Wednesday, January 27, 2010

To my former students, from your (finally) former teacher

"I have loved being your teacher."

That line struck a chord in me as I was watching the pilot episode of Glee (yes, I only started watching it recently). As Mr. Schuster bid farewell to the ragtag group of misfits who comprised his glee club, I couldn't help but feel a pang of sorrowful empathy. I know what it's like to have to say goodbye to teaching, a job that isn't so much a job as it is a vocation, a calling that requires passion and dedication unlike any other occupation. And I know full well how painful it is to give up something you truly love doing, something you feel like you were truly meant to do, as a sacrifice for family, as a difficult grown-up decision.

Last week I was in Hong Kong on a business trip, and as I was filling up the immigration departure card at the airport, my pen hovered a few seconds above the blank under "occupation", and I finished filling up all the other fields before returning to it and reluctantly writing down "businesswoman". I've been doing this ever since I stopped being a teacher and joined our family business, skipping "occupation" and leaving it for last. It's as if something inside me has never fully accepted that I am now "businesswoman" instead of "teacher". The perfect phrase to describe it would be "labag sa loob"-- there's a nuanced difference with "against my will" in that the Filipino "loob" seems to encapsulate it more accurately. The compulsion comes from deep inside my core, within my soul, for teaching was the one thing I've ever done that has resonated so profoundly with my inner being.

This year, most of my last batch of students are graduating from their respective universities and colleges. And in the same way that their graduation from ICA was bittersweet for me because it marked the end of my emotional involvement with the school I taught at for 2 years, this new milestone seems to be signaling another end for me as well. The kids I knew and loved as high school teenagers are now moving on into the world as adults, armed with BS and BA degrees, and fueled by an idealistic enthusiasm as they apply for jobs or grad school/med school/law school/fashion school. While it gives me pride and joy to see them grow up, it also leaves me with a pang of melancholy, a sense of no longer being needed, a loss of identity. When the students cease to be students, so does the teacher cease to be a teacher. Although I technically stopped being a teacher almost 5 years ago, in spirit I never really stopped feeling like theirs. Now, however, it seems as though it's time to really let go.

I still hold on to the dream that I can one day go back to teaching, even though realistically that dream seems more implausible with each year that passes. In the meantime, I have my memories, and I have Glee. And whether or not I ever return to
the profession I miss so dearly, I would like to say to all my former students: I have loved being your teacher.

Say good-bye to not knowing when
The truth in my whole life began
Say good-bye to not knowing how to cry
You taught me that

And I'll remember the love that you gave me

Now that I'm standing on my own
I'll remember the way that you changed me
I'll remember

I learned to let go of the illusion that we can possess

I learned to let go, I travel in stillness
And I'll remember happiness
I'll remember...



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