wandering aloud

Visited the school where I used to teach last Wednesday, because it was celebrating its 21st, and heck, I was bored. Also had a few good, long talks with some of the people who stayed there after I left, which I learned a lot from. For instance:

– There is a line between being a rockstar of a teacher and being a plain old jerk of a person. It is, however, not a fine one, and is usually only crossed after it is noticed repeatedly. Biggest factor to consider is when somebody’s “nocturnal amusements,” to quote ye olde Revised Penal Code, begin becoming detrimental to the welfare of one’s students.

– Apparently, the methods of teaching used in law school have long been criticized by those in the field of education. Makes a lot of sense really, since the trend in education has long been to cater to the needs of students in order to arm them with what they need in a certain field to survive in the outside world, not some ego-fueled, wishy-washy fiasco of a class. I mean come on, the real reason why the Socratic Method worked in the first place was because it allowed people to explore ideas which came from them as well, not only those from something they were required to read and comprehend in a certain way, one which they would not be informed of until their grades came. Plus, Socrates never needed to grade students.

– K-12 is a bit of a bitch, since you’re on the edge of tempting people to not pursue a college degree. People still need a diploma to get anywhere in life, barring the occasional exception. I mean, come on, not everybody is a Bill Gates or a John Steinbeck.

***

Saturday was a geek milestone: got to travel from QC to Tagaytay just to visit a fellow Lego collector and his collection. Makes me wonder where I’d be as a collector now if I kept all the sets we used to play with when we were kids in tip-top condition. That, and if I had started collecting with Lego instead of with Magic, Transformers and other action figures. And no, the trip to Baguio from Antipolo waaay back when for L5R Kotei (Nationals) doesn’t really count for me for some reason.

***

Am almost halfway done with going through A Storm of Swords alongside watching it in TV series form. Unlike the first two books and seasons, this latter is starting to deviate heavily from the former, which I do not really appreciate. The dialogue is still very faithful to the books, yes, but mixing up characters and all might give the series’ producers some pretty big loopholes to fill in the future.

***

I am starting to enjoy being a bum. This is dangerous.

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TEDxKatipunan essay for posterity

A Call to Communicate

If I were to start a revolution today, it would be for a return to practicing face-to-face human communication. Being a student of the field and having worked as a high school teacher, I am amazed at how increasingly difficult it is becoming for most of today’s youth to be able to talk face-to-face with each other. True, the information age has given us such gifts as cellphones with multiple avenues of communication (text, BBM, calls, etc.) and the Internet in order to eliminate the factor of distance, but at the price of people nowadays, particularly the youth, missing out on the many psychological nuances that still make face-to-face communication the most effective form.

This call may seem to some nothing more than a romantic notion, but it is much more than that. Depression and suicide, particularly of the teenage sort, are becoming a bigger and bigger problem in our societies. This is worsened by the convenience of using technology in order to withdraw from having to express emotions, which accumulate and eventually explode from a person in a variety of manifestations. Today’s youth may be comfortable in the anonymity the Internet provides, but what havoc will such activity wreak on one’s self-esteem in the future? Worst of all, though, is the fact that it is becoming more and more normal for us to see a child walking with his parents in a mall, but with his eyes glued to his PSP/iPad, unmindful of the world around him.

More Fun (piece displayed beside an impromptu exhibit of students’ “More Fun in the Philippines” projects)

We Filipinos are lucky to be in the position we are in now: we speak English with the best in the world (sometimes even better), we enjoy the best things the world has to offer us, and we are able to draw from any number of inspirations and influences in order to create things that are art on so many levels. However, we are and have, for most of our history, been at risk of forgetting who we are.

People have always questioned why we even teach Philippine literature, consequently Philippine culture and history, in English. Some even go as far as petitioning to stop using English as a medium for education, instead teaching everything in Filipino. They follow through by saying that people who do not speak and write primarily in Filipino are not “true” Filipinos. These people are missing the point; the point is not really to not speak in English, but to never forget how to speak Filipino. Never forget where you come from, lest you lose your idea of where you are going (to provide an inferior translation of Rizal).

Installing Filipino pride in today’s youth is indeed a difficult task for a teacher today. What use, after all, are 1521 (the year Magellan “discovered” the Philippines), the 1898 Treaty of Paris (the treaty that handed our country over to the Americans) and Proclamation 1081 (Marcos’ declaration of Martial Law) to somebody other than a point, a check mark in a test paper?

