better as their young lives unfold into greater maturity.

* * *

Workshop announcements:

1) Songwriting Workshop: A lot of people through the years have asked me about writing songs since I have written so many, including hits, over four decades. I have long wanted to conduct a workshop on it. Well, now I finally will.

Date: Aug. 14 and 15

Time: 1 to 6 p.m.

Place: 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, Quezon City

Cost: P5,000

Requirements: Must know how to play an instrument — guitar or piano.

2) Creative For Life: A cutting-edge course to permanently awaken your creativity.

Date: Aug. 2-6, concluding Aug. 9

Time: 7 to 9 p.m.

Place: 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, Quezon City

Cost: P5,000

3) Basic Photography Workshop

Date: Aug. 21

Time: 1 to 7 p.m.

Place: 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, Quezon City

Cost: P3,500

Please write to to reserve a slot. Or call 426-5375/ 0916-8554303 and ask for Ollie.

2 thoughts on “The joy of teaching”

  1. I am a volunteer teacher at Schlolastica’s College Manila -Night Secondary School. I always tell myself that I am not here to teach them but to inspire them to learn and I always believe that teaching is not a profession but its a vocation.

  2. I really enjoyed this entry. As a teacher myself, I could really relate. And, of course, reading the entry brought me back to that one day I sat in your class in Ateneo. It was then that I saw Jim Paredes beyond the Apo Hiking Society and this blog. I feel lucky to have had the chance to know and see, even just for a day, Mr. Jim Paredes, the teacher, in action. Thanks for the chance, Sir. 🙂

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