Adventures of the Braless Teacher

Daughters will love like you do.

This is what happens when I stay home on a Saturday.

Mom (5:30 p.m.): Do you want chicken?

Me: No. I’ll just make myself a sandwich for dinner.

Mom (6:30 p.m.): I’ll make you a chicken.

Me: No na. I’ll just make a sandwich. I have cheese pa.

Mom (7:45 p.m.): I made you chicken. There’s brown rice.

Me: What? Okay

Hay. Jiggle.

So if someone could see me now, let them see You.

Organized religion, you’ve been coming up a lot lately in my world.

Right before I went to class today, I caught up with a friend. He asked me if I was still attending a church I used to be a part of. I said no. Surprised, he asked why not. And I said that I didn’t believe in organized religion anymore.

He scoffed at me, playfully. He didn’t believe me. I didn’t realize how much of my identity back then was tied to the church I attended. When he finally relented, he asked why. I told him that I didn’t like the person I was back then. And I don’t want to be like that ever again. He asked me if something happened, if the church did anything wrong. I said no, it’s all on me.

I think it’s important to be accountable for the choices we make in life. I chose to be a part of a church when I was 17 years old. I chose to attend youth service every Saturday, cell group every Tuesday, and the general church service every Sunday. I chose to ignore the better part of my brain and abide by legalistic rules. I chose to suspend my ability to think critically. I chose to allow the church to make me feel bad about being different and for wanting different things.

That’s all on me. The church did not force me into anything. I chose everything.

So when I look back, I’m not angry or bitter. I just know that it’s not how I ever want to be like again.

One of my favorite courses to teach is Social Psychology. I do a whole module on groupthink and discrimination/prejudice. When you’re talking about groupthink or discrimination, church membership normally comes up. Research shows that churches are breeding grounds for groupthink and that Christians are more likely to be prejudice compared to non-Christians or agnostics. At the end of the lecture, students will clarify: “So Miss, are you saying that we shouldn’t be a part of a church?”

I think: Ah, children of the corn. The whole deal with this higher education thing is that you’re supposed to learn how to think for yourselves. Sigh.

But I usually cave. And I say something along these lines:

I can’t think of anything that’s worth trading in your individuality for. And if you’re a part of an organization that tries to beat that out of you, then I don’t think it’s worth it. But it’s because I believe that I was fearfully and wonderfully made, and that I wasn’t meant to be a cookie-cutter anything. I believe in love and kindness—the real, non-judgmental kind, the kind that can’t stand for discrimination and hate. I believe in critical thinking and logic. But this is what I believe in. Your job is to figure out what you believe in and allow that to guide you through important life decisions (such as church membership).

I hate sounding preachy in class. But if there’s one thing I will “preach” is the importance of identity development. Figure out who you are and what you believe in. Hold on to it. Protect it.

Alison, I know this world is killing you.

A few more weeks and it’s summertime again. I say that like a pro, because even if I’ve only been teaching college for (a little under) two years, I’ve been in school all my life.

2012 has been eventful and it’s only March.

Last term, I was assigned to be a reader (panelist) for two thesis groups for the first time. I enjoyed it. A reader’s job is easy. You sit, read, critique, and communicate your comments to the mentor and his/her mentees. It’s a doodle and post-it fest like none other! On top of the “critical” thinking, it’s a great excuse to order copious amounts of coffee sans the guilt.

Apart from the free meal at the end of every term, readers aren’t paid. Thesis mentors, on the other hand, get paid. They don’t get paid a lot. But it’s enough for a new pair of shoes, maybe two if you shop at Green Hills.

I was assigned my first thesis group this term. They seem like a nice bunch of kids. But I get this feeling that thesis is just something they have to do, not something they want to do. [Big talk coming from someone who can’t seem to string together a couple of hours every month to write her freaking thesis proposal and finally get the coveted MS after her name. SIGH.]

