I started my day by waking earlier than usual (five minutes earlier to be exact). It was the typical morning: slow morning food service and frantic race to the LRT. The walk to school was uneventful as well. It was when I arrived at school and started to review for my first class that my department chair came up to me and told me I was going to substitute for a middle school teacher. At first, I was a bit scared given that I feel I’m not as competent in managing kids as young as 12 years old. Nonetheless, my boss came to me not to make a request but to state a fact: I was going to teach one session in middle school. I was game for it.
Ever since I started dreaming about teaching, I’ve never really seen myself teaching students younger than thirteen years old. I feel that I might end up shouting at them and throwing sarcastic comments at them. But somehow, in spite these biases, I felt different before the session because somehow I felt that this session was going to betray my expectations. And betray it did.
As I walked inside the classroom, I could hear shrill voices of young boys struggling to begin their puberty. I walked across the room as erect as I could in order to convey the message that I’m the boss, I’m in charge. Right before prayer started, I checked their rows and columns meticulously and ordered them to fix their areas. Upon fixing, we began with the prayer and greeting (I wrote my name on the board right before the prayer started). As they took their seat, I waited for them to settle down. My words began with, “This might be the only time we’ll ever get to meet each other. Because of that I’d like this session to be meaningful and productive for you. I want you to learn. I want you to succeed. And because of that I have a few rules…” After conducting my typical first-day spiel, I proceeded with the review.
As I was getting to know them more, I noticed something remarkably different between them and the young gentlemen I teach in the high school: these kids were kids. They were joyous, gleeful, and energetic. Their youth was infectious. As the minutes turned to scores, I started to realize why people would love to teach them—they were irresistable. However, this is just infatuation. I expected the worst of behaviors but I was given one of the most behaved ones. Maybe because I was a new teacher and a new face. But I’d like to think that they were behaved because I had something important to share.
The lesson finally winded down to the topic of Faith and how it is lived out. Normally I reserve my faith-shaking questions to older people but I wanted to make the class discussion interesting. Thus, I asked them the question, “What if one day, one morning, you wake up and you realize that God doesn’t exist, will anything change?” The reaction was varied. “Let me change the question,” I continued,”one day, one morning, you realize that your dad passed away, or your mom passed away, or BOTH passed away, will anything change?” There was a unified “yes.” “Then,” I continued, “how come when I asked you the first question about God not existing, you didn’t feel anything?” There was a commotion and some were in silence. After a while, I broke the silence and the commotion by telling them, “You know what, if you felt nothing at first, it’s OK. This is the point of CLE: to make God relevant. And hopefully, when I meet you all in your second year, and ask the same question, the answer will be different.” Some smiled with relief, others, continued their discussions with their seatmates.
I ended the class five minutes earlier because I needed to move to my next class in the high school building which was more or less a walking distance from the middleschool.
I’ve always been surprised with how my maker seems to always want to prove me wrong. I used to dread teaching in an all-boys Chinese school because I came from one and I know all the shit we do to our teachers. It was almost like an act atonement if I taught in that kind of school. But lately, I feel at home. I feel that this progressive environment was what I was looking for for a long time already. I guess I was wrong again.
I do hope that I’ll still get in next year because I’m just a substitute teacher in status. I hope that next year there’ll be an opening for me to apply to because I don’t want to leave yet.
I guess I’ll just have to wait if He proves me wrong again.