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Monday, October 8, 2012

A Memorable Teacher

If you're hoping for a Kumbaya type story, this isn't it. Best that you look for something else to read.

Teachers convey their lessons...differently.
(Courtesy of

I know that this is a tad bit late for Teacher's Day (which was celebrated last October 5), but better late than never. Sometimes, anyway.

A day like that eases into a trip down nostalgia lane, with the high school/secondary years coming into mind as the most vivid. Maybe because that was a season of firsts in terms of emotional awakenings? Aaah. Who knows? These were the "rebel" years, when you stake your claim to say to the world "this is me...I think", trying to put up a facade of certainty, when deep inside, one was a swirling mass of deplorable uncertainty.

A particular teacher from this period taught me to stand my ground. And not because she wanted to help me. (No, don't worry, no names will be revealed.)

On the contrary, she seemed to have made it her "mission" to impress upon the students she was not particularly fond of that she didn't like them. I really should say us, since I was one of those in her "not liked" list.

In truth, I did not know why I entered her radar with that persuasion. I did my homework, recited more than sporadically in class, was involved in extra curricular activities, and not chatty so as to disrupt class. And that was the first lesson she taught me: sometimes, for no good, obvious reason, you just don't like a person. It makes no good to analyze and dissect the reasons, there are people who rub you the wrong way instantly, and I have experienced this as an adult, over and over. 

Of course, she was a teacher, so she was handicapped with that disadvantage: she could not, in theory, overtly show her disdain for those she disliked. Or so I thought.

It started with the little things: she would refuse to call me even when there were only a handful of us who knew the answer to her question, or she would feign boredom whenever she was forced to call me in those "graded recitation" exercises. Lesson two: never show your opponent you are affected. Having felt her dislike quite early on, I knew it would grate on her nerves more if she saw my nonchalance at her attempts to convey her unexplained contempt for me.

Two events, however, made it distinctly clear where I stood in her eyes.

The first one occured after a long (periodic) exam. After she had graded the papers, she would hand them out by announcing the highest 5 scores, and of course, who they belonged to. In this particular instance, I had the same, exact score with the person who would always score the highest in our class (and there was no surprise when this student got all the academic awards upon graduation). She must have espied my smile - maybe a little smug on my part - when she was forced to call my name out loud.

She discreetly asked me to stay after class.

She then told me to stand by the teacher's table, and she got back my test result. She apparently also had a photocopy of the other student's paper - the usual high-scorer - then while I was witness, she proceeded to do a side by side comparison of our test papers. I then realized that she intended to try to humiliate me, by showing that she could not believe the score I received.

I asked her point blank what the problem was, and she replied: "I have to make sure that this is correct, that no cheating took place."

So I said, "we're not even seatmates, and besides, if it was veracity you're after, shouldn't he be here also witnessing what you're doing?"

Next lesson: use facts to demolish any opponent. It will reveal their biases, however irrational they may be.

She retorted: "Just stand there, be quiet until I ask you to speak." Invoking authority when one is shown to be defending a position that is indefensible is yet another lesson she taught me that day. Napahiya na kasi, so she used the other weapons in her disposal.

After she had done her "checking", she then handed, or rather threw my  exam paper back to me, and said, "You're safe, for now. I'll be keeping my eye on you." I was tempted to respond by asking "on what grounds" but I decided my time was better spent doing something else.

I spent that entire year doing some of my best work, especially in the subject this teacher taught. It then  became apparent to her that my academic work was something she could not assail, which shifted her focus into another area, one that still gives me chuckles to this day.

This was the late 80's, and the breakout star that year was Paula Abdul (everyone highlighhting she was a cheerleader) so it was no surprise that she was on magazine covers and various publications. During the Christmas party (in school) that year, a classmate brought a magazine with the singer plastered on the cover, and being bored with the usual "parlor games", I then flipped through the issue, which had a spread devoted to her, and even had a "centerfold" photo (yes, the ones you see in adult magazines) with a more-than-G rated pose.

This teacher - on cue - happened to pass by as I was going through the "centerfold" photo. She then grabbed the magazine, muttering "What is this that you're looking at?"

After she saw the page I was on, she instinctively went into a smirk, looked at me from head to toe, clucked her tongue, and said, " would be the type to look at something like...(throws back the magazine at my table) that!"

"Oh, this isn't mine. It's hers." I gave back the magazine to its owner, who happened to be one of her favorite students.

Cue into her crestfallen face.

Let us take this time, then, to thank our teachers, some of whom may have taught us more than just the lesson plan of the day. 


  1. This is a good read. Belated happy teachers' day to that memorable teacher of yours.

    p.s. I am a teacher

  2. nice post! I remember my favorite teacher.... Keep on posting ^^

    1. Hopefully for good least, better than the reasons I remember mine, LOL. Thanks for reading.