I love research. I love it to bits. I took up human development as a major because of its bias towards research. Psychologists have a dual role to fulfill: they’re supposed to be scientist-practitioners. The glitz and glamour of psychology is in the practice. Therapists, clinicians, criminal pathologists, and even school counselors. As an undergraduate, I thought that that might be fun. And it was. I did my internships at a psych ward and a school. Both settings were interesting. But the rush that you get from reading a stack of journals all day and then finally finding the one little piece that validates your hypothesis is something else. (And again, a perfect excuse to get caffeinated).

When you’re in the world of research, getting published is king. Getting published legitimizes you. You’re handsomely rewarded if you are deemed as the most cited author in a university or if your work gets picked up by an ISO journal. When I first started teaching, I had an intense discussion with one of my co-teachers about the research culture in our university. I told him that I loved the collaborative nature of research and that I didn’t care if I got authorship. The work and the experience (and the pay) was enough. He disagreed. Authorship was just as important for him. And I understand. If you want to gain any kind of notoriety as a researcher, your name has to be out there. So, I get it. I get it, but I didn’t want it. Two years later and I still believe in the same things. I love the work. The work is what gets me up in the morning, what I think about at night. The work keeps me going. I’d do it all with or without the promise of co-authorship.

This probably isn’t the smartest game plan. Maybe it will change. Maybe reality will come and bite my idealistic ass. I hope not. I love my job. I love that I get to teach kids, burry myself in journals, and play with data.

 

Let’s see what year 3 will be like. Fingers crossed. Twinkle lights ahead. But some sand first, please.

The monkey on your back is the latest trend

I don’t understand boys.

I was setting up my presentation when one of the boys walked into the room. Let’s call him Boy 1.

Boy 1: “Ang baho sa CR.”

Boy 2: “Talaga?”

Boy 1: “Oo. Pare, ang baho talaga.”

Boy 2 leaves the room and comes back.

Boy 2: “Oo nga, pare. ANG BAHO!”

I therefore conclude that boys are genetically predisposed to smell things that smell bad.

And the crowd is a wicked alibi to stay together

Second term is the sneakiest. It creeps out of a sea of deadlines, unapologetically. It doesn’t care that you were midway in exhaling for the first time in three months. It is indifferent to the three-day term break we’re left with. It doesn’t care that the syllabuses need to be revised, reproduced, and collated.

I have no real refusal skills. I say yes to everything. In effect, I’m teaching four subjects this term from Mondays to Saturdays. Hahaha. I was supposed to take it easy this term to attempt to finish my thesis (on top of the other research-related commitments I’ve made).

The term started quietly today. I went to my 8 a.m. class, presented my regular orientation power point to the kids (32 slides of house rule-y goodness), had a large milk tea, and headed to my second class at 10:30 a.m. A student approached me after class to ask how old I was. The last time I got that was a year and a term ago. I thought I was getting so much better at the make-up. I’m now at my desk at the research center, looking up research grants. I have two syllabuses left to finish and I’m sleepy even after my three cups of coffee. And I’m grumpy.

I don’t really know how I’m going to get through the next four months. All I know is that at the end of this jam-packed term, I get peppermint mochas and twinkle lights.

Peppermint mocha. Peppermint mocha. Peppermint mocha.

Twinkle lights. Twinkle lights. Twinkle lights.

You’re such a pretty thing, to be running from anyone.

I just finished 4 ½ hours of classes and I’m still running on adrenaline (and a tumbler-full of white coffee and the canteen’s “chicken” parmigian).

The kids were amazing.

I had to rush through the last leg of my lecture because there were so many hands in the air and I didn’t have the heart to ignore any of them.

During my interview for this teaching position, one of the panelists asked me what I thought was the main difference between teaching preschoolers and college students. (Before I got this job, I worked at a preschool).