But numbers are simply numbers, and facts simply facts. The real tests of pride come much more spontaneously: when the “Lupang Hinirang” (not the “Bayang Magiliw”, mind you) plays in the background all of a sudden, when a student wears a malong/bahag properly, when a child looks at a grocery aisle and decides to buy Nips instead of M&M’s. Being aware of these subtle yet powerful displays is essential to identity. Being able to tell what makes us Filipino, and how our superhuman senses of humor and self-deprecation can make even national calamities look like dance parties, can give us a sense of pride that no amount oppression can remove from us.

The point? Never forget where we and you come from, and you will never forget who you are.

And just to make things clear: yes, it really is more fun in the Philippines.

LessUnPlan

I would like to buy a big, big bunch of Mugenbine figures, and use them as a pre-lesson activity for teaching grammar.

Things that come to mind:

  • sentence construction
  • dependent and independent clauses
  • parts of speech
  • adjective and adverb phrases
  • pronoun-antecedent consistency
  • tense consistency
  • basically, anything that involves sticking things together

If only these could be included in requisition forms as easily as Manila paper, boxes of chalk, staples and whiteboard markers…

A Day Behindsight

Giving relationship advice to troubled students just makes me aware of how utterly messed up my personal relationships are.

It’s a good thing they’re often much stronger than I am.

Anti-Suicidal

(for Year I – Agnes Bohaxhiu, and every person who ever considered suicide)

One of the things non-teachers will probably never understand (no matter how much they will claim to) is that sensation teachers repeatedly refer to as “satisfaction” (possibly due to lack of a better term). It is this inexplicable reason, after all, that makes teachers “love” (again, possibly due to lack of a better term) what they do, despite such reality checks as salary sizes, time-to-benefit ratio, stress-induced burnouts and breakdowns, and so on.

To quote a co-teacher: “Eh anong magagawa ko, mahal ko ang pagtuturo eh.”

Small wonder, then, that when one engaged in the profession is “down in the dumps”, so to speak, perhaps one of the best methods for self-motivation is via channeling one’s self through his/her students. This, it turned out, was the case with my usual bouts of depression, and a recent activity held in my high school class.

The activity came after a discussion on a Manuel Arguilla story: “The Long Vacation”, which, at its surface, seems to simply be a cordial, if not formal, conversation between a boss and an employee, but which hints at the employee’s suicidal tendencies, all in the true Arguilla fashion of subtle human tension. The task was simple enough: write yourself an “anti-suicide note” (an antithetical counterpart to the traditional suicide note, where people usually ranted their way through whatever lives they led, with all literary gusto) and convince yourself that life, even at its most stressful, is still worth living, and suicide should not even be considered as an option.

The following are quotes lifted from the students’ journals, one from each journal, and edited only with the basic grammatical conventions. It’s amazing, the things people write in order to cheer themselves up:

  • The sun’s still rising, the plants growing, flowers blooming, birds chirping, animals living, people living. How can you not be happy?
  • It is said in the 10 Commandments: Thou shall not kill… YOURSELF!
  • Your parents might even think of suicide too!
  • Remember: Losers LET things happen. Winners MAKE things happen.
  • WE LOVE EACH OTHER SO MUCH RIGHT?
  • So I think to myself: If I have a good life then I must solve or do something productive with myself for me to achieve my goals.
  • You have tons of things to accomplish, you have to finish them all and learn new things from this.
  • Know that sometimes, it’s just you blocking your own sunshine.
  • GO SOMEWHERE WHERE NOBODY KNOWS YOU ❤
  • You could be happy even when you are sad.
  • If you die, always have a happy death and not one full of regrets.
  • Suicide isn’t a solution. That’s all. Ü
  • So please don’t die now. You have a life to live for.
  • You just have to take a leap of faith and just trust that you’ll land on both feet.
  • On some occasions I even think of just ending it all. But a lot of memories are holding me from doing so.
  • Don’t kill me. I’m too awesome to die.
  • For stress, just do something fun or do things that make you happy.
  • You kill yourself, your loved ones’ lives will be destroyed and you will make them sad.
  • If you go, how empty the universe would be / How dark the sky would be, without you shining brightly / If you go, how cold the nights would be / Without your heart’s warmth around me
  • Suicide is not the solution to your problem; it is not the key to close the door full of problems.
  • Killing yourself will make you look like a coward.
  • Take a look at the world you’ll leave, and then, decide again…
  • It’s not really worth it; why will you kill yourself if you haven’t really lived?
What can I say, these guys know how to make my day.

