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A great teacher inspires

I have been teaching administrative law for almost nine years.

I got into teaching on the prodding of a fraternity brother and a sorority sister in Alpha Phi Omega. I did not think I would find the time to teach, as I was already working full time as a government lawyer.

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But when I was in grade school decades ago, I remember reading in one of those tiny horoscope books that the right career for me would be in a field where I would speak before or influence a huge number of people—specifically, as a lawyer, judge, teacher or politician.

I did not take the horoscope seriously, as I do not believe in those things. But looking back, it seems there was something to it after all.

I did become a lawyer and a teacher, and almost became a judge (I was short-listed for a vacancy four times but did not want to go through the padrino, or political patronage, system).

Thanks to Joel Mangahas, former college secretary of the University of the Philippines (UP) National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG), I taught at NCPAG for four years.

Now I am also teaching administrative law, the law on public officers and election law at Lyceum of the Philippines University, thanks to Sol Deriquito-Mawis, who has been dean since 2009.

Teaching is for those who want to achieve the ultimate fulfillment in life by sharing their knowledge with very little return (finance-wise).

In teaching, you are free, you are yourself, you are independent; there are no limitations (unless, of course, your method of teaching goes against morals, good customs and public policy).

Academic freedom is actually enshrined in the Constitution. You can teach the law whichever way you want and, as students at the UP College of Law, we read everyday on the walls of the lobby of Malcolm Hall that it should be taught in the “grand manner” to make “great lawyers.”

What is the “grand manner?” Does it mean that one has to be a terror? I always wonder every year if I should try a new technique, like yelling expletives at my students and terrorizing them, just as our professors did.

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It seems those who were most feared were also the most famous and memories of them lived longest. I even heard stories from graduates of another school about a professor who was such a terror that his students peed in their pants or dresses during recitation. He would bring the class’ attention to the wet floor to further humiliate the students.

I do not think I want to do that to any student, however. I want my students to learn, not to be scarred for life. I want my students to look forward to my class every Wednesday. I want them to study hard for recitation not because they do not want to be humiliated but because they want to get high grades, pass the bar and be great lawyers someday.

Teaching is a very special undertaking; a very heavy responsibility, actually, as it is an opportunity to mold very impressionable young minds.

As John Ruskin said: “Education is painful, continual and difficult work to be done in kindness, by watching, by warning … by praise but above all, by example.”

I have also been guided always by this quotation from William Arthur Ward: “The mediocre teacher tells, the good teacher explains, the superior teacher demonstrates, the great teacher inspires.”

Lawyer Maria Estrellita R. Reyes is a lecturer in mandatory continuing legal education (on the adjudicatory powers of the Office of the President and updates in local government laws) and the procurement law.

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TAGS: Learning, Maria Estrellita R. Reyes, teaching
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