Intellectually, the distinction is very clear. In preschool, you are there to create an environment for the kids. You play a more active, directive role. That isn’t to say that the children are passive recipients of knowledge. Of course not. They create their own networks of knowledge and learn naturally, given the right stimuli and environment. Therefore, a teacher needs to create that world for them and model the skills that would like them to develop. At the tertiary level, teaching is less directive. You’re not there to teach content, but to encourage critical thinking. The kids have all the information they need at their finger tips. A teacher’s job, at the tertiary level, is to ask the right questions.

The panelists were impressed. I got the job. Yada, yada, yad.

Skip to the first day of class: I was nervous and anxious. I wanted to make a good impression and I desperately wanted the kids to enjoy my classes. I thought back on all of the teachers I loved and I realized that my favorite teachers normally:

  • told jokes
  • spoke well (meaning, they were articulate)
  • lectured

So, out of fear and desperation, I adopted this model of teaching. Everyday, that was my goal: to be funny and articulate while I lectured. For the first two terms, I lectured my way through everything. I only allowed for 10-minute reports for my Social Psychology class.

My plan was working! My student evaluations were great! It wasn’t until the third term of the academic year when I started to deviate. For the first time, I had to teach a three-hour long class. In the first two weeks, I tried to lecture the entire time. That got me a sore throat. Plus, it’s hard to be funny for 180 minutes. So I tried the lecture-activity-lecture set-up. I didn’t like it. I felt like the activities were a waste of time. That, and the extra paper work wasn’t worth it.

I finally crumbled to something I hated: recitation. Recitation is tricky because it presupposes prior knowledge (and preparation) on the students’ end. Worst case scenario: I ask a question and it’s crickets for 15 minutes. My untrusting nature coupled with the potentially uncomfortable silence kept me from trying it out. But I was desperate and I didn’t want to permanently damage my voice.

I tried it out and I was surprised. I guess that’s what happens when you start with such low expectations. Initially, it was just the same group of kids answering the questions. Then, when it became clear that they would really only get “demerits” if they didn’t even try to answer the question, 90% of the class started to participate (they didn’t really get demerits; I would just pretend to record something on my blank notepad).

Today was great. It took us about an hour to get through one journal. 45 kids, two technical journal articles, and they all had something to say. Sure, there was the one kid who said he didn’t understand anything, but he still took a jab at my Miss Universe question.

It was so good that I went rogue and ask un-powerpoint-ed questions.

It was so good that the kids’ answers would lead to more questions.

I am amazed and grateful.

A pseudo teacher’s prayer:

Good morning, Jesus.

It’s me again. It’s 5 AM in the morning and I want to stay in bed. So first things first, please give me the superhuman strength to get out of this bed. Thanks.

Oh, and thank you for yesterday. I survived the sleepiness and I stayed dry. Thank you for aligning the universe so I could ride home with my friend. Thank you for Studio 60 and my newly bruised ribs from all the (smart) laughing. Thank you.

So it’s Wednesday again and I have an 8 am class. Jesus, teach me how to say NO. If I knew how to do that, I’d still be asleep right now. My list is long today, but You’re You:

  • Please make coffee extra magical today.
  • Please give me a seat on the bus ride to and from work.
  • Please give me the coordination of a model (or, at the very least, a teenager who won’t fall down in flats).
  • Please keep my hair presentable, but not too flat (so that my face doesn’t puff out like a siopao).
  • No wardrobe malfunctions today, please.
  • Please get me to my classes on time, or make the attendance checker late—whichever works for you.
  • Please help me keep the kids engaged in whatever silliness I force on them today.
  • Please make sure that the kids’ brains are turned on and that they ask a lot of interesting questions.
  • Please fill my classroom with laughter. Laughing with me or at me, I don’t care.
  • Minimize the word vomit. Maximize the life-changing spiels and epiphanies.
  • Give me patience and unconditional love for the bimbos and lazy jocks.
  • No tech problems, and if there are, send me a kind student who will help me through it.
  • Take away my allergies and jigglies.
  • I declare you Lord over my excretory system. I trust in your timing.
  • Please make sure that my co-teachers have good classes too (the domino effect is hard to shake off).
  • Reduce my impulse to tweet in-between (or during) classes—which inevitably leads to tweet-leting.
  • Please send me good music to listen to (or think about) as I walk from one class to another.

