On Silence and Discernment

There are times when you are asked to do something out of the blue and you just have to deliver.

This morning, we had our General Meeting of all the school personnel in our library. As usual, I was the one who lead the opening prayer and the blessing of the birthday celebrants for the month of May. I need to step up in making prayers for our meetings as our Campus Ministry Coordinator had just given birth to her fifth child and her first daughter. It was my first time to see her daughter in the flesh and of course I am delighted to see a cute baby like her. Anyway, our general meeting was for us to set a direction before we start the school year next month. We will have approximately three weeks before we start our classes on June 7, a day after our celebration of the feast day of our Founder, St. Marcellin Champagnat. We’ll have a week of making our course outlines, action plans, and plotting our schedules for the coming school year.

Introducing a Brother
In the middle of the meeting, I was asked to introduce our speaker, our fellow Brother in the community, Br. Ted. I was just approached by the emcees before our meeting started. I opted not to say about his education background, past ministries, and achievements. That’s one lesson I learned from reading The Little Prince regarding information and details with the author’s critic on the adult’s mindset. Instead, I shared an anecdote on how I met him for the first time. I remember it was year 2004 during the first quarter of the school year (probably around July until October) when I was walking on the corridor of our school on a Sunday morning. A night before, we had our high school dance in the elementary gymnasium of Marist School, Marikina on a Saturday night. So yeah, I was walking with just my sando, shorts, and slippers when I saw Br. Ted, our school president and he greeted me with a “how are you?” That experience left an impression on me as I encountered the personnel with the highest position in our school humbly greeting me with a good morning and kumusta (how are you?). So I ended my introduction by saying that Br. Ted is a walking definition of a gentleman.

The Talk on Silence
In the middle of the talk, he presented us a trailer of the movie Silence. It was a film with Andrew Garfield and Liam Neeson as their protagonists and directed by Martin Scorsese. It is a story set on the 17th century about the journey of two priests who learned that their beloved mentor-priest had gone missing. To investigate, they went to a mission to Japan to search for their beloved teacher. Upon arriving, they learned of Christians worshipping in secret. If discovered by authorities, they would face persecution and be asked to denounce their faith or be tortured to death. The trailer is Br. Ted’s opening to his questions to ponder upon. Among his questions, the word “discernment” caught my attention. What is discernment? Does it play a role in my everyday choices from the most mundane ones like choosing what clothes to wear to the important decisions like relating to people whom I find it difficult to deal with? I remember during the open forum, one teacher asked the question, “How do we know if we are really doing the will of God?”. This one is a question that makes you pause for a while and be silent. Besides, discernment is fruitful if done in silence. God speaks in the silence of our hearts.

A new responsibility
I was asked to take the responsibility as the Working Students or Grant-In-Aid (GIA) Coordinator. Without hesitating, I just said yes. Last year, the position was held by a fellow Brother. But now that I am handling college students who are working as scholars so that they can finish their studies, I need to spend more time in prayer for strength and guidance from the Holy Spirit. I need to reach out to their coordinators and to each one of them, listening to their concerns and knowing how can I train them to be hard workers and responsible scholars.

I am tired. I need to sleep now.

And let us always remember to pray for one another.

Good night.

Begin Again

My school ministry is like a basketball game.

I’m still in the same school but now I was told it’s my final year here.

Last year was the first half. Maybe I went down hard, got turnovers, missed some shots, and even had some highlight plays to be proud of. And this year, it’s my second half where I need to do a lot of catching up in terms of scoring points for my team. But I know I am not a star player nor a starter. I am a rookie; a role player to be quite honest.

I know what I can do and what I cannot do. I am happy to be benched if I know I did what I can do in the court. But now I am a sophomore, I have to step up my game when my time comes for me to enter the court.

Though I had my lapses in judgements, some hesitations in doing actions and making decisions, I think I had also done some daring and circus stunts which only a rookie like me can do.

But yeah, I think I know I could have done better last year and I know what it takes so I can contribute more.

Though being young have its disadvantages, I will count more its advantages.

Inexperience can be an opportunity for me to learn more; youthfulness means more energy.

But do I have what it takes to perform better? I believe I do. And if not? Then I guess I just have to admit my inexperience and ask for help from those whom I know can mentor me.

Knowing myself, I know it takes a lot for me to admit my own ignorance. But if it’s the way for me to learn, then I will shallow my pride and be humble to learn and be ignorant.

A journey inward

Now, school year 2016-2017 is over. Wohoo!

Since I promised in my previous post that I will talk about my teaching experience, I will try to do it here without any specific topic in mind. That means free-writing.

When I’m not writing, I’m reading the writings of my students. I as their teacher asks my students in class to practice being reflective through writing. I, as their Values Education teacher, encourage my students to touch their introspective side. And for them to do this, they must learn how to be silent. In these times that these teenagers are in (and for us adults sometimes too), it is hard for them to let them sit for hours.

But I know my students are all capable of spending time in silence. I’ve witnessed it during their recollection where they were asked by our campus ministry directress, ma’am Che, to sit down in silence, close their eyes, and imagine themselves walking through nature and encounter people close to their hearts. On the part where they encounter their parents in their imaginative journey, when the students were asked to feel how their parents are struggling in earning a living just for them to study in a good school and be provided with their own needs, it made them weep. It may be pity or guilt that they felt whenever they get mad whenever they request something and their parents refuse to provide them; those times when they fail to appreciate the goodness of their parents towards them. That time, they were able to get in touch with their own experiences and relationship with their family especially their parents. They were able to do it because it was a recollection and they really spent time in silence.

