Three years of teaching high school students does enable you to the ff: be constantly reminded how horribly insecure you are when you were a teen; learn new teen stuff (vampires glisten under the sun, what the???); and sing teen songs (okay, I admit I sang “Love You like a Love Song” while in the shower… “and I keep playing re-pea- pea- pea pea- peat.”).
Three years of teaching high school has made me the silent but revolted witness to my students’ outlandish and rebellious lifestyle. Not that my generation was Victorian. We also had our shares of misdemeanors and misadventures. We defied curfew, asked allowances for nonexistent “projects”, connived with friends to make paalam to our parents just so we could get out of the house, and cried when we are not allowed to join the free concert at the town square. Although now is a bit different. Kids would go to certain extents that border audacity and lunacy. While it is good that they are more expressive and prouder of their identities, how they do it is a different story. We are not thirty years apart but clearly, there are perceptible discrepancies between our timelines.
My students call me a liar pointblank (and even if I am, how dare they still). They relish every moment of embarrassment inside the room in my face (the youthful smiles, the cute laughs, and the angelic chuckles only transpire when you become the subject of their ridicule.) They deliberately test your patience and are very good in playing possum, victim, or b!%ch depending on the situation. Someone even told me that I look like “I’ve already done IT a hundred times.” Countless moments I was tempted to slit their throats with a rusted cutter (they die of tetanus if they are lucky to survive the assault). I even spend the whole afternoons imagining elaborate plots on how to creatively assassinate each one of them (example, [Name of student] crosses the street and is narrowly hit by a truck. She dodges it in the nick of time only to be mauled by twenty hungry, flea-infested, big black mongrels which jump out of the truck.) I should have not become a teacher in the first place. Body counts will rise if they keep on having me employed.
These kids are arrogant. They are self-centered. They are drama queens. They are cynicism-breathing dragons and they will eat you alive if you do not know how to defend yourself.
But then I guess that is just what they are.
And amidst their ingenious and uncanny ways to get attention, recognition, and admiration (SHOCK has been their main arsenal to achieve the aforementioned), I guess good things still come out from them. With the advent of globalization, post-modernism, and heightened narcissism (this is to be tackled in a separate column), these young people had developed a mindset of shunning themselves from living in a world that is either black or white. My students constantly remind me not to put labels and limits; not lose track of my most basic self while incorporating as many things in my system; and appreciate every shred of my humanity (they call it “par-teeh” though. Geez.) despite its numerous flaws. There are these few moments too where they could be as sweet as cherubs (I always doubt though they are hatching some plan- devious, malevolent, and malicious whenever it happens). Three years has passed.
Things now are not as horrible as before. I guess our constant skirmishes with the occasional truces and our never-ending love-hate relationship will never come to a denouement— but we have learned to deal with it. I was never the favorite teacher (although I do admit I have a few favored ones inside the class.) but I guess I’m not their biggest nightmare either. I would like to believe that somehow I have earned their respect, and in turn, expect mine. I teach high school students and I’ve never fully understood them… and maybe that will be the case until perpetuity. I know I can never be Teacher of the Year (employment mismatch, really), the “oh-my-gawd-he-changed-my-life-forever” instructor, or “sir’s-like-the best-I swear”.. But I will understand them. I will be patient with them (don’t push it, I won’t say I will love them, yeck!) And I will do what I must that is why I reluctantly joined the academe in the first place: Reduce the amount of stupidity in this world.