(Because it's World Teachers' Day, I decided to post an excerpt from one of my reflection papers in my CE major class last year. Consider this, my tribute to all teachers - to my mom, especially, for being my first teacher and for unknowingly inspiring me to be one.)
I have always been a good student. Let me rephrase that statement. Modesty aside, I have always been THE best student. I don’t know how I got so competitive in class, but throughout my academic years, my only motivating force was to be on top. So I was. Academic excellence became my life, my identity.
I have the deepest respect for teachers. While my peers called our teachers with nasty nicknames, as objects of scorn and ridicule, I would consciously distance myself from such juvenile deeds.
Perhaps, my mom being an English professor influenced much of my attitude towards learning and towards relating to my teachers. Growing up, I and my two sisters spent particular days helping Mommy check test papers of her students. It was a routine we have grown to love. Classroom anecdotes would always fill our dinner conversations. My mom, of course, was the willing storyteller. My mom, the teacher.
It’s no surprise then why I love teaching. So much so, I could remember playing school as a seven-year-old. I would be the teacher, teaching Math, Reading, Science, pretty much anything. And my playmates would be my students. We’d set up our makeshift classroom in our empty garage. With a piece of plywood as our blackboard, and spare pieces of chalk I snitched from Mommy’s stack, I would teach away with much gusto. And amazingly, my students listened and actually learned. That memory would be buried in the deepest recesses of my mind and heart. Not until I find myself teaching again. Until that long slumbering passion is awakened. Again.
As far as I know, it was never my ambition to become a teacher. I loved teaching, but I never saw myself as a teacher – at least by profession. With my drive, I thought I was made for something far “greater”. The teachers I loved were those who satisfied my thirst for knowledge. Learning to me was nothing more than the pursuit of enriching one’s intelligence.
My passion for teaching was rekindled when I became active in youth ministry. Being a youth leader and with much spare time in my hands, I got involved in our church’s campus ministry program, After-Class Getaway. I was on my latter years in college then. Every Friday afternoon, students from a nearby public high school would flock in our church to hang around and play after their classes had ended. Never the social bug, I was contented just helping out in the menial tasks of distributing snacks or cleaning up after the sessions. All of a sudden, I found myself doing more than what I enlisted for – leading games, facilitating small groups, teaching Bible lessons, actually talking to the students. Slowly, I was falling in love with those kids. I remember writing a blog entry, Loving Fridays:
“If I could only weave the stories of their lives, it would be a tapestry of colors of all sorts. At such young ages, I could barely believe how life could be so hard on them. My pampered life was challenged to look face-to-face, the harsh reality of the world. Broken homes. Molestation. Poverty. Child labor. Hunger. Abandonment. Neglect. There was only much that I could take in. And so little that I could do to ease the pain that was slowly and unknowingly numbing their hearts. That little, I was willing to do. If only to give them a momentary respite for their souls. A chance to be a child again at play. To dream again. To trust and to hope. What I would give…”
And my heart ached. Not only to teach again. But to love. And love those kids I did. With the best way I knew and can. TEACH. This time, not only for knowledge’s sake. But for LIFECHANGE. Anything short of that goal is a failure on my part as a teacher.
Thus, began my journey as a youth worker. I am convinced that I am called to be a youth worker for life. Unless God tells me otherwise. With that label comes the inevitable responsibility to teach God’s Word to the youth. In that respect, I believe I am very much a teacher. Perhaps, not by profession, but by conviction.
Time and again, teaching the youth has proven to be a challenging feat. I remember my first attempts at teaching. I was very cerebral – teaching to impart knowledge. I remember strictly sticking to my outline and meticulously teaching by the book, thinking that my students will absorb every word that comes out of my mouth. Most of the time, I walked away frustrated with blank stares haunting me. I had to learn the hard way that students process and learn differently. Not everyone was like me who thrives in a traditional class, where the teacher lectures away while I practically take in everything. If I were to truly teach, I needed to embrace the fact that students are wired differently and uniquely. To teach effectively, I needed to adjust my style. As the apostle Paul said in his epistle to the Corinthians, “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). And so I have become all things to my students so that by all possible means I might actually teach some.
In my experience with young people, I’ve observed that their attention span is shorter and that their culture is constantly changing. The challenge then is to catch and keep their attention, and be relevant. To bore young people with the Word of God is a sin.
Yet I do not claim to be an expert in teaching the youth. The youth’s culture is one that is so dynamic that to teach without regard to the changing times is tantamount to killing a young person slowly, with neglect and abandon. I surmise that it will be quite a challenge to teach the emerging generations, but I pray my love for them will compel me to be the best teacher that I can be. To learn to teach is to love truly.
“It is my prayer that your love for the kids will overflow abundantly, infinitely, immeasurably. And may you behold the joy of seeing the fruits of your labor in the lives of these students. Perhaps not now. Not soon. But someday. By God’s grace, I have. And I can’t wait to see more. Someday soon. In God’s perfect time. For now, I pray you’ll fall in love with them. And love them, you will.” (Loving Fridays)