Monday, July 16, 2007

The learning cub

It’s been a year since I began teaching- last July 4th to be exact.

But it was only on this first week of June 2007 that I received my appointment as temporary full-time faculty member of the university. Despite the delay- no thanks to the election ban and my own sluggishness in processing my papers- I am immensely grateful to finally *belong*.

Over the last year, I have given lectures, facilitated small group discussions and health education activities, toured barangays, saw patients, checked papers, heard the rants, basked in the applause, emailed and texted, coaxed into dealing free meals- to, with, for, by, and of students- ranging from one at a time to as massive as 160 at a time (plenary discussions and not dinners, mind you).

I have agonized in front of the computer as I prepared lectures. I have sweated buckets when key presentations wouldn’t display the intended animations or students miss getting a ride on the same LRT train as I en route to places unfamiliar. I have played willing driver, peacemaker, photographer, explainer, jeepney fare collector, jester, career counselor.

I loved- love- every second of it.

My professors then are my colleagues now, not just as fellow medical professionals, but as fellow teachers. From seeing them in smaller 20-strong academic committee meetings, to the hundreds who attend the College Council meetings, to the crème de la crème who participate in the University Council.

So this is what it feels like to sit at the other side of the teacher’s table.

My classmates and friends from batches of medical students a year or two before or after me still call me by my first name. I am and always will be Ian. I’m still a bit distracted when people call me Doc; you can just imagine my happy consternation when students greet me as Sir, whether in Robinson’s Manila or just around the campus or hospital.

Surreal.

While it *feels* great to be looked up to as a teacher, to say that is *hard work* is an understatement. I have to admit that the first few classes I had, I sort of just winged them. No sweat, I thought. But student can and will hang on to every word you say and do; once uttered and/or demonstrated, they will be elevated to the level of almost-gospel truth. But the trickier one is Getting Caught With Your Pants Down, when students *actually* know what you’re talking about AND find out some inconsistencies in your statements versus standard medical knowledge. Or worse- common sense.

A couple of Fridays ago we had our orientation for new faculty members. They dished out the usual HR stuff about leaves (where I learned there is a mandated 7-day paternity leave and the Solo Parents Act of 2000 where maternity leave benefit can be granted to an unmarried solo parent) to GSIS details to special seasonal bonuses and allowances. I was still surprised (though I shouldn’t be) when one of the resource speakers from the faculty intimated that an Associate Professor VI in UP gets a take home pay of about P24,000 while an Associate Professor VI in UST gets a whopping P86,000. So just imagine what my take home pay is as Assistant Professor IV, which is eight ranks lower than Associate Professor VI…

Life.

I thought I’d be disheartened- I should be disheartened- upon knowing how little pay I will get. After all, this- teaching- isn’t a mere hobby I got into out of sheer boredom.

I am not backing out though.

Appending the letters U.P. with my name will open doors, throw them w-i-d-e o-p-e-n. They already have- to entrance ways leading to Jakarta and in three weeks’ time to Helsinki.

The job may not be paying much but I am working day in and day out with arguably the most brilliant minds in the country, today’s health policy makers and powerbrokers and tomorrow’s leaders and industry influentials. God-willing, we'll all be part of the collective answer to what ails our country.

It’s not a perfect world, teaching. There would be problematic students, problematic topics to discuss, problematic circumstances. It’s like any other workplace, any government workplace as a matter of fact. There are budgetary issues, office politics, challenging fellow civil servants, systems to question, policies to comply with whether we like it or else. Name an organization free of such hassles and I’d say you must’ve died and gone to heaven already.

I know of some people who continue to remain adrift and wandering, or hold on to a rock ledge deemed stable but is consistently being pummeled silly into a state of unhappiness. On a more personal level, I feel that I’ve discovered my niche, the milieu where I can best thrive, considering all my strengths and idiosyncrasies.

I am blessed. And grateful.

Very grateful- to God, the One True Source of Knowledge and Healing; to my parents and siblings, my most ardent fans, pillars of strength, welcome critics; to my teachers, erstwhile mentors and now- friends; to my students, partners in learning, feigning interest when there is none, yet unstoppably loquacious when sufficiently warmed up; to my friends who understand when I unceremoniously call off or walk away from carousing and singing because of papers to check or lectures to prepare for the next day; to my Lingkod community brothers and sisters who continue to storm heaven with me, knowing fully the ordeals of a teacher; and this blog and its readers- for keeping me sane and grounded.

You are all both inspired and inspiring.

Again, I am blessed and grateful, and filled with much hope.

6 comments:

  1. doc ian, sir - i know of white collar medical snots (these are egotistical specialists who charges gazillion bucks and maintain offices in swanky top-rate hospitals) who are not getting that much glowing respect and the kind of sincere gratitude you get from people whose lives you have touched. i am not encouraging poverty here: hell, im shallow and is very keen in negotiating take home fee till the employers wince (and still whines of being underpaid). but at the end of the day all we want is to find some little meaning for our existence--that intangible something to make sense out of our daily lives. and you've already have it: in buckets!

    trust me, with your dedication and zeal you're far richer than those yuppies i know.

    cheer up. and get used to being called "sir." it's a very noble title.

    and you deserve every letter of it.

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  2. Ei! Welcome to the teaching profession - sshh.. I'm also teaching. It's going to be one bumpy ride, more so when the grumblings of your stomach can no longer take the pay you're getting.

    Honestly, I'm shocked na ganun lang magpa-sweldo ang UP. No wonder most of the better faculty members there are leaving.

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  3. aryo: thanks! i'm learning as i go; the students have been kind to their newbie teacher and the university has been supportive, albeit not money-wise hehe but it has its perks so... ok naman hehe wala pa namang gutom so far =]

    loudcloud: your blogged vote of confidence is appreciated but the giant plasma tv in your flat gathering dust is a more tangible display of support. just say when and the movers will gladly take it off of your hands harhar

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  4. Congrats on your new job doc. It's a noble thing to do. Good luck and God Bless!

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  5. wow. :) congratulations dear friend! you'll be a dean in the future :p

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  6. pepper: having seen the dean and how his work is more closely- i don't think i shall be aspiring for the deanship now or in the future hahaha hirap ng trabaho nya!

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