The Vagaries of Human Life (4)

The Wages of Being a Teacher

Education anywhere else is always a miracle.

When students come back to you and flatter you a bit and say that they learned a lot from you, you can react in two ways: take in all the argumentum ad populum or dismiss it totally.

I warn students to not flatter me. 

I have taught the problem of fallacies in human reasoning for many years, and I have had the privilege of spotting when flattery begins, and real praise ends.

People always act with a mixed of motives; there is no pure motive at all, and this, I always tell my students.

It pays that many of my Indo-Pacific classes have mutliple designations, including ethics.

This has given me the chance to journey with my students in our act of enriching our minds, and in our act of divining what is it in there for us in our invidual and collective lives.

Even as I attended a ‘Mele Festival’ for my daughter today, I also had the chance to meet with her teacher, and expressed my thanks to her for taking care of my daughter, and for giving her best to teach my youngest.

She said, with a joyful expression, ‘She is a good student.’

In the exchange, I thought of my work as a teacher, a life-work in some sort of way. 

I had not known any other profession except teaching.

I do some other things beside, but it is teaching that I have always gone back to, providing the money that I need to put food on the table. 

The other things that I do are all geared towards how I can improve my craft at imparting knowledge, and hopefully, at facilitating the transformation of minds.

And so when my daughter’s teacher told me that my daughter was a good student, I remembered how my students flattered me with those same praises as well, telling me and to my face that I was instrumental to their conversion to the 'Philippine cause'—the cause of understanding the difficult realities of that country that has contributed ten percent of its population to exported labor.

It is an unjust situation, this.

But when a country has not much to offer, it might as well send its citizens to other countries, and there urge them to earn dollars and remit these earnings to make that country's economy afloat. 

One student told me: ‘Of my entire college life, I only have three teachers I can praise without any qualms. First, these teachers have given so much of themselves. Second, they have made knowledge an event, not the mere transfer of information.’

I look at him. 

I sense his seriousness. 

There is pride in his voice, this New Yorker of a man, who is a veteran of life.

A father twice over of children in college like him, he is the most intellectually mature in the class, and always drawing from his work experiences when explaining things.

‘You are one of the three,' he tells me. 

'I thought you are a dude even if at first, I did not understand what you were saying, how you were able to put two and two together, how you made us work together, how you forced us to think otherwise.’

I listened. 

I looked for some signs of deception. 

There was none.

‘I am graduating, and I do not have anything to be afraid of anymore. So this I must say: I want to become a teacher, and want to teach the way you teach. Bold, daring, provocative. And oh, boy, you made your students work so hard!’

Ah, the wages of being a teacher.

Teachers can never change the world.

But we might contribute to the changing of the minds that will change the world.

That might be enough.  

Hon, HI/May 10, 2013

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