I am reprinting an entry I made for an online workshop two months back. After I finished writing it, I realized that I wanted to post it on my personal blog, simply because I felt I had already written what I wanted to write, and could not muster the strength to run myself through the same emotional wringer again just so I could say my proper goodbye on my own blog. See, as a writer, I tend to jot down the first things that come to my head, at the speed it comes, and whenever I reread what I’ve written I realize I cannot again capture the same emotion once the moment has passed. This is true for most of the things I write, and particularly true for what I wrote in the entry below.
So — if I need to apologize for reprinting my own words in my own blog, here it is — I apologize. Just in case.
The school year is over, and there has yet been another cohort that has passed me by. As a teacher who has done this over and over for the past sixteen years, the yearly ritual of packing and sorting tends to become a bit of a religion: if you are constant enough in your practice, you will definitely experience a deepening of insight.
I guess this feeling is magnified when you pack up because you are about to leave an institution for good, which is what I am doing right now. The melancholy that accompanies the thought of leaving these walls that I have populated for a good eleven years is something that borders tears, but as this is not a luxury I can afford right now (given the limited time I have for doing this task) I simply decide to ignore the sadness and focus on the good times and on the learning I have done over the years. This I can definitely do, and it is infinitely more uplifting.
I have at least three boxes full of things, student material, letters, graduation programs, curriculum handouts, readings and books that I have accumulated throughout the years. I guess if you could box up memory and laughter and frustration and sleepless nights I would be going home with twenty and not three. Thank God for the wonderful collecting bin that is our brain, and I don’t even have to hire more vehicles to cart them all off. Nevertheless these are the ones that provide me with much insight to remember and live by, even as I leave one school and begin anew in another:
(1) Trust your students. It’s scary to do this, especially because we have been brought up in that culture that dictates teachers to be the be-all and end-all of knowledge. But I have discovered that students trust teachers who trust them, because they know that they are part of the process called learning, something that their teacher is also still doing.
(2) Don’t stop learning. As they say, practice what you preach. How can you challenge your students if you yourself have stagnated in what you do and what you know? No one knows everything, thank God. That definitely refers to your students. And most especially, that refers to you as a teacher as well.
(3) Find joy in what you do. As I told my colleague once, I prefer to hire a teacher based on their heart than on their knowledge or skill. See, knowledge you can learn and skill you can acquire. But heart is something that you cannot pay the world to have, because if you are not passionate about teaching (and indeed, in whatever it is you do!) then you will find no joy in it. But if you are, there will always be something fulfilling, hilarious, amazing, and inspiring in your everyday, even if all you’re doing is checking papers.
(4) Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Even if it sounds stupid to you. Believe me, our students think precisely the same thing! But without questions, there will be no answers to seek. And without that whole process, this world will simply be a limp, lifeless, unchanging landscape, worse than Mars. It would be a drab, boring place to be.
(5) Take that risk: your classroom is bigger than you think it is. The classroom is not the only place to learn. Even in my depressed country, there are museums, restaurants, movies, parks, factories, farms, and even homes where learning can be achieved. I bring my students out as much as I can and I am always humbled and surprised with what they come away with. It reminds me that knowledge and learning is everywhere, just like air, and is just as needed for this world to keep turning.
There are perhaps more wisdoms lodged in my brain, but unfortunately they will have to remain there for now. My boxes await, and I would like to leave before the dust settles, or at least before this school-provided Internet connection is closed upon me permanently.
Goodbye for now, my dear old school. I have learned much from you, and I hope you have, in whatever small way, learned from me too. Godspeed.