I am an educator for life. Teaching does not end when the bell rings.
– Miguel Antonio Lizada
It was June of 1989 when I entered my senior year of high school. I was all set to run the last lap before entering college. I was pretty sure of what I wanted back then. I was a math and computer guy. I would take up computer science or engineering. My dream job was to be surrounded by electronics, and to have as little to do with people as possible.
Being a teacher was the last thing on my mind. In fact, it wasn’t in my mind at all. You see, I had a speech impediment – one that had haunted me since I was in first grade. I stuttered terribly when I had to recite in public, even if it was just to introduce myself. Having a job that required me to talk in front of people on a daily basis was simply not in my life’s equation.
That first day of class would change everything.
The bell rang for English class and the teacher walked in. He was wearing a polo shirt (neatly tucked-in), jeans, and sneakers. He was tall, thin and had thick glasses. He didn’t smile and he looked like a very serious person. The class was quiet.
It took only around five minutes before that silence turned into wave after wave of laughter as we were introduced to the wit and humor of Sir Rene. When the bell rang, I found myself excited for the next class. For the first time in my life, I found myself liking English class more than any other.
Rene’s classes were enjoyable but they were never easy. He was relentless in making us rack our brains analyzing poetry and short stories. He would let us pore over every word, flipping our dictionaries for secondary and tertiary meanings, symbolisms and metaphors. He would never tell us the meaning of a poem or story, but he would listen to our attempts, and would either tell us we were on the right track, or shoot down weak and outlandish arguments.
But all this was done in a very light and easy environment. We could see that our teacher was having fun, so we were having fun as well. If this seems hard to understand, think of yourself having fun while being serious in your favorite sport or activity.
Whenever we were stuck, he would write “TINK!” on the board and patiently wait for us to squeeze more juice out of our brain cells.
To this day, he never gave the answers, content to let us either discard the unresolved questions or to continue discovering the answers by ourselves.
In the movie Dead Poets Society, the teacher Mr. Keating (played by Robin Williams) hops on his desk and tells his students to always look at things from a different point of view. “Things look very different from up here,” he says, “You don’t believe me? Have a look.” And one by one he tells his students to get on the desk and see the difference with their own eyes.
If there is one thing I learned from Rene, it is to think for myself, to find my own voice, and to realize that there is always something more than what we see on the surface, including ourselves, especially ourselves.
It would be dramatic to say that I decided to become a teacher after a year with Rene. It would also be untrue. I would decide that only a year before finishing college, with other reasons in the mix. But certainly, that had a major effect on my decision. I had a living example of the kind of teacher I wanted to be – a teacher who challenges minds, who touches lives and who has loads of fun doing so.
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.
Andy Uyboco is a businessman, trainer and speaker. You may email him (for fun) at firstname.lastname@example.org.