I always promised myself before that I would write a blog post at the end of every term, but in the 3 years that I’ve been teaching, I may have done it just once. And hurrah, now is the second time!
This time around, instead of just talking about the funny and frustrating things that happened this term, I would want to share with you (and with them) the things that I would want to remember (aside from the academic stuff of course) and later on, what I have learned from my students as well.
Caveat: I may bitch and moan at times about having to get up at 4AM every Saturday and the annoying things that my students do, but really, the 12 hours that I spend at the school are some of the most humbling, interesting and fun times at this stage of my life.
1. It’s never too early to start acting like you’re a professional
Most of you are in your third or fourth year so you’re a bit nearer towards entering the corporate or professional world. So as early as now, I want you guys to learn how to create a proper email address (no firstname.lastname@example.org please), how to properly write an email (you need to put something in the body, not just attach a file and send), how to edit and re-edit everything that you submit in class (typos will kill your career). Now while these things of course are just a tiny part of your life, it speaks to a disciplined mind and a commitment to excellence that you’ve mastered these things as early as now.
2. Stop expecting the world to spoon feed you
I really hate having the “Kami nga noon sa UP eh” mindset because MCL and UP are two vastly different creatures. But I can’t help but think sometimes about how being trained to fend for yourself helped turn me into an independent person and a critical thinker. And this is something I want to impart to you in small doses. The teacher doesn’t give you readings? Go out and read on the topic yourself. You didn’t understand some things during class? Research on your own or ask your classmate or even teacher to clarify things. You don’t agree with what the teacher said? Approach him/her and engage him/her in a discussion. Believe me, we will not turn you away. In fact, we welcome it. The “real world” will not give you everything you need and want and you need to start learning early on how to deal with that and how to go out and find things on your own.
3. Learn to speak your mind but be prepared to explain
I always tell you that I will not accept a “I liked/hated it” or an “I agree/disagree” answer. You need to be able to explain why or why not. It develops your critical thinking and it will make you appreciate things more than you originally thought. Opinions are always welcome. I never tell anyone you have the right or wrong opinion about something. But you need to be able to justify or just even explain your opinions. So no, I don’t accept “witty” one word answers to essay questions.
4. But also be prepared to listen (especially to those that you don’t agree with)
The danger also with having a lot of opinionated voices in one class is that there are no more people left to listen. So you need to train yourself to express yourself but also to pause and listen to other people. It’s even more important to listen to those whose opinions you don’t agree with because, who knows, you might learn a thing or two about the issue, about your classmates and even about yourself. Listening to someone from the “opposite camp” doesn’t necessarily mean giving up your stand. It just means you expand your horizons even more. Which leads us to…
5. The world is so much bigger than the ___ corners of your school or the four corners of your computer/laptop/mobile device
I cannot emphasise enough how important this idea is, especially in your development as an artist, a writer, a media practitioner and a human being. I have been frustrated so many times when I ask “Have you watched this?” “Do you know this person?” “Did you read about this?” and I get blank stares or just one or two raise their hands. There is a whole wide world out there, ready for you to discover and explore and dissect and examine. You don’t even have to travel (although traveling is also so important) to be able to discover them. Read. Watch TV. Talk to people. Go around your town. Or okay, if you don’t want to be parted from the Internet, browse the world wide web (not just FB or Twitter or Instagram). Go beyond what you are used to or even what you just like. You are still young enough to not be set in your ways. This is the time to figure out what you like, hate, are obsessed with, will give up forever. I’m not that young anymore but everyday I’m still discovering and studying things. And it’s not like I’m asking you to study math (but you could, if you want to) or memorise scientific formulas. You are media students, artists, writers. Go be that.