We were one whole hour late. And kids don’t like being kept waiting. So when I opened the door into the computer room, I expected the worst.
There were pieces of paper everywhere. The table cloth was not where it’s supposed to, and all three tables were in disarray. But one could feel the tense excitement in the room as the kids held back their words and shouts when we entered the room. Their stifled laughs were almost audible through their sparkling eyes and fidgety hands. I wouldn’t mind if they let it out, but well, my mother was behind me. My mother was one of their most feared teachers in school.
But I wasn’t there to scold them. I was there to teach. My mother had me and my high school classmate conduct a workshop on Campus Journalism since both of us were active in our elementary school publications back then.
As my friend and co-speaker was busy connecting the projector to the laptop, I scurried to the front of the small computer room. I was quite fascinated since it looked so…advanced? There were at least five computers, two printers, one projector, and a huge white screen which, as we learned, can function as a touch-screen monitor which you can actually write on using a special, high-tech pen. Out of all those, we only had one desktop computer in school during our time.
I presented an overview of what we were going to do in the next two and a half days. I tried my best to inspire them and to convince them that they needed to know why they were writing, or why they were in a school paper. I realized the night before that I had only one reason for joining my school paper: I love writing. It’s already a part of who I am.
As I was speaking, mental images of my days as a young journalist flashed in my mind. I was the first ever student in my previous private school to ever win – let alone join – a campus journalism competition called “Press Conferences”. The first time I joined as a feature writer, I came in first among other schools. Our principal and I were in disbelief but excited. What came next were a series of competitions (almost every moth) that went from inter-school contests, into city, district, and division meets. I joined several other smaller competitions in between. In all those competitions so far, I consistently came in second place next to the best kid – Elfermin Mallari. I can never forget that name. But he was in sixth grade so it was okay.
The regionals was the farthest I got to that year. They only needed the top seven to go to nationals, and I didn’t get in. But I took pride in knowing that I was the youngest competitor in the regionals.
I snapped back into reality and introduced my friend to speak. The kids listened, we scolded, the latter more than the former. It was tiring and we ended up drained when we got home. My throat was dry and my head was throbbing. If I was going to be a teacher, I would not even choose to teach in elementary schools. I mean, what was my mom thinking?
Fast forward to the second day, late afternoon, workshop proper. We had the kids choose the category they want (editorial, news, feature, or sports news writing, photojournalism or editorial cartooning). We gave them topics to write about according to the category they chose. Some have not decided yet, so we had them try different categories.
I watched these kids write with innocent determination on their faces. They held on their pencils like warriors held onto their swords in a battle field. They asked questions with blazing sincerity even though some of them made me laugh to death (“Teacher! Why are you so soft?” “Teacher! Why do you smell like package?”). But I looked at them with awe and wonder.
My friend and I read through their outputs, sleepy eyes and all. But I couldn’t help but feel joy and excitement for these kids. They may not have appeared to listen during the seminar, but I couldn’t deny the talent and potential that they have. Most papers were blotted with the Red Ink of Correction, but to me they appeared like medals, awards, trophies. I decided I was going to see these kids again and go through their papers with them one by one, and so I did. The next day, I met with them and taught them more tips, went through their mistakes, and made sure they really knew what they wanted.
That was a light bulb moment for me. Ever since second grade I wanted to be a teacher. I only dreamt it because I loved writing on the board and on class records. In high school I wanted to be a college professor and scientist because I loved talking about what I know (showing off, yeah). But after yesterday, it hit me. I realized why I really want to be a teacher. I wanted to help kids know or realize what talents they have and what they want to do in life. I want to help young people know what they are most passionate about. I want to help people know what they were destined and called to do and help them get there.
Maybe being an educator isn’t just about teaching them how to read and write and do their maths. Maybe being a teacher is not just about scolding them, making sure they stay in line, making sure that they are not bent but fit perfectly into the mold that the world wants them to be in. Maybe being a teacher is more about being a spark of light to them, making them see that they are beautiful and are made for great things; shining a light to them to make them realize that the talents and abilities they have in their hands are worth more than just earning money for a living, having a family and settling down. I think, a teacher should be someone who would tell them that they are free to know what they want to be, because that is the best them that they can ever be – the best version of them that they can offer the world.