Thursday, June 19, 2008

Collared shirt

I was working out of the Fine Arts office the other day, on the computer usually left for faculty members, the Mac to the right of our secretary, Xander. Had asked my 9 Creative Writing seniors to email me 10-pages-worth of their stuff, a sort of diagnosis for me to get a feel for how they all write. In walks Verne, the class beadle; had requested him to drop by, to hand him extra copies of Saturday’s readings. Xander chuckled; I was playing the teacher card to a tee.

On my 1st day in class, I wore a collared shirt to appear somewhat different than my students (something discussed w/ Xander)—my Tribu sandals, my only mini-defiance. When I walked into the classroom, almost all my students were already waiting & I couldn’t help but giggle at the scene. Save for 1 girl, all were either former classmates or former co-members of mine at some student org.

No 1 was openly questioning but I insisted on explaining how I got the gig w/ them. I speak almost embarrassingly about it w/ mentors who are now, apparently, my colleagues.

The other week, I ran into former mentor Ma’am Beni & she asked, “What are you doing here?” I almost answered, “I don’t know.”

When I texted former thesis mentor Larry about getting the job, he replied w/ an evil laugh. When I emailed former teacher Vince to invite him to be a guest panelist in 1 of our in-class workshops, he told me to drop the “Sir” label already now that we were co-workers in a sense.

The Dean for the School of Humanities invited me to be a part of some new 7-man committee addressing “student welfare & development.” The memo had my name alongside a former Philosophy professor of mine, a department chair who had mentored virtually my entire block, & a couple of doctorate degree holders. I was by far the odd 1 out, w/ the 1 teacher closest to me in age having taught many of my friends in my batch. “They’re going to eat you alive,” said Xander.

I went to the university library the other week to have readings photocopied. Still w/ no ID, I was questioned by the guard. “Bagong faculty po ako,” I said, suppressing laughter. Every succeeding trip back sees me bowing my head as I pass by the same guard at the entrance.

I went to the Personnel Office the other day, a place I didn’t know existed. Was there to apply for my faculty ID. There was something so right about the administrators not having my name on their official roster yet.

In most ways I’m still uncomfortable w/ the being-a-teacher thing. Working out of the FA office was my way of feeling unlike an unemployed fresh grad just lying around at home. And so I was reading the works of my students, most of them former classmates. Some of the works I had commented on in my usual unforgiving way in past class workshops in my former life—as their classmate.

But I found myself not wanting to be so dismissive this time, not wanting to be so frank in the notes I wrote on my yellow pad. I found myself jotting down authors each student should look into based on what his/her style was, what she should consider adjusting & revising in their own pieces.

I found myself not reading behind the lens of my own self-centered criteria but w/ the individual in mind, knowing how he/she is like, what moves them, & not taking that away from them in assessing their works. I was praising or gutting the execution of their pieces but I wasn’t questioning the person behind them, ripping them to shreds for choosing the topics that they did.

As a student I would just say my peace & that would be that. Now I actually find myself wanting these individuals to all do well.

Damn, I thought. In that moment, if only in those couple of hours at the FA office just this past Tuesday, in front of the computer reserved only for faculty, I went from the back of the classroom to the front.

* * *

And speaking of teachers, a belated Happy Birthday to Glenn (June 18)!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Naks Martin! Professor ka na! Congrats to your new job! May you be a source of blessing to your students.

- Nina Suzette Lim

P.S. I don't know if you were able to read the long essay that I passed for CW thesis class, but if you have time, go to Finally, I was able to write about the frustration of learning Mandarin in the Philippines and have it posted in the website. It's far from perfect, but it's a start. Thanks for inspiring me to do better in my writing.

2:12 PM  
Blogger M.V. said...

Thanks, Nina.

Checked out your piece on


I don't remember it from class but found it to be a pleasant read on the Web.

I've forwarded the URL to my students if you don't mind.

Hope this positive development in your writing life inspires to continue to write.

6:24 PM  

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