That’s all I can think of for now. But I’m sure you’ll hear back from me again today. Thank you! I love you!

Hazah!

#****100

Yesterday, my workplace (and Alma mater) celebrated its centennial year. The campus was packed! Walking around the grounds meant getting to know people in the almost-biblical sense (which is awkward for me because most of them were students).

I got to the campus early, a little before 1 p.m. I made a few rounds, finished up some backlog, and hung out with a colleague. I remember thinking that it probably would have been amazing to experience this as a student. The reckless abandon that came with youth escaped me whenever the discomfort of the squishiness and heat came. Then I realized that student-me wouldn’t have even attended. Student-me would have chosen to stay home, vegetate, and catch up on sleep. Heck, even teacher-me would have skipped it if my friend wasn’t attending.

I have moments like this. I think that this is the price you pay when you’ve been in the same place for a while. There are moments when I’m on campus and the discrepancy between my thoughts and my current role hits me (like a train on a track-HAHA). There are times when I hate it because clearly the campus belongs to the students and I’m not a part of that fraction anymore. I miss running around the campus feeling like I owned it, knowing that this was my world. I know that this isn’t my time anymore, but it’s hard to stay bitter when you see all the amazing things these kids can do.

Anyways, back to the centennial. It was an amazing night. I spent it with one of my best friends. He was my high school batch mate and we went to the same University too. Ironically, I don’t ever remember seeing him around campus as an undergrad.

We spent most of the evening walking. Walking to find swag for our other friends who were too busy to attend (ahem ahem). Perfecting the art of Eat-walking, we made three or four rounds in the food fair area. Eating and talking and squishing. We had everything sinful: wicked oreos, s’mores, cookies, mojos, cupcakes, cream puffs, deep fried spam sushi, and nachos. We just kept going around until we were both full.

After eat-walking, I took him to the new cybernook/café to show-off. On our way there, we came across the Strings and Stanzas set up. It looked interesting enough and my friend forgot his ID so we couldn’t go to the street party outside. He was into the strings and I was excited for the stanzas. We couldn’t get seats so we decided to watch from the fire escape on the second floor of the adjacent building. We stopped for a moment thinking that we might get in trouble (and also because we could easily fall off the fire escape and die) but then we remembered that we weren’t students and I had a teacher-ID, so screw the DOs.

We stayed for the strings but couldn’t stop ourselves from laughing at the half-dead poetry reading part. We decided to walk around some more. The concert area was already packed by 8 p.m. (the next show was at 9:30 p.m.), so we decided to scout for seats. The building across it was the perfect place to watch. You would be able to see the fireworks, the concert, and a best bird’s eye view of the kids in the concert grounds.  But it was off-limits for renovations.

We were thinking of settling on less spectacular seats, which actually had improvised seats, when noticed the light set-up and two girls standing in the off-limits part of the building. We figured, what’s the worst that could happen? It’s not like they can expel us. And I didn’t think that being caught there would be a fire-able offense. Getting there was tricky though. It was a maze of closed entry ways. Using our old-timer knowledge of the ins and outs of the campus, we figured out the best route and got there. We had the best “seats” (sans actual seats) on campus.

People caught on though and it got squishier and squishier as we neared 9:30. We didn’t mind the wait though. We found ways to amuse ourselves (like making fun of the group of exclusively “macho” boys who kept taking pictures of each other).

It was pretty quiet before the concert started. But when the crowd started noticing movement on the dark stage, they started chanting the official university cheer. That was pretty magical. No one was leading them. It was just 2,000 passionate kids, cheering for the same thing. It was overwhelming.

