29 December 2011

Sitting with Legends: B-306 of the DLSL High School Class of 1986

I have no fondness for attending reunions. For the average alumnus, the thrill of attending these events is partly to reconnect with former classmates and teachers and partly to physically reconnect with the old school.

My experience as an alumnus, though, has been nothing if not peculiar. For the better part of roughly four decades, I never really left the school. When I did, it was to go to college for a mere 5 years in another school that was operated by the same religious order as the basic education institution that I went to.

Therefore, that longing for the alma mater that most alumni feel has simply never really happened to me. If anything, particularly in the more recent years, the greater need for me was to be away from anything related to school during the holiday season when most reunions were held; and if just to refresh my appetite when school resumed in January.

I did make an exception the other day, however, for the section B-306 of the high school class of 1986. This section was my advisory class all of 25 years ago. In a career spanning 29 years, I only had two advisory classes. B-306 was the second and last of these.

I stayed in touch with some members of the class in the years soon after graduation. Eventually we all got caught in the increasingly frantic whirlwinds of our lives – they with trying to get a college education and then eventually jumpstarting their respective careers; and I as I moved up higher in management.

If I bumped into any of the locally-based members of the class in subsequent years at all, it was frequently just the hi-hello sort of encounters.

I had thousands of students over a 19-year teaching career; and many thousands more that I got acquainted with one way or another over three decades of working in a school. Remembering names and faces has come to the point when trying to do so has become something of a pointless exercise.

The people I do not forget, though, are those who played in my football teams till they graduated from high school and those who I was honoured to be with in my advisory classes.

Have I not said before that remembering and recognizing are not the same? I have said often enough that encountering an alumnus can be one of the most awkward moments for a former teacher like me. What I – and, I suppose, many like me – have in my head are images of pimply high school teenagers. It is never easy after not seeing an alumnus for many years.

When I finally arrived at Max’s Restaurant last Wednesday evening, there was already a handful of my former students getting reacquainted around the long table. I had no problems recognizing every one of them; even those who started to trickle in soon after I arrived.

It helped that time has been kind to all of them. Those who I did not immediately recognize I did so after a moment or two; and no more than that. But as with my players, remembering is always easy because of the sheer amount of time that I spent with them when they were in high school.

I do not do bad jobs; period! That is just me. If I’m not good at something, do not expect me to be engaged in it at all. Therefore, when I accepted the offer to be homeroom adviser of B-306 during the summer of 1985, I had every intention of immersing myself in the job as I did with every one of the other appointments that I accepted down the years.

I was not expected to be in the homeroom until 7:15 in the morning; but I was there frequently as early as 6:30. I found great delight in seeing the sleepyheads trickle in, often to quickly find a classmate to ask about the day’s assignments. Those who did their homework the night before gossiped; and I always enjoyed watching them giggle.

Once in a while, one or two would come to the teacher’s table to talk to me. I was always happy to talk to anyone of these students. I learned from them as much as – I hoped – they learned from me. Sometimes, groups of these students would visit me at the faculty room during breaks for no reason whatsoever. I always felt honoured that they did.

Then there were the hours spent after school and even during weekends practising for the countless contests and events that my class had to participate in. Often this meant a to-and-fro routine between the homeroom and the football field.

When I had to be at the field, I did not have to worry. This was a special class. The students that I had were creative, talented and responsible. They could choreograph dances and presentations on their own. If I had to be present at all, it was mostly for the sake of being present. Even though they could be as boisterous as all teenagers can be, as a group they could always manage themselves.

They also understood that the football team was a passion to me much more than a job; and were supportive rather than jealous. One afternoon after hours, I played with the high school team against a visiting college team from San Beda. Hundreds of students lined the field watching; and many of these were from my advisory class.

This class delivered the greatest honour – and not just to me but the entire school – in what was then known as the National Collegiate Entrance Examination. Out of 46 students, no less than 24 – more than half – were in the 99+ percentile rank; 17 were at 99%; 4 were at 98; and only one at 97%.

How do you forget legends? You do not! That is why they are called legends. And that is why, when I finally came face-to-face with these students again after a quarter of a century, I had no difficulty remembering each and every one of them.

It was an honour to have been their homeroom adviser for an entire schoolyear and an honour to sit with them again when they all had become successful adults. Somebody even brought me a Euro 2012 replica football and commemorative shirt; while another one brought me a shirt from San Francisco. These thrilled me to bits; but the greatest thrill of all was just to look around the long table and admire the success story that each of these former students had become.

The knowledge that I was a stepping stone even for just a short while on the way to each success story, that is the sort of satisfaction that few outside of the teaching profession will ever get to know. It brings that almost incomparable feeling of a job well done.

[For the record, it was an honour to have taught the entire high school class of 1986, the hosts of today’s Grand Alumni Homecoming.]





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RELATED STORIES:
1986: Random Recollections
1986: Where Have the Years Gone?

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