On the Blessings of the Unexpected (Part 1)

I got my teacher’s evaluations today for the philosophy course I taught the previous semester. Apart from the not too occasional comments regarding the technicality of the subject matter and the drudgery of the (oft-used) lecture format, my students’ feedback was positive for the most part.

Which fact gratifies and relieves me at the same time. Growing up, it never remotely occurred to/interested/inspired me to become a teacher (although three of my grandparents were teachers). There was too much . . . caring involved. One had to be kind, sympathetic and utterly engrossed in one’s students—how they were coming along, why they were consistently late for class, why their quiz scores were bottoming out, why weren’t they getting enough sleep. For someone whose appetite for nurturing other living organisms extends only as far as raising a Chinese bamboo fortune plant, it all seemed rather . . . involved.

And then I got into the academe to pursue a Masters degree in philosophy—and promptly discovered that a philosophy major has approximately 2.5 career options and all of them involve teaching to a greater or lesser extent (more often than not to a dismayed and disinterested captive audience). And that was how I became a teacher.

And with no intention on my part whatsoever, I discovered that I did not (and could) not remain indifferent to my students—wilted Chinese bamboo fortune plants notwithstanding. I harbored no illusions about my “pedagogic” prowess, having neither the flair nor the presence of my favorite professors (Fr. Adolfo Dacanay and Mr. Eddie Boy Calasanz come to mind with particular force), but it mattered to me that my students should find value in my class, that they learn their lessons well, and more importantly, that they find the lessons relevant to their lives (whether or not they pursue any of the 2.5 career options available to philosophers). I could not achieve any of the above objectives without ultimately getting involved, without finding out what mattered to these young people I saw twice a week—and I was surprised (and touched) by their candor and their honesty.

 So to all my kids out there:

Thank you, truly, for a wonderful year. It was a pleasure philosophizing with you. 🙂