Sunday, May 22, 2005

Baptism of Fire

When you are in a new university you must remember that you are entering another universe altogether. This is a piece of advice I have learned the hard way because I rush into things with blind enthusiasm and naivete. Falling flat on one's face or slamming straight into a wall of humiliation are distinct posibilities.

In another universe there are new planetary arrangments, new constellations and laws of nature that may or may not coincide with one's already known ideational realm. One cannot assume the same rules, norms and habits apply. To an extent, one cannot take for granted that certain things are already understood in School C when plenty of experience on these things have already been learned and imbibed in Schools A and B.

So of course it is absolutely shocking, shocking! when in School C, where I am a newbie, I am expected to explain to my students why I gave them failing marks. It is not enough that I have assiduously explained to them my course requirements and the percentages on the very first day of class. It is not enough that I have given them back the results of their written and oral work. It is not enough that, similar to a mother hen, I have constantly reminded them of their obligations. It is not enough that where English is the standard medium of teaching and communication, I encourage use of Filipino to those who are not linguistically gifted.

Like an errant school-child I am summoned, Summoned! by my boss to come to the department as swiftly as can be humanly done to explain myself and my decisions. A Horror of horrors has happened, 11 students failed in a class of 27. Gasp. And so, exhausted and semi-conscious from a 10-hour/6-day work week in the past 5 weeks, I drag myself to a caucus of students and boss. In the power-point presentation of my head "Diploma Mill" and "No Academic Freedom" and "No Academic Integrity" flash alternately in big, bold colors.

The Boss is calm and collected. The students are solemn and in deep thought (something most of them have never exhibited in class). The Boss speaks to me in measured tones. These are graduating students. Some of them have already been accepted in graduate schools. Higher administration is breathing down my neck. Parents are a pack of wolves biting at my heels. Save me. I want to give everyone a fair chance and protect your academic integrity and standards. We can say we've done everything humanly possible to accomodate all parties involved. I feel ashamed for having to ask you this. I apologize. Do you agree to giving them another crack at the finals? I promise nothing like this will happen again. This I do solemnly swear. Amen.

What can I, a lowly peon, do when my superior so humbles himself for me? I say yes. Another exam it is. If the borderline cases prove themselves come Monday, then 4or 5 should be on the road to salvation. And I? Well let's just say, the more I age, the more I compromise.

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