03 September 2010

Batch Commonalities

Having worked in basic education for most of my career, I have – naturally – developed not just a few insights about things related to my work. Among the many conclusions that I have arrived at is that batches of students do tend to have commonalities that even they may not be aware of.

Every batch – or class, as they are called in other countries – of students likes to think that they are the rowdiest of all that graduated from a particular school. I rather tend not to give credence to such claims because, at the end of the day, every group of students always has its own sets of saints and sinners.

That said, there does tend to be traits idiosyncratic to certain batches of students. Some are easy enough to explain; others not so, and may be interesting enough to be the subject of an academic inquiry.

For instance, we used to have this batch of students which had so many boys named John Paul in it. I interviewed a few of these boys to ask if they were named after the late Pope John Paul II. No surprise at all, they were. A quick check also revealed that all the boys were all born in the year 1981, when the well-travelled Pope first came to this country.

Or, a graduating batch of students may have definite leanings towards careers in Engineering or Medicine. A quick historical check will, in most likelihood, reveal that these students were handled in earlier years by mentors who were particularly good at teaching Mathematics and the Sciences. The influence of one good teacher can never be underestimated.

Most of the other commonalities are behavioral in nature and can easily be explained also in behavioral terms. It is not uncommon for a batch of students to be particularly good in sports; students from this batch, naturally, will try to find expression by joining the school’s varsity teams.

Here’s the catch, however: students of the succeeding batch, seeing the varsity teams dominated by their upperclassmen, will probably want to stay away from active involvement. Students being what they are, however, the succeeding batch will try to find self-expression in another field – perhaps the performing arts.

Peer influence is, probably, the primary factor in the creation of a batch commonality. Sometimes the influence is good; and sometimes it is not. Just as peer influence can be the reason why a particular batch of students excels in academics, it can just as easily be the reason why students of another batch are frequently visitors to the Discipline Office. Or a computer gaming shop…

There are, however, batch commonalities that are a little harder to explain, particularly if they are physiological rather than behavioral. Every football coach knows that left-sided players are needed to play on the left flank of the team formation. It is hard enough to find good left-sided players in football-playing countries; in the Philippines, finding one is a miracle from Heaven!

In the teams that I coached, the players I used as fullbacks and wing-halves on the left side of the field were mostly converted right-sided players. But there was this one school year when I had no less than five left-sided players in the team, so much more than what I needed!

I used to say that the traits of the players I got were always a reasonable sample of the traits of the academic batch that they belonged to. True enough, these players used to tell me they had more classmates who – like them – wrote with the left hand.

Or, how do you explain why a batch of students tends to be generally tall – or short, for that matter? There was this one school year when our sophomores towered above the juniors and the seniors. If you mixed everyone up in – say – the gymnasium, one could be forgiven for thinking that the sophomores were the seniors!

There are batches that are gifted by God in the looks department – sometimes just the girls; sometimes just the boys; and sometimes just about everyone is blessed with good looks. Just to balance things off, there are also batches that God gifted in everything else but the looks department.

Perhaps, it is no more than a case of everything being purely coincidental. Yet, those who have worked in schools will – after a moment of thought – probably agree with what I have just said in this story and ask the same question I have been asking myself all these years: why?

Horoscope? I used to have a full squad of players all born under the Year of the Dog, and entering the dressing room each and every training day was like entering a kennel of dogs yapping loudly!





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