Sometimes we need to be rattled to get us out of our comfort zone.
Five years ago, that was my exact situation—I was “all shook up.” I was the editor in chief of a women’s magazine and many changes—media content, readers’ preferences, marketing directions—were happening.
By God’s grace, we met the challenges and survived. But it also showed that I could no longer delay acting on my personal plans. I finally decoded the writing on the wall: “Become Jurassic or Reinvent Yourself.”
From writer/editor to what?
As I began to mentor the young blood in the staff, I found that teaching gave me a sense of direction and fulfillment. I realized then how I could reinvent myself—I would become a teacher.
It was a logical leap. Journalists and teachers share three aims: to inform, to educate and to help form opinions. Both use stories to promote analytical and creative thinking. The stories must be entertaining enough to hold the audience’s attention but must never stray from the truth.
Motivated by this insight, I completed the certificate course for teachers in the summer of 2008. I resigned in August, passed the licensure examination in September, enrolled in graduate school and began to teach college students in October.
I teach general education subjects but specialize in journalism and English language and literature. My initial aim was to instill an appreciation for literature but it soon became clear that this could not be done without developing and enhancing reading and writing skills across the curriculum.
Reading and writing use analytical and creative thinking. In my literature class, I engage the students with the use of metaphors, which create much of the imagery in prose and poetry. Metaphors fill what is not said in the selection. Making inferences and identifying nuances enable the student to understand the material.
My heart does a little jig when my students ask questions and connect their experiences to what they have read. Investing the selection with their own personal meaning indicates appreciation and their acquired skills.
There is a good chance they will use these reading techniques in other subjects and long after they are done with my class. Hopefully, they will develop into new readers.
By a happy coincidence, as I was hunting for teaching materials about metaphors, I chanced upon a video on TED.com featuring writer/editor James Geary. He talks about “the reigning king of metaphorians,” Elvis Presley, who has himself become a metaphor, and his song, “All Shook Up.”
According to Geary, the song is “a great example of how, whenever we deal with anything abstract—ideas, emotions, feelings, concepts, thoughts—we inevitably resort to metaphor.” In the song, “a touch is not a touch but a chill. Lips are not lips but volcanoes … And love is not love but being all shook up.”
Geary explains that “Elvis is following Aristotle’s classic definition of metaphor as the process of giving the thing a name that belongs to something else.”
Ruminating on Cogito ergo sum (“I think, therefore I am”), Geary offers a better translation: “The Latin word cogito is derived from the prefix co, meaning ‘together,’ and the verb agitare, meaning ‘to shake.’ So the original meaning of cogito is ‘to shake together.’ And the proper translation of Cogito ergo sum is ‘I shake things up, therefore I am.’”
Suddenly, I remember how I had latched on to the phrase “all shook up” during my state of unrest five years ago. Using Geary’s mathematics of metaphor, “X = Y,” my metaphor then would have been “Reinvention = Teacher.”
Today, my metaphor is “Learn = Shake Things Up.” Shake those gray cells a bit to spark a new line of thinking. That is why I teach.
I am now exactly where I should be, doing what The Teacher upstairs wants me to do. Why else would He have made it so easy for me to become a teacher?
Ricci F. Barrios is an editor at ABS-CBN Publishing Inc. She also teaches English, literature and journalism to the students of Colegio de San Lorenzo in Quezon City.