Finally, the concert started and The Dawn was amazing. My favorite quote from the evening was from their lead: “Raise your hands in the air! Wave them like you just don’t care! Ang ganda! Parang prayer meeting.” The crowd loved the classic Filipino rock songs. I only knew one of them. During their set, they released floating lanterns (like the ones from Tangled). Love.

Then the fireworks started. My friend loves confetti (btw, he’s a dude). I love fireworks. It smelled like New Years. The collective awe was palpable. At the end of the display, it was dark for a few moments when a loud voice announced: “GARY V. IS HERE!” Our favorite celebrity alumni came out and led the crowd in singing the school hymn.

Again, 2,000 kids singing the same song with their fists in the air…the oneness of the crowd was such an amazing sight. You can’t fake a moment like that.

After the celebrities danced for the crowd, the centennial dance crew ended the night with one final performance. Right after it ended, without anyone leading, 2,000 kids started chanting: WALANG PASOK! WALANG PASOK! :-D

SORRY! This blog entry is unusually long. I normally like to write poop-entries (entries you can read over one poop-time). But I need to document the night in some way. I don’t want to forget how I felt that night. More than the food, discounted shirts, and amazing fireworks, it was the kids that amazed me. The potential and power of the youth will always be something that I’ll believe in and want to be a part of. If these kids could see what I saw last night, they’ll never doubt their ability to change this world.

Oh, I guess it would be nice if I could touch your body.

I’m in class today and the kids are filling up a worksheet in preparation for their first replication experiment. I’m having them do the classic Milgram-crowd-size-looking-up experiment. They seem excited. I told them that they have to act the part. No one will believe a giggling-looker-upper.

I like my experimental psychology laboratory classes because they are essentially new students. Repeaters freak me out. I like to start with zero expectations. That, and the fact that the classes are small so I get to build a real rapport with the kids.

In the beginning of my Monday class (2:40-5:50, urgh), one of the kids asked me if I lived in the south. Automatically, I said yes. It didn’t occur to me to lie. He said that he’d seen me get on the bus a bunch of times and that his friend (another psych major) would see me a lot at a popular mall there. I answered: “Yeah, I practically live in that mall.”

So the class settles down and I give my lecture and their activity for the day. I’m sitting by my computer, trying to subtly do stupid things online without being caught (–unsuccessful, one of the boys caught a glimpse of my screen and said: KRISTEN STEWART! I was looking for hair options for a wedding I’m attending). So I minimize my browser and stared into nothingness (nothingness being the archer-green wall paper on the faculty computer). I realize that I only remember one student encounter in the mall. He was a student athlete and from a different program.

FLASHBACK to all the times I was in that mall wearing short-shorts, pajama bottoms, and my hot pink Hello Kitty flipflops. Or the times I had my hair in a sumo bun and ran around without make-up. Let’s not forget the countless number of times I’ve fallen on my ass as I tried to get on the elevator while juggling a million paper bags.
CRAP. CRAP. CRAP.

I need to find a new place to hang out.

LaPis

I’m teaching three classes this term. Two Experimental Psychology Laboratory classes and one Positive Psychology class. I think I’m going to get dupped into teaching another orientation class.

I’ve already taught Positive Psychology and I’m really hoping that I’m better at it this term.

What I need to prepare for is my Experimental Psychology Laboratory class. I’ve already taught the lecture component of the class so I think I’ve got the theory down. Theory is easy. You read a book and it’s all there. The application is messy. I look forward to this mess. I think. But the term is young, and so am I. I just want my kids to be able to preform excellent, ethical experiments (EEE-hehe).

Aside from the mess, I’m also really glad that I get to have class in the Psychology Laboratory. I love our Psych Lab. I love our Lab technician, Sir Allen. He is the kindest, most accommodating person I know in DLSU. I wish we had more of him around. He’s my hero. I want to have bracelets made: W.W.S.A.D? Aside from Sir Allen, a lot of the faculty hang out there too. I love sitting in dyads and listening to all these great people talk about psychology.

I love being the dumbest person in the room. There’s so much to learn.

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