Life Lessons From The Classroom

When I was a young grade three student back in 2001, I competed in a declamation contest in school and lost. I will never forget how I felt after. I was sad. I was embarrassed. My self-esteem hit the lowest of the low and I promised myself that I will never subject myself to the same embarrassment again.

Hence, for the next seven years, I never joined any competitions again. I regret that decision though. I should’ve gotten over the defeat and moved on. I should’ve given myself a hard deadline on when to stop feeling awful about myself. I should not have let it reach seven years. It was a waste of time. I already wasted so many good opportunities that came after that defeat.

Thirteen years after, I found myself teaching in a public school in Balintawak and as a classroom teacher, I was also given the opportunity to coach students who were bound to participate in district competitions. I chose a little boy named Jommel to be the school’s official representative to the district storytelling contest in Filipino for Buwan ng Wika. Though he was not part of section one (the top roster of the batch), I was pretty confident that he could pull it off. After all, I had so much faith in the talent of this young boy. We practiced day in and day out. For more than one week, my world revolved around Jommel. We spent long hours together just to practice his piece. He did very well but unfortunately, didn’t make the cut. He finished 4th (out of 12). The feeling was horrible. It was so close. It was very close.

bea-tan-jommel

Being in that situation brought me back to what exactly happened to me when I was in third grade. I was not able to say anything that made Jommel feel better that moment. It was not easy to explain and make him understand that losing wasn’t such a bad thing. I felt that I was eating my own words. Giving himself a “deadline” on when to stop aching is an illusion after all. Very few people can do this; I couldn’t even get myself to after all those years.

Three months after, I was asked again if I could coach a student for the English camp at the division level. I was hesitant at first but then I complied. “This would be different”, I told myself. I was to select a student whom I deemed fit to impersonate any character. I chose Filemon Mamon (by Adarna publishing), a boy who has always been told that healthy and fat people can never portray the role of a good guy. Hence, the only available roles left for him were villain roles. But in this story, he is set to prove that he can be the protagonist, and become Andres Bonifacio for that matter.

bea-tan-miguel

For the second time around, my world revolved around training Miguel but we were more relaxed this time. Miguel fit the role perfectly. He already won me over even if we were just beginning our rehearsals and I tell this to him everyday. In imparting words of encouragement to him, I wasn’t afraid that it would make him complacent. I just wanted him to make him feel good about himself.  

On the competition day itself, Miguel jumped into his Andres Bonifacio suit and took the stage. While he was performing, everyone in the hall was picking up his piece well. He did such a good impersonation of Filemon! I was also laughing heartily, and was amused at how he delivered the lines, even if I’ve seen him perform this at rehearsals many times before. But after a minute or two, I found myself silently crying at a corner because I was beaming with so much pride. I was I amazed at his ability to stand in front hundreds of people and literally put his audience through all sorts of emotions—laughter, tears, anger and bliss. That feeling is what they call genuine happiness.

Miguel made it. He landed 2nd place out of 17. When his name was called, I already jumped out of my seat. That moment reminded me of my core. That moment, I was reminded of how rare and difficult it is to teach, how long the journey to success will be but more than that, it reminded me of how beautiful stories such as this one could come to life – if only we make that bold step to enter the classroom, and teach.

I might have lost the declamation contest I participated in years back but little did I know that I would finally come into terms with my defeat with the help of both Jommel and Miguel. Now, I understand why I lost that competition in 2001. I feel that I’ve already gone full circle after witnessing Jommel’s and Miguel’s little journeys to success.

About the Contributor

Bea Tan obtained her Psychology degree from De La Salle University in 2012. She graduated Magna Cum Laude and was valedictorian of the College of Liberal Arts. She also pursued Psychology in the National University of Singapore when she went on exchange in 2011. She joined Teach for the Philippines and became part of the pioneer cohort in 2013. On the same year, she went on to pursue her Master’s Degree in Education from Ateneo de Manila University. She is expected to finish her studies in 2017. She loves reading, writing, and traveling.

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Artwork by @lepetiteciel

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