2012 in Review: Teaching/Academic Life

I quit yet another job this year. I served as the Deputy Director for Marketing and Operations of the UP Press until October 31st, but I feel that my heart had gone out of it sometime mid-year. It was a number of factors, but among them was the realization that I am pretty good at teaching, and I am more of an asset in the classroom than as an administrator. Put the demanding nature of admin work against the drive to write and do research, and it was clear that I would be much happier as a straight up academic than an academic and administrator.

This might sound pretentious, or as if I am speaking from some ivory tower; any talk of the academic life is precariously perched and always ready to fall into such pretentiousness. But then as I chronicle 2012, as I count the hours down to 2013, I have to really admit that this was the year when I sat down and thought, hell dude, you can probably teach for the rest of your life. I had been resistant to the idea of deciding on a career for any prolonged period of time.

I remember when I was in high school my English teacher said, “You know, Javier, you would make a good teacher.”

And what I said, under my breath, though I don’t know if she was able to hear it, was, “God, why would I ever want to be like one of you people?”

I obviously did not think much of the teaching profession. I remember most of my elementary and junior high teachers fondly. But my high school in Cubao, well, it was a mixed bag, if I’m being kind. There were some terrible teachers, and some with a terrible meanness to them. You could see they were frustrated, tired, only going through the motions. There were some that were inspired, and those I gravitated towards. But hell, I was in high school, I had issues with authority, I thought I was smarter than everyone else. And thus I looked at the teaching profession with disdain.

The first time I tried teaching, fresh out of undergrad, I didn’t make the cut. A few years later, I find myself teaching at Miriam. Then I jump to UP. Terrible things happen in my first year, petty admin BS and things that I felt were grounds for me to leave. I vow never to teach again. Ondoy hits and all my books and other teaching materials are wiped out, and I take that as a sign that I should not be a teacher. It’s the universe literally washing out all vestiges of my teaching career.

I bounce around a few years, and here I am, back in the university. But much more experienced, with a better sense of things (at least I like to think), and I feel a sense of confidence and control. It’s like I was able to overcome a lot of my personal shit, a lot of the things that hampered me from improving as a teacher.

I have had to rebuild my teaching library. It’s still an ongoing process. I have been lucky enough to have received a lot of help from colleagues who generously help me with books.

But more than books, I can say that my colleagues in the department, especially the junior faculty, help to inspire me to go into the classroom every day. It’s wonderful in that there’s not so much a sense of competition as it is a sense of esprit de corps, of everyone pitching in to help everyone else out. It’s not just in teaching or syllabus design either, it’s when someone just needs a drink, needs to hang back and let loose. This is, perhaps, one of the most productive times in my life, and I attribute a good deal of that to the way that the people around me make me better.

When I was teaching in Miriam I carried around a hip flask. For all that the students were wonderful, so many other things hindered teaching and development, and I found myself having to take swigs just to get through the days. Now, that is a bad memory, and I don’t think I will ever find myself doing that again.

Rather, even when the days get tough, even when the kids are working as hard as I would wish, and the classroom isn’t clicking, I feel like I can find ways to keep at it.

Further, I got to attend my first international conference as a scholar. Last year I attended the Fil-American bookfest in San Francisco, but that was as a writer and independent publisher. This year, along with MIc Chua and Emil Flores, I got to deliver a paper in Oxford. that’s insane. Sometimes I say it and I have trouble believing it. And it was thanks to, well, pretty much every friend I’ve had. Some helped out in big ways, donating artwork, money, time, or whatever in our fundraising efforts. We pulled together an incredibly fun gig that helped us raise money for the trip. Just thinking back on it now I feel my chest swell, it was this wonderful time when I could not deny that the people I have been lucky to be around and to know not only make me better, but allow me to do things that I could never have imagined.

Towards the end of the year I got published in the Philippine Journal for American Studies. I got to write about the Punisher storyline in Civil War. At the time of writing and submission, I didn’t think much of what I was doing, but once it came out, I got a true sense of fulfillment.

It’s odd to think that I now have a sense of what I want to do. I have avoided committing to things for so long. Now, well, here it is. I am hoping that this career and this decision takes. I am hoping that the coming years will prove productive and that I can make contributions as both teacher and scholar.

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