Sunday, August 26, 2007

Teacher: Pest

I just read Chris' latest blog entry about his last day teaching at a local school in Thailand. He included a very touching letter his mom wrote to him that talked about his impact on each of his students' lives and their impact on his. Although its' nothing new, it was only after reading Chris' mom's letter that I suddenly thought about how my teachers had an impact on me as a youngster. And instead of anything inspiring, only negative memories and borderline resentment came flooding back when I think about most of my teachers during my elementary and highschool days. They certainly had an impact on me. They made me hate school, fear learning and think I was stupid. Wow, I've finally let it out.

Let me start by saying I'm not book smart. Add that to the fact that my parents were mainly concerned about how my brothers did in school and not me. When I was applying for college, my father even told me it didn't matter which college I got into because I would just get married someday anyways. So as you can see, I wasn't confident at all when it came to "intelligence".

For 13 years of my life, I was confined in my good ol' alma matter Immaculate Conception Academy. And when I think about my old school, I shudder as memories of my teachers come flooding in. Maybe there were 1 or 2 that were ok, but most did nothing in terms of inspire me or want me to be a better student.

I sucked at maths and sciences when I was in highschool. I remember trying really hard to try to understand what was going on. Physics completely eluded me. But because I was tired of getting crappy grades, I told myself one day that I will try even harder and study for a Physics quiz. After I finished the test, I was quite confident that at least I wouldn't flunk this time. But as I passed my paper forward, I turned pale as I realized I had copied a wrong number on the board. Before the teacher exited our classroom, I pleaded with her to please reconsider and at least make corrections based on the number I had used instead of the one she gave. But when I got my test result back the next day, she had given me a big fat zero. I knew I had done ok, but because I copied the wrong number, it all went to waste. My teacher knew I was having a hard time in her class and instead of saying anything encouraging or making a note on how I was trying harder, she simply turned a blind eye and rubbed my stupidity in my face with a ZERO.

Another time we were learning how to make soap in the lab. After a uniformed amount of ingredients were combined by every group, we were to go to our teacher and she would pour the final ingredient into our dish to make it form into soap. As our group leader was lining up, we noticed how much our teacher was pouring into every group's dish. But when our turn came up, she looked at us and poured us at least 30% less than what she had given everyone else. So surely enough our soap ended up looking more like soup. When questioned why ours ended up like it did, we all looked at each other and said it was because she didn't give us the same amount of the binding agent as the other groups. And what do you know, we didn't pass that lab session. And it wasn't a coincidence either that our group just so happened to NOT have a "smart" student in it.

I've hated science classes ever since.

And other than this particular teacher, all I remember was that they all liked the smart students and didn't give the time of day to those who were having a harder time. Granted some of the students may be getting bad grades because they were just lazy and didn't study. But for those of us who really wanted to do well but just didn't know how, we were left out as well. And I think for me, all I needed sometimes was some positive reinforcement to encourage me to try harder and make me realize I wasn't stupid to begin with. But I got none of that from any of my teachers. I seriously blame all of them for not giving me the love of learning.

For my freshman year I ended up going to St. Mary's College in Moraga because I didn't have the grades to get into Santa Clara University which was my first choice. I started college with the continued notion that I would suck and just a passing grade would be good enough for me. But thank god I had professors who actually cared. I was amazed that for the first time in my life I realized I might have brains after all. And I have the professors at St. Mary's to thank.

I had an English professor, Gaetano Bandieras (may he rest in peace), who was the first one to tell me I have a talent for writing and that I should work at it. Our cultural communication professor, John Knight, was full of encouragement. I actually felt smart whenever I was in his class. I actually made the Dean's List while I was at St. Mary's! And because I did so well, I was able to transfer to SCU after my freshman year.

I still have alot of insecurities when it comes to anything academic to this day. But I am grateful the negative impact my teachers in ICA had on me were greatly reduced by my professors at St. Mary's. And because of that, my confidence in other aspects of my life had also increased. Gosh, it really is amazing how a teacher can influence the course of your life. And Chris, if you're reading this, I applaud you for what you have done with those kids. By the looks on their faces I am sure you have instilled the love of learning English in their lives. My old highschool teachers should to take a few notes from you.

1 comment:

christao17 said...


Thanks for the cross-promotion! It is amazig how teachers affect us and how little we realize it at the time. More than just teachers, though, I think that we rarely realize how much we affect others around us. All the more reason to act with grace and compassion towards others.

We'll talk about Fiona once I get back to BKK later this week.