The Road Taken

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Image: Fr. Johnny Go, SJ (left), me (right).

Today marks the end of the best accident of my life.

It’s been almost a year since I submitted my application out of desperation to Xavier School, really. When I received the rejection message from the school I initially applied for, I broke the news to my family and girlfriend and she insisted that I try out in Xavier. Me? Teach in a Chinese school? was my first reaction. I just didn’t feel that I was fit for the environment. Although I did come from a Chinese school myself (and obviously my complexion is far from Chinese), I never really considered teaching in one. Nonetheless, after a lengthy discussion over dinner, she managed to convince me submit my application by telling me, “If there are so many things you don’t like about the school, then maybe you’re the change that they need!” And to add to that, one of the reasons why I didn’t want to leave my current work was because I felt that I was so important to the department I was working that they might not function well without me. With this she said to this effect, “The company will still function even without you. Let them handle it.” Just the right kind of motivation to do something meaningful. The Saturday after the dinner, I found myself in the gates of Xavier, handing over my application forms and not really hoping for anything favorable to happen.

The week after I submitted my papers I received a text message from Xavier telling me they were still in need of Christian Life Education teachers. On the day of my scheduled initial interview and testing, I found the school environment very familiar—it’s like I’ve been there before. This is probably because my high school (Sacred Heart-Ateneo de Cebu) was architecturally designed the same way. This familiarity arose again when I received word that I was up for an interview with the department chair and a demo class. Things are looking up so far!

On the day of the demo, I was informed that I was actually applying for a substitute position to which my heart sank. But I was desperate to teach and I agreed to the circumstances. Next, I found myself in the receiving area of the Principal’s Office with three other candidates: a seminarian with an MA in Theology, a fresh graduate from the Royal Ponitifcal Catholic University with a degree in Education, and Maricelle, a former Xavier employee who has worked in Bukidnon as a minister. Obviously, I was intimidated. Did I stand a chance against these three? We tried to make some small talk but it was to Maricelle with whom I felt most connected. As I waited for my turn to be called, Fr. Guy, SJ (who I thought was a co-head of some sort in the CLE department) came into the office and asked where the CLE people were. The staff were unaware but I overheard some of the CLE teachers mention the room of the demo. I was about to tell him where it was but then he hurriedly left. After around 20 minutes, he came back unsuccessful. That’s when I stood up, introduced myself, and told what I knew. He took sometime to know my name and asked what I was applying for. A cunning smile came over his face when he knew I was applying as a CLE teacher. He wished me luck and went to the room I said. I thought he was only going to pay them visit. How naive of me.

After all of the other candidates had their demos, it was my turn. I was supposed to execute a lesson on the 6th and 9th Commandment, which is probably the most difficult Morality topics to discuss. Once I arrived at the room, I saw Fr. Guy, SJ in the middle of the room. It felt like I was in a telenobela, where the person helped was actually the person who was going to decide leading character’s fate. I just swallowed the fear and went on to set up. As I lead the opening prayer, I had only one thing in mind: gratitude. I was thankful to have been given the opportunity to show what I could do. Deep down, I told myself, even if I don’t get the job, at least I became a real teacher—even if it was just for an hour.

I learned from my previous education classes that classroom management should be the number one concern. Right before delivering the lessons, I placed the ground rules: that I was in-charge and if they wanted to learn, they’d have to follow my rules. Giving that command would have been easier than giving it to teachers who comprised my demo population. With my rules in place, I proceeded with the lesson. It wouldn’t take long until Fr. Guy, SJ and Marlou would start bombarding me logic-twisting questions meant to rattle an ill-prepared teacher. Admittedly, to most of their questions, I told that I didn’t have the information to give a good answer and offered to do research. I ended the demo with a reflection I stole from a college professor about “not losing sight of the big picture” that we are meant to be better people. No matter what have done, what we are doing, what we are going to do, we have to keep in mind that spiritual growth should be our emphasis. As the closing prayer was said, I was surprised to see Marlou, one of the toughest, most philosophical “students” in the class, come up to me and shook my hand. He congratulated me for a job well done. I thanked Mr. Demegillo for the chance to teach and went back to Makati. Curiously, as I was queuing for the elevator, I received a text again from Xavier telling me my schedule for the panel interview with the administrators! Wow! I actually made it! There must be something here. Things are simply falling into place for me.

On the day of the panel interview, my heart sunk when I saw Maricelle in the same room with me. At that time I thought that that meant we were both being considered for the position. But Maricelle told me that the administrators were considering hiring one of us to be part of the Campus Ministry and Service Office, which I didn’t want but Maricelle was familiar with. We bade each other goodbye and good luck as she was the first to be interviewed. When it was my turn, I projected my best and tried to answer their questions as truthfully and as sincerely as I could. When asked if I wanted to be hired as a Campus minister instead of a CLE teacher, I told them, “Honestly, I applied to Xavier as a teacher. However, I want to be an effective teacher someday, and if means doing a non-teaching work first, then so be it. But in the end, I really want to be a teacher.” After the interview, I went back to the office and waited for their decision. Maricelle was pulled out first. Then, Mr. Demegillo informs me that I was being hired as a CLE substitute teacher! I was elated!

I WAS FINALLY GOING TO BE A TEACHER!

After discussing the employment details and requirements with the Personnel Head, I went back to the Makati feeling burdened of having to tell my favorite boss that I was finally leaving. Much to my surprise, she told me that she wasn’t angry at my departure. In fact, she was happy that I knew what I wanted at an early age and I was pursuing it. With a grateful heart, a month after I tendered my resignation, I left the company I served for a year.

Today, I am no longer a substitute teacher. I was blessed to have been given the chance to teach in the same school, in the same year level, in the same subject. With my absorption, I now have a chance to improve on what I could have done better. Also, after having taught for a year, I more or less know what’s my role in this school: to change lives.

However, this day (March 22, 2013), also marks the end of the twelve year term of our President, Fr. Johnny Go, SJ. He brought Xavier to new heights and has made such an impact on it. With a bittersweet conclusion, we bade our beloved director a farewell. Curiously, right after the Service Awards had ended and most of the audience and awardees had left the venue, I found myself sitting down and watching people flock over the director. As I watched the events happening, I told myself, “One day I will be epic. I will be as influential, as creative, and as ground-breaking as this man in ahead of me. Although I will never have the ‘S.J.’ suffix in my name, I will live my life as ‘Jesuit’ as I can. ”

This has been, by far, the best accident that’s happened to me. Because of this, I wonder what other accidents are in store for me next year? There’s only one way to find out.

Cheers to an epic new school year!

 

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