They Come in Bunches

The title is in reference to freshmen, UP freshmen in particular. It is an observable phenomenon after all. The first few days and weeks of class they move in bunches and sometimes in big groups. Sooner or later, they start to break off into smaller unit. Finally, they will become confident to walk the campus and take the ikot jeeps on their own. Also, after initial weeks eating in CASAA they will start finding other places to eat. This can’t help but spark some reminiscence when I was just like those kids, although I was probably more ill-mannered, pompous, and douchey than most of them. 

Something I must admit to immediately: I wore Birkenstocks. I think back on it now with not a small amount of embarrassment. I actually thought they were cool. I did have an excuse though, I had swimming for a PE, sooooooo, maybe I can be forgiven. At least a little anyway.

On the first day of class, our political science professor yelled at us a few times and demanded us to prove that we deserved to be in the university. I had my first woeful trip to the math building. I was actually excited to be going there that first time; of course that excitement would turn into disdain, and then much more intense feelings of disgust and hatred as the years progressed. And then we did a whole freshman welcome thing.

UP students, especially freshmen, take great pride in having gotten into the university. It is an accomplishment after all. Sure the science high kids and the exclusive school kids, for them it seemed like an eventuality. But for everyone else, the kids from the provinces, the kids from public school, and kids like me who were hard up for money and didn’t come from a good school, just seeing your name on the board of passers (no online results yet then) seemed like an amazing thing. So this first day one gets wide-eyed. If, as was my situation, you expected your life to continue being the drab neighborhood, the drag of an education, and the unfortunate family circumstances, then the expansive spaces and trees and classrooms and other students seemed like being welcomed into Valhalla.

The actual education is something different, and something I have to deal with myself these days, being on the other side of the teacher’s desk now.

But in those first days, everything is just an overwhelming experience. And to say that I loved being a UP student would be an understatment. If you need any actual proof, check out how long it took me to finish both my undergraduate and MA degrees. I had a good time, man.

My first day I believed that I would become a lawyer. I remember walking with the other political science majors and making friends with people on that day that I still hang out with now. I walked in those bunches too, and though those broke apart, there are still things connecting us, whether it be social networks, the occasional get-togethers, or catching up over a few beers regularly.

In the last few weeks I have found myself exhausted. Without getting a chance to catch my breath from teaching summer classes, I was redesigning syllabi for the new sem, preparing reading lists, doing publishing work, and dodging the troubles that are being brought about by recent political movements within the department I teach in. It has all been overwhelming.

And yet, walking into that classroom, I tried to keep as cold and dry and objective as I could. But I could not hold off the enthusiasm and the excitement that I could feel from my students. While everyone thinks I am this brash, off-putting ass all the time, no one ever notices that I am taking all things in, in earnest and in all sincerity, and genuinely enjoying these interactions in class, learning how to be a better human being by exposing myself to these young human beings. Classrooms provide two-way teaching, as I try to help them develop their skills and capabilities, and I feel that in doing so I too develop. It’s just that you can’t let on to students all the time. Some will take things for granted, some will abuse the symmetry. But once you develop a good rapport, once the groundwork is laid, then things get to develop.

I take my current classes rather seriously, then, because they are filled with freshmen. In essence, I am not only laying the groundwork for the semester in these first meetings, but I am playing a major role in how they will perceive a university education and how they will lead their academic careers for the next few years.

I want to rest. I want to hang back and catch my breath. I feel the need to reassess my situation, reorient where I stand in a various aspects of my life. But instead of doing any of this I find myself rushing straight into the new school year. It’s impulsive, foolhardy, filled with unguarded and possibly unwise optimism. But what the heck. EXCELSIOR!

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