The first days were spent getting to know my kids. They may be taller and bigger than me now but they’d always be ‘my kids’ in my eyes.

In my classes, I made my students give me at least three things they thought I should know about them, just little things they wanted me to know about them – things they liked or not like to to do, liked or did not like to eat, and habits and attitudes. I’ve known them since they were young, we’ve not seen each other in seven years and I wanted to know how in those past years they have changed. I asked them if seven years ago felt like a long time, and was glad they feel the same way I do – it seemed to me only yesterday. They still look the same, just bigger and taller, yet the same. And to them, I still look the same too.

I asked them about their most memorable experiences from years past, and their expectations of this year, as well as how they see themselves a year or so from now. I always believed that the purpose of having an education is to be able to use it, and because of that, I always made it my purpose to give them a learning experience that they can use.

It felt really good just getting to know each other, all over again.

And then, I asked, “If there’s one thing you need to know about me, what is it? Think of a question that I need to answer.”

Most of them wanted to know how old I am.
Yes I don’t look it, but I am, thirty. Yes I am, and proud of it too. I may look or even act like I’m 22, and in that, perhaps an apology? I am patiently waiting to be 33. Nothing in it except I heard that was supposed to be the age one is happiest, according to surveys, so I have 33 to look forward to, among other things.

What