I thought it was fate or simply luck that I became a teacher.
I became a teacher only because the one person in the family who had a college education was a teacher. She told me I could take a bachelor of arts course then choose a more suitable path—first be a full-fledged teacher then a lawyer.
Yes, I had wanted to become a lawyer. In fact, all my closest friends became lawyers while I “got stuck” in this profession.
In my first teaching stint, I taught English in high school and, well, religion. I did not really look the part, especially discussing biblical reflections.
Worse, my principal told me during the interview that I could not teach. I still think up to now that she could have used kinder words to challenge me if she could not inspire me.
It took me four years to realize that I was not really cut out for high school teaching. Not because Mrs. Principal was right but because I did not have the kind of training to attend to the demands of high school teaching.
When I quit, I thought I had been liberated.
University teaching breathed new life into me. I blended well with former mentors who had become colleagues. I was back in my comfort zone.
Secret of good teaching
My university became my refuge. My professional relationship with my colleagues and students was strong. And the secret of good teaching was revealed to me.
I always thought that the teacher’s persona had a great deal of influence on one’s teaching. I saw my students get inspired by a mentor’s character and get frustrated because of a professor’s lack of it.
I realized teaching had become rather easy because I also got something out of it. Mutual learning made me enjoy my students’ company—plus there was the good dose of humor whenever we bantered and conducted silly discussions.
I loved my students’ adulation and I loved the spark in their eyes when they listened to me romanticize the pain of Benitez’s “Dead Stars” or when I ranted about the research work they submitted.
Teaching became second nature to me.
I think of my journey to the Middle East as also an accident. Before I knew it, I was crossing a desert where, in the past two years, I have had to endure loneliness, culture shock and lots of professional adjustments.
Teaching at Saudi Aramco clipped my wings. Although all I had to do was go with the flow, my ego was too big for me to do that in the beginning. I remember crying out of sheer fatigue and frustration at the end of the day because I could not get through to my students.
My students were easily ganging up on me, but I knew I couldn’t let that go on. I’d have to take the bull by its horns. Eventually, I earned their trust by showing genuine concern.
I think only Filipino teachers can do that because of their charm, their hard work and their dedication to do a world-class job.
Teachers from other nationalities would whine whenever given extra work. I never complained and, after two years, I realized humility had done the trick. Finally, I had landed. I earned the administration’s respect and I was made Teacher of the Year in 2009.
I still encounter difficulties working in the Middle East. Teaching is still no bed of roses. But now I know what to do and I trust myself more.
I have regained my flare and developed a fierceness in tackling the training center’s daily operations as the English and self-study coordinator.
Who would have thought I would become supervisor when I almost thought of quitting? I even received my second best teacher award in 2012.
Sometimes other nationalities take a while to accept me as the one in charge. But they have to. They have to live with the fact that I am a Filipino, I am a teacher and I am telling them what to do. This Filipino teacher is proud of where he came from and will always take pride in the work Filipino teachers do overseas.
As I take another journey as a new Muslim in the Middle East, my learning curve takes new twists and turns. But the desert has become a better place. I have found my own oasis. Life has been good and I can no longer say I became a teacher by accident.
Teaching is my qadar (destiny). Alhamdulillah (Thanks be to Allah)!
Reynaldo Maranan Jr. (aka Jameel Maranan) is a new Muslim and a big fan of the learner-centered approach and Pablo Neruda. He is the English and self-study coordinator in one of the industrial training centers of Saudi Aramco.