Going back to my students’ reflective writing activities, I discovered that it is not easy for some to spend time for reflection when it comes to writing. But I am happy that at least they are trying. I even encourage students to write in Tagalog if they’re having a hard time writing in English. But there are some who won’t really bother and try to even write essays. Ah, your patience, Allen!

So in the same manner, I as their teacher must practice being reflective. And I will do it through web logging. And here, I did it by just writing about my students. Woo!

Whenever I talk in front of the class, I lecture through story telling. Usually, the subject is my own life experiences and stories of people whom I have known personally. Honestly speaking, I am a such a bore in retelling stories of others when I have just read or heard them somewhere in books, web, magazine articles, or even podcasts I am listening to. Even the jokes that seems funny to me, when I retell them, because too corny.

Now that I have stopped following any television shows or anime series, my watching habit of watching basketball games has gone up because of our access to cable in our convent. I consume more time in doing unproductive things such as watching games or highlights when I really want to do is to be creative like writing, composing poems and stories, polish my handwriting (which my student said was poor), capture more photographs, play basketball or chess, or learn how to draw better.

Maybe sometimes, I will consciously spend time to feel boredom and not seek constant stimulation. But I know it will either be productive or unproductive. I need to choose the former though.

Postscript: I will be spending a week in Malaybalay, Bukidnon for the Annual Lenten Retreat of Marist Brothers here in the Philippines. I am part of the Liturgy Committee and an assistant secretary during the Provincial’s time (meeting). Within the week, we Brothers will discover our Summer assignments and our next community and ministry assignment for the next school year. And during the Easter vigil, I will renew my vows. If you want to ask me to pray for me, just write a comment below or reach me out in the Contact Form. Please pray for me too.

Education for life (A Morning conversation)

This morning meal, we talked about education in the Philippines and in other countries with topics such as alternative learning system, giving assignments and examinations, and play. Our current Department of Education Secretary Leonor Briones has in her agenda the alternative learning system. This is encouraging to some students in our country since not all students are geared towards formal education and not every high school graduates are suited to enter college.

Currently, if the cumulative grade of a student reaches 60, the student is given a passing grade of 75. It seems that this move of the previous secretary Br. Luistro Armin, a La Sallian Brother, is geared towards mass promotion of the students so they can graduate in high school.

Though I know it’s important to focus on our high school students (since our country is dominated by the millennial population with a median age of 23 years old), I hope that educators and lawmakers would consider the program we give to our children below 10 years old. Like in Finland and Japan, they tweaked their preschool and primary level with lots of play and exploration for kids and no assignments and examinations.

For parents, I hope that they wouldn’t spoil their kids by giving them smartphones and tablets at an early age so kids can enjoy their childhood outdoors and with their playmates.

How about you, what do you think about your country’s education?

The rain and my childhood

When I was younger, I love the summer season because I can play all day with my friends and cousins except during meals and sleeping time. And now that I am already in my late twenties, I love rainy season better. Besides, I don’t have playmates anymore like I used to have as a kid. The ambience just lets me rest in my bed and sleep longer. Because there’s no much activity in the house except household chores, I will go out and play as a child. Since there’s just lots of tasks to do as a teacher when I’m at home, the rain reminds me to relax and spend some time for rest, reflect, and remember the good old days of my childhood. 

Nurturing the seeds of wisdom and knowledge 

[Disclaimer: A free-written journal entry]

It’s only the second week of classes and I am sick already. I don’t have any umbrella so I went straight to the classroom with the polo barong I’m wearing as my raincoat. Result? Flu. 

I am just wondering why is it when I perspire and my body cools down because of the help of the air-conditioned room, I still feel alright and no useless stress in my body? Anyway, just ranting because I teach every class with my high energy and I can’t afford to diminish my zeal with this acquired useless anxieties. Maybe that’s carelessness in my part. 

Speaking of energy, every class I attend to, it feels like my energy gets zapped in a good way. And at times when I look back and review my day, it’s a comfort that I tried to touch the lives of my students in my own way. I can’t say yet if I have touched their lives since I’m just beginning to sow the seeds of learning and wisdom that I am just passing to them. Or to put it in another perspective, nurturing their seeds of wisdom and knowledge. 

I hope and pray that their seeds would become a great harvest in the future. 

And I pray for my fellow teachers, the more experienced and learned than I am, to have a good health and avoid my carelessness in getting a sickness like mine.

School updates, teaching duties, Basketball, NBA Conference Finals, and waking up early

It’s almost Friday and I can’t wait for weekend. I started work here in Notre Dame of Cotabato since Wednesday last week and it’s a series of workshops, seminars, meetings, and lots of lesson planning for the next school year. Classes will be starting at June 13 along with the public schools nationwide.

Anyway, going back to my anticipation of the weekend, I am looking forward to the sports event of all the Notre Dame schools here in Cotabato City this coming Saturday. I am to choose whether to play basketball or chess. I don’t know which one to choose. If I’m going to choose chess, it’s because I’m good at it. If basketball, it’s because I enjoy playing and not because I am good at it. In fact, I suck at playing hoops. I am taller than the average Filipino so it’s normal for me to be assigned inside the paint. As much as I love putbacks, I still do find pleasure in shooting threes. I just love the swish and the sound of the net when I shoot from the perimeter (except when it’s airball). Maybe it’s because of the NBA Conference Finals that’s happening. I am rooting for Cleveland Cavaliers!

I’m still adjusting to the school and so far, I am still learning about the bankruptcy by listening to small bits of info about what happened to the decisions made in the previous (mis)administration. I am still finding it hard to adjust to waking up early. And that means the alarm sounds at 5am! That’s all for the meantime and please catch up with me in my Twitter account. Might be offline depending on the schedule I might have since everything’s tentative so far.