April 9, 2009

The Game.

This is an old post, originally written on September 2008. As I anxiously await the revelation of my new self-hosted blogsite, which would feature teaching and education as its main content, I decided to do some browsing in my old blog and came across this post. I think it was a fitting reminder because lately, especially since I've turned the corner from my late twenties to being in my thirties, I have been contemplating my life as a teacher and whether or not I do indeed belong in this profession. The answer is clear: yes, I do.

"The game...they say a person either has what it takes to play or he doesn' mother was one of the greats. Me on the other hand, I'm screwed…"

In 2005, my favorite TV show opened with that line. Today, as cheesy as it may seem, I find myself reflecting on that statement and asking whether or not I really have what it takes to play the game.

I am a teacher.

I make no qualms about the fact that I came into the profession unintentionally. I've even called myself The Accidental Teacher in my blog. While teaching was not originally in my Life Plan, I soon found myself flourishing in a career I had not laid out for myself. Enjoying a game I was not really into in the beginning. Not only was I flourishing, I was loving every moment of it. Well, almost every moment.

As a rookie, I initially saw myself knocked down by the challenges of the game, be it screaming preschoolers who wanted their mommies to undergraduate students who failed my quizzes. It took some time to get into the groove of things, to feel like every now and then I would be on the winning end. But then, as I continued training, kept on practicing, and built up my game plan, I started believing I had it in me to play the game.

Until now.

It's a bit hard for me to fathom right now that in a few days, a new term will begin. I feel like I barely hard time to sit and catch my breath after what I can only call the most complicated and controversial terms ever, one that has made me question why I even care to be part of this thankless and often exhausting game. Ironically, this comes at a time when I started out with such high hopes, feeling like finally, I’ve learned all the tricks and I know all the plays that is needed to succeed in this game. But now, I ask myself, do I have what it takes to play the game?

What is it actually that one needs to play this game? For one, patience and perseverance. The will to keep going when things just aren’t going right. I suppose a level of intelligence is also needed. And perhaps, the capacity to influence and touch lives. Other personal traits I think are necessary to play the game is a strong will but balanced with a listening heart, but not one that gets overcome by emotion. I think it also takes guts, and drive, and the ability to stand up for what is right.

While I may have some of that, I don’t know if I have all that it takes. And this term made me take pause and reassess where I stand. It started out with little things, but one by one, all those little things started piling up. At first I had the strategies, I knew how to block or defend, as well as how to strike or approach the tasks, but soon, my repertoire of skills ran out. I have to be fair, though, not everything that transpired throughout the term was bad...some good also came of it but all of it was an extremely difficult challenge for me. It was as if all my reserves suddenly ran out.

Going back to preschool, for one, was a challenge in itself. For the first time in years, I was handling the littlest kids. Not that they’re not great to be with, but it is hard for someone like me to be uber cheerful and child-centered with kids whose communication skills are vastly limited. It has been ages since I’ve handled kids who are going to school for the first time, so having mama or yaya out of the room is not a given. I also have to admit, I am not as young as I used to be, nor as fit. It now takes a lot of effort to do what was so simple back then.

In the same breath, everything that transpired this term really taxed all my resources…physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually. By the end of the term, I felt myself so beaten down, so exhausted and frustrated about the way play went. Not only was I losing a game, it was like I was losing the entire season. It seemed like no matter how hard I tried, I just kept on missing the goal, messing up the play and just failing in every respect. Further, it felt like I wasn’t getting the rules of the game anymore.

With that said I began to ask, why I am playing this game so hard? I don’t think I really have what it takes to make it after all. It’s kinda like knowing I could be a good player in this game, but not good enough to make it to the Olympic team. Was it worth it? Was I still enjoying the game?

The pilot episode of Grey’s Anatomy ended with this voiceover: “I can't think of a single reason why I should be a surgeon, but I can think of a thousand reasons why I should quit. They make it hard on purpose. There are lives in our hands. There comes a moment when it's more than just a game, and you either take that step forward or turn around and walk away. I could quit but here's the thing, I love the playing field.”

While I may not be a surgeon, and the lives in my hands are not necessarily teetering between life and death, but at the end of the day, when I really stop and think about it, there are a million, not just a thousand reasons why I should quit. The heartache, the disappointments, the compensation (and I’m not just talking financially here), are just a few reasons why I should quit. But then Meredith Grey is right: it’s hard for a reason. The lives I become part of don’t just live for today…and hopefully, just hopefully, I have done enough to make a difference in one life. I suppose it is indeed a choice, to continue or to walk away. I may not be the best player in this game and I might not have all it takes to be one of the greats, but I can’t give it up. I, too, love the playing field.

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