04 July 2012

The Class of 1991: From Juniors to Seniors

Although I worked seven years in discipline, I only handled junior high school for one school year. All the other years, I was in charge of the seniors.

It was summer of 1989; and one of the new Brothers assigned to the school had asked to handle discipline for the incoming class of seniors.

That meant that I had to drop down one level. I had taught Asian History to juniors before; so I was not a stranger to the age group. Still, I was wary of the new assignment because I knew how much more of a headache juniors could be compared to seniors.

The gap between the junior and senior years was a mere two months. Yet, in that short period of time, an unimaginable psychological transformation took place so that a returning student sometimes became barely recognizable from the snot-faced junior who left school for his summer vacation just two months earlier.

Maybe, it was just the simple knowledge that he had reached the top of the pecking order, who knows? Maybe it was the instinctive knowledge of the need to be extra careful so that the previous three years of high school were not wasted.

To be kicked out on one’s senior year, needless to say, was such a traumatic experience. Besides, many schools did not accept fourth year high school transferees under normal circumstances.

So thus, as I saw things from first-hand experience, the new senior upon returning to school quickly grew into the role. He became more confident; groomed himself better; and acted in a more refined manner.

The students themselves did not notice this; but we teachers certainly did. Perhaps the most distinctive change of all was that – at least most of the time – the seniors knew better how to stay out of trouble.

That was why, if I had a choice at all, I much preferred to work with seniors. That year, however, I did not really have a lot in the way of choices.

As things happened, however, the new juniors turned out to be quite a pleasant group of youngsters. I used to think that the players that I had in my teams were always a reasonably accurate sample of the collective ‘personality’ of the class to which they belonged.

The players that I had from that class of juniors were among the most pleasant that I had trained in three decades. Thus, finding that the rest of the class was the same way was not really such a surprise to me.

What did surprise me was the first rash of discipline cases that were sent my way. They were not difficult at all. Instead, they were childish and even comical, not at all like the cases that I was more familiar with when handling seniors.

The first-ever case, I remember to this day. Two young boys were sent to the office by a teacher after a minor commotion inside the classroom. A short interview revealed that one had planted a thumb tack on the wooden seat of the other. Why even the ‘victim’ was sent to the office as well I never did quite figure.

Then there were these two other boys who were sent to my office for fighting. One was decidedly effeminate – and this is really me just being polite.

He was the one who started the fight, by the way. Although, when asked why he replied, “Eh baklâ daw hô ako.”

So I felt I had to ask, “Eh baklâ ka ba?”

“Hindî hô,” was his reply. But the way the hindî hô was said in such a feminine manner was so funny that my cheek muscles hurt from the effort I had to exert to keep myself from bursting out laughing.

Then there was this time when a Homeroom Adviser – a newly-hired teacher – could not read the daily bulletin because her class was so damned noisy. She had burst into tears just as I arrived while doing my rounds.

I asked the teacher to wait outside while I spoke to the class. This was supposed to be a routine sermon; but the teacher was sucking her breaths in so loudly while crying outside and it was being such a distraction.

I could feel my eyes twinkling with the humour of the situation. I seem to recall that she even loudly blew her nose.

Teacher and students eventually patched things up between themselves and had what more or less was a memorable year. At least, I do not think the teacher ever forgot that incident.

The year was not without its problems; but what year did not? It was all part and parcel of the job. Like I said, I remember the year more for the childishness of my wards and their love for fun rather than anything malicious.

A year later, I was restored to handle the seniors again. This meant that I would enjoy a reunion with the class of juniors that I had the previous year. This was going to be the only time that I handled the same class of students for two consecutive years.

Personally, I do not think that I could have asked for a better group of youngsters to be with for that unique experience.

If it was a pleasure to work with them while they were juniors, it was even more so when they had metamorphosed over two months into seniors.








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