“Gray” Day

Today was an all-out “gray” day. I didn’t feel the joy or thrill of teaching. I felt like I was going through the motions. The whole day was a blur of busy tasks without purpose. In one of my classes, an image of a prison suddenly came to my mind as one of my students was a bit sick, and the rest of them were in goof-off mode. I wondered why I, as a teacher, had to force my kids to stick through the class inside these four walls. It was an image of infinitely high walls surrounding my students and me; we could not get out. And I wondered what would happen if I just let them have fun instead of doing class.

There are days when students don’t want to learn what I prepared; there are days when teachers don’t want to teach in the ‘prescribed’ way (a.k.a. the teacher has some lesson plan that we need to get through today). Where did the ‘prescribed’ way of teaching and classroom setting come anyways? Wasn’t it from the industrial revolution? Before that, those who were hungry for academic knowledge sought teachers out and learned, those with thirst for commerce knowledge went into apprenticeships, etc.

If the present educational model mainly comes from the needs created by the industrial revolution, isn’t this a very new system of systemized torture that we put on ourselves? Yes, I call it torture because we need to come Monday to Friday at the same times, study the same subjects in different time slots, and get graded for it (students) or prepare ‘lessons’ for grading (teachers). We put a system around ‘education’ that is more like an ‘assembly line’, except that instead of products, we are dealing with human beings. Obviously, if we have early-on thinkers, they will start rebelling against being treated like a machine early on. But instead of rewarding them or providing some other dignified option, we give them detentions, referrals, or whatever other form of punishment. But the machine-conforming kiddos we reward and love. I know this because I was one of them. I wasn’t excellent, but I wasn’t mediocre. And truth be told, this current system of schooling has not taught me much. What has taught me in spite of this horrible system are the amazing teachers, mentors, and professors I met along the way.

Thus, in the midst of this crazy, inhumane system, some teachers manage to squeeze in humane-teaching. However, on a tired day like this, I don’t even want to try. I’m tired of racking my brains to make something up so that my students, who were conditioned to accept this assembly-line-educational-system, might ‘enjoy’ the class.

Am I an entertainer? Apparently, that’s part of my job description. And yes, if I had 2~3 subjects to teach, perhaps I would be a better entertainer than now (I’m teaching ~10 classes plus other responsibilities). But, what then? What if I am an entertaining teacher? Why does it have to come down to that? Isn’t education supposed to be a tool for effective lifelong communication with society? So that when you grow up, you will have a voice, and know how to use it for the benefit of humanity? Why do we torture ourselves with this system? Why did we bring in the concept of “forcing children to go to school” into our world?

On my first year of teaching, I was shocked to find that 99% of my students came in with the assumption that I, the teacher, would come up with ways to “force” them to study Spanish. And if they didn’t complete a certain homework, or if they got a bad grade, they would say ‘sorry’ to me as if they were doing the studying for me, and it wasn’t about their learning at all. This mindset broke and still breaks my heart because even our ‘educated’ population is missing out on ‘education’. Honestly, I don’t want to teach if it means teaching hundreds of students who come in with the assumption that the teacher will try to force/squeeze in some learning into their brains. I would rather have any random person come to me eager to learn, so that we can simply focus on learning.

Did Jesus force his audiences to hear him out? Not really. God doesn’t force me to learn anything. He waits patiently. However, today’s educational system tries to force everyone to learn at the same pace and it considers you a loser or someone with some kind of disability if you can’t learn in that certain ascribed piece of time. I wish our educational systems allowed for more freedom; like God allows in our lives.

Lastly, the biggest feeling today is disappointment. I am not proud of how this year is ending for me right now. I literally feel my energy ebbing away exponentially and I am afraid of what I saw in me today. It was something near apathy. Even though my students enjoyed some of my activities, even though I laughed a bit here and there, there’s something in me saying ‘Just give up. It’s too much.’ It’s hard to try to care and advocate for genuine things because there’s such a current that goes against it. So today I feel defeated.

But! I am struck down, but no destroyed.

So I will take some rest for this weary brain and heart; even if that means that I am a worn out, not-entertaining-teacher, and ask God to help me be faithful in the mundane, so that a good harvest may come in due time.

I wish I had enough energy and resources to think through this in a better way. But for today, I am writing an incoherent, no-transition blog. It might not make complete sense, but here it is.

Basically, AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Below: compilation of pictures that somehow capture my current mood (autistic pictures taken throughout the years with different cameras. No photoshop.)