When I was still a part-time lecturer at the Speech Department in Silliman University, I would often tell my students: “When I ask you a question and you don’t look at me – I’ll call you. When I ask you a question and you look at me intently, with a warm smile and a sparkle in your eye – I’ll also call you.” It was a class in Oral Communication and another in Argumentation and Debate. It served no purpose for the students to sit flat and quiet in class.
There is something about teaching that combats aging. More than the learning process, the challenge to keep up with developments around us, teaching is a great source of affirmation. It reinforces your continuing value without consciously yearning for it. You realize as you manage a class that you are equally a receiver of the elixir of life by the way you need to be creative about dealing with changing attitudes, shorter attention spans, and more liberated and liberal views. You ripen yet turn younger as you uncover more about your ability to put yourself in your students’ shoes, break down their apprehensions and misgivings about themselves and the class, and provide equal opportunities to shine, albeit in different ways.
There are many teachers that I look up to. A good number of them are from my basic education (Early Childhood, Elementary and High School) years in Silliman. Perhaps because those were my formative years, I was more submissive, with a mind that was tabula rasa. But much of my admiration for my teachers in my basic education years stems from how they mirrored mother-like traits to me. They connected with me more than individuals who stood in front of the blackboard, ready to snap at me in case I cheated in class or underperformed. I saw a respectable figure that I embraced as source of discipline yet one who was ready to share a piece of her heart and soul in lifting me up.
Interestingly, some of them were branded as “terror teachers”. They were the type who did not accept our exam papers if we failed to turn them in by the count of 10. Those who made us stand in class when we failed to answer questions correctly. The bunch that we mimicked and made fun of, whose faces we visualized on a dartboard.
Most, if not all, of us have experienced a terror teacher or two. We dreaded them. We hated them. We thought they were bad. But later in life, we come to appreciate them. They have to be distinguished though from those who compromise the future of students – this is not the breed I write about.
Ironically, these terror teachers create good memories of school life years after graduation. During reunions with batchmates, you talk about them with great fondness. Their unique classroom management style generates a hearty laugh. You tend to remember them more vividly. When you become a professional who’s gone through the rigors of work, you become more understanding of your terror teachers’ manner of dealing with you as a student. It then dawns on you that the antagonism you once harbored towards them merely reflected immaturity – what teachers exist for to assist you in eliminating. Likely, if not for your so-called terror teachers, the adjustment period for coping with stress at work would have been longer.
Terror teachers are among those whose approach to classroom teaching-learning is not the ideal. And because theirs is the unconventional, we tend to impose on them standards that only protect our comfort zones. Teachers really should create a classroom environment that is conducive to engaging students as co-facilitators of learning, but they thrive on some element of freedom and creativity. Just as there’s no “one size fits all” to parenting, you cannot confine teaching to a mold. Otherwise, you train soldiers who fail to test and sharpen their instincts, skills and talents by putting them on an all-too-familiar battleground.