Learning Learning and Teaching Learning, and a Wheekend to Balance it Out

I’ve finally been able to admit the source of my eternal dilly-dallying and procrastination, and it’s more of a rational, paradigmatic thing than anything psychological or psychotic: You see, I tend to see everything as a learning opportunity, if not as a brain exercise worthy of my time. And when I say EVERY THING, I mean it.

Examples, because things are always clearer with examples:

  • Playing Magic allows for strategic thinking and looking for creative solutions to problems, which helps when looking for creative ways to weave (or, as we refer to it in the faculty, “webbing”) topics together in order to make teaching and learning an overall more interesting thing.
  • Reading comics allows for access to alternative methods of bringing out popular themes in literature, albeit in a more colorful, faster-paced medium. It also helps when trying to develop a natural wittiness to your speech, as comics nowadays are written in so many different registers, from ye olde formalitie to the sailor-cussin’, which allows for differentiation between registers as well.
  • Watching random music videos on YouTube allows for immersion on alternative forms of poetry, which in themselves are an alternative form of being able to transmit all sorts of information (I think it was Eagleton who said that literature was “the best words, arranged in the best way” or something along that line of thought. correct me if I’m wrong). Plus, as our principal always said, its best characteristic is that it’s very immersive, as far as aesthetic experiences go, and that’s always a plus.
  • Reading up on so many other worlds besides this one allows for appreciation of one’s own cultures and value systems, in order to be able to be more effective in handling questions of that nature, the ones teenage students love asking the most.
  • Hanging out with students can be like a cultural immersion, if one is simply observant enough. This is a great help when helping the students along the path to seeking relevance in whatever topic is being discussed, hopefully giving them the idea that they can indeed find personal relevance in any topic, whether literature or not, in order to be able to turn anything into a learning experience.

… and so on, and so forth.

You will see the problem here when you take another look and see that there is nothing there connected to actually making lesson plans, class records, quizzes and all other forms of paperwork. Which is how I’d actually have the curriculum if I could have it done that way, but that’s something for another one of these still rainy days.

Been reading up on Adult ADHD, and the things that come up are seriously scaring me. Not to be a hypochondriac or anything, but I’ve been hit with too many of the things that articles refer to as the common symptoms. Thing is, though, that I kind of like being this psychologically damaged little person, and I wouldn’t want to change if it means that I am able to uniquely experience the world in the way I am doing now.

I just sincerely hope the kids don’t turn into something like me.

***

Last Saturday’s gig was fun: lots of batchmates and fellow writers relaxing with milk tea, artsy shoes and bling-y accessories, and chilled, not-so-loud indie music. It’s always nice to be around people as unabashedly evil as you are. Let’s just say that you have to believe me when I say lots of tongues were bitten on that night. Fail birthday surprise for Karize failed, though, due to an uncanny amount of spoilers from people who were told specifically not to spoil that they remember her birthday. Oh well, at least we chimichurri’d our way to a hearty dinner and an even heartier conversation, one punctuated with laughter that probably made people outside Cocina Juan wonder how drunk we were, even if we hadn’t ingested any alcohol at all that evening. Extreme stereotypes aside, maybe that’s where the romantic image of the drunken student from Los Banos came from: when we’re together, we’re loud and brash in ways others would scoff at.

I really should be seeking out more local stuff in the more shoegaze-like genres out there when I have time. So that I can listen to it while staring at the shoes I bought from the event.

***

Sunday was no slouch either, as far as weekends went. Got last-minute pulled by Lola all the way to the CCP to watch a stage adaptation of the Hinilawod, an epic from Iloilo and IIRC one of the longest surviving epic narratives in the world today (Take that, Lam-Ang!).  A bit too much on the special effects in my opinion, but it’s something I’d imagine most of today’s audiences would need (promises to self to write a full-er review of the whole thing sometime later). Bought an anthropology book on Filipino prehistory that they were selling outside the theater because I’m a nerd that way (arghreadinglist!). Talk on everything from anime to how I taught Philippine epics to my high school students, plus dinner at the oh-so-nostalgic Ma Mon Luk main branch, all the way home.

As for me, I’m just happy that at least some of my students enjoyed reading the stories I told them to research on. Pinoy pride is severely lacking in this country of ours, after all.

***

My brain is shutting down, even though my body isn’t. Have to stop writing before I degrade into ranting, depressive gobbledigook.

Heh, Sigur Ros pun there.