Sounds of the Trail



Having Fun At Work

What I consider as one of the most memorable moments in my career as a teacher was when one of my students asked me this question, “Why do you seem so happy when you’re teaching?” That question caught me by surprise. My initial reaction was to say, “Really!” He nodded and said some other kind words. Then I told  him that I just love what I am doing.

When I went home after work, I reflected on that exchange between me and that student. Do I really love teaching? Well, the love affair between me and this profession I wholeheartedly embraced  started in 1988. I have been in this “romance” for 34 years (24 in the Philippines and 10 here in South Korea). And I don’t see me and this profession divorcing even when all my hair turns gray. Teaching is one of my passions… the other two are writing and lifelong learning.

That question my student  asked did something else. It  made me recall the usual comments my students would write when they evaluate my performance at the end of every semester. They are as follows:  “His class is fun.” and “He is a funny teacher.” I did not pay attention to those  comments until I was asked that question. It made me glad that what I do as a teacher in the classroom would create that kind of impression among students. I just hope that aside from having fun, my students are also learning. The thought that they are having fun, even if to some or many of them language learning is difficult, is consoling.

Indeed I have fun when I teach. I am happy doing it. Is it because I love public speaking and talking in front of people excites me? It could be the result of my embracing what Confucius asserted, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Maybe it is  an offshoot of my creating a unique teaching philosophy. Yes, I do have a personal teaching philosophy. Each teacher must have one. A teacher without a teaching philosophy is like a person who journeyed into the wilderness without a compass.

I didn’t pattern my teaching philosophy after  any of those classical “isms”  made popular by the great philosophers.  Neither did I use contemporary educational philosophies to guide me in its creation. The personal teaching philosophy I created is unconventional and it reads…

“The classroom is my playground, the students are my playmates, and the subject that I teach is our toy.”

It doesn’t sound like a philosophy, right? But to me it is. The things I do in the classroom and the way I treat my students are informed by that statement. It works wonderfully.  Perhaps it helps also that I subscribe to the principle that the “students are the reason schools exist… the reason I am a teacher.” A woman cannot be called a mother without a son or daughter… biological or adopted. In the same vein,  I cannot be called a teacher without students. It doesn’t make me feel less of a person, much less a professional, if I say that I serve my students. Teachers can always opt to practice servant leadership if they want to… and I do.

That principle aforementioned and my personal teaching philosophy are the lamps that illuminate the path that I tread in my journey as a teacher. They make me love what I do in the classroom… the reason I am having fun out there.

In addition, what helps me have fun at work is my acceptance of  the reality that there is no such thing as a perfect workplace. To think otherwise is tantamount to being delusional.

When I was young, I dreamt of finding a workplace where everything is perfect – systems, policies, and relationships. Who wouldn’t want to belong to an organization where everything is as you expect them to be. The problem is a perfect workplace is nothing but a utopian dream. Nowhere in the world it could be found.

So, I figured that if I think my workplace has become toxic and it has stopped me from growing personally and professionally, I just leave. I would not stay a single day in that kind of working environment.

What I consider the craziest people (pardon the adjective) in the schools I joined (both past and present) are those who criticize the policies of the organization, express their dislike of the work we do, and say all the negative things they could say about our employers. They call our employers inutile and incompetent who have no idea what they are doing yet when they are offered a contract for the next school year, they would gladly sign their names on the dotted lines and agree to stay for the next school year… another school year of whining and whinging. Isn’t that crazy?

It’s plain and simple. Changes in the workplace are inevitable. Employers have to do what they need to do in order for their business to prosper or simply survive. When they do that, they are ready to lock horns with anybody who disagrees with them. They are not foolish to have not considered all the legal ramifications of their actions. They know what they are doing.  Making them change their minds is like “beating a dead horse.” It’s a quixotic undertaking… most especially when you are not a citizen of the country where you are working… like me.

Fighting the windmills is not fun. I leave that to the Don Quixotes in our organization. As for me, I just work and perform the duties and responsibilities as stipulated in my job description. I control what I could. I would walk an extra mile if need be particularly if that is something that I need to do for my students.

%d bloggers like this: