It was an early Saturday morning. Forty children ages 5 -12 started to arrive in the makeshift classroom at the community hall. I was quite surprised that most of them woke up as early as 7:00 AM just to attend our weekend study workshop. My colleagues welcomed the kids and directed them to their assigned sections.
At first, I was unconvinced by my ability to impart knowledge, a gift that I would willingly share. Fortunately, I got over myself and I became eager for the day of the workshop to come. I was ecstatic.
It’s going to be a long day, I told myself and indeed, it was. The day was exhilarating more than exhausting, even though it included incessant running around after a bubbly little girl who had a 100% battery life charge until 4:00 PM. Although always by her mother’s side, she would ask us to carry her around or play with her. She was just too lively for me.
The kids were energetic and attentive. Teaching the alphabet was a good head start. With hands raised, most students were eager to stand up and write their alphabet on the board. I also taught time reading. It was a challenging task for me since I had to make sure they could tell the difference between a 3:00 and a 12:15, big hand versus small hand. Our reading sessions involved reading all together. Some read loud and fast, some soft and slow. But the difference in pace didn’t matter because everyone participated.
There were some who were still sleepy or uninterested. But I didn’t falter as I tried hard to engage them. In the worksheet sessions, even if they were hesitant to talk to me, I tried to make them feel encouraged. It was a true test since I was not the best person to entertain kids, or to make them like me.
A few months after the study workshop, I was riding a jeepney on my way to school. I was hurrying for class. Deep in thought and preoccupied by schoolwork, I was too busy to notice a little girl smiling widely at me. Suddenly, a tiny little voice that was all too familiar to me spoke, “Si Teacher.” (It’s teacher!) The face, too, was more than familiar. Pointing towards me, she called her mother’s attention. She was that little girl in the workshop. She was the girl who tested my strength and challenged my limits. I instantly smiled back and asked where they were going. It lasted for only a few minutes but the impact was immense. I wore my smile for the rest of the day. I felt amazing.
When much is expected from us, we worry that we might not meet people’s expectations. We distrust our own strengths and wallow in our weaknesses. We self-flagellate. Thinking it’s for the best, we relapse and at worst, we give up. Despite attempts to motivate ourselves, we end up betraying ourselves.
But my pessimism changed in college. I met new friends that helped me realize that I am not alone in this process called self-discovery. Having the proper mindset is a continuous process. Eventually, I appreciated what it means to be in a team and to do something collectively. I learned that in finding myself and knowing what I want to do, I can learn about others and value solidarity. I learned that sharing what you have is the best gift to humanity. Bottom line: the rewards come in unexpected ways and they are breathtaking.
By Karla Mae de Leon, a regional intern at the WYA Asia Pacific office