Recently I lost two vital items in my work as a teacher: I lost my voice and I lost my cool in class.
As I was preparing my presentation slides in my computer for a lecture, I overheard a student, who was just a little more than a meter away from me, make a comment to a classmate who was passing around an attendance sheet for everyone in class to sign:
Eh hindi naman kasama yung attendance sa breakdown ng grades ah.
(Attendance is not part of the basis for earning our grades in this class.)
I know that THAT is not true. One of the bases for grading a student is his presence in class activities. I rummaged through the folders in my computer, aiming to project through the LCD the document detailing how attendance IS part of the criteria for grading a student. After minutes of scouring, I couldn’t find the darn document!
Out of sheer double frustration- at the student’s insolent remark and my inability to locate The Document- I just lost it. I stood up, and with my sternest but shaking-with-rage voice, I began the lecture-slash-sermon.
University rules say that if you are absent in 20% of class hours, you will be dropped from the roll.
As a physician, you will be tasked to do things which you think are stupid but are actually for your own good.
If you can’t follow a simple instruction like signing on the attendance sheet, then you are not fit to become a physician. You will never become a good physician.
The spiel I delivered was a lot longer than what I shared above, containing a lot of medical school teacher-student jargon, sans mean invectives mind you. And almost all the time I was looking at the student who made what I felt was The Offensive Remark.
Somewhere at the latter half or last fourth of my spiel, I kind of pulled out of myself and I momentarily watched me doing the whole yakity-yak bit. At that time, I realized how silly I looked giving in to a juvenile remark I may have uttered more than once when I was a student myself.
And as my spiel neared its end, I thought I made my point clear and resolved to somehow let the class off the hook. My motor mouth moment, my first-ever in the two years I was handling classes in the university, ended with me poking fun at myself with-
And the Oscar goes to…
Nobody laughed. And it wasn’t because they were a small-minded lot. They were too stunned. For the most part I always had the chummy, friendly, one-of-the-boys teacher persona. For them to see and hear my in all my angry glory, the joke at the end of my spiel completely flabbergasted them.
I proceeded with the lecture proper as if nothing happened. But the boisterous nature they exuded earlier in the day got stowed away for the remainder of the afternoon. Good thing that happened- my voice became more hoarse with each sentence I uttered after the spiel.
The hoarseness of my voice- it got better several days after. But that instance, when I snapped, it’s been eating me still. Sometimes I’d think that the class deserved it, it had to be done, to put them in their proper place. Then there’d be times when I’d be haunted by it, losing cool in class is NEVER cool I’d think. I let them get the better of me, I let them get to me, and it shattered my veneer of invincibility and my persona of being the approachable buddy teacher. I’m still flip-flopping between these two sets of emotions…
I may have lost my cool and my proverbial voice but in the process I’m beginning to find the real me or at least the classroom me. Some teachers would prefer that they remain the student-friendly variety. Some prefer to have a Reputation of being A Student’s Worst Nightmare- only for this latter label to be debunked as an onslaught of kindness emanates in the classroom from the erstwhile monster behind the teacher’s table. Some still prefer to be all-business in class, showing nary a care to a student regarding matters outside of his/her lesson plan.
I’m still here, somewhere, aiming to strike a balance between maintaining a safe, professional distance while making myself available for them enough to be seen as more than just a chalk dust-covered figure they have to endure for the duration of our class hours.
I never knew life at the other side of the teacher’s table would be this hard. But I just pray to the Lord for the strength, wisdom, and patience to take care of these students He placed under my care.
And so I keep on keeping on, voice or no voice, whether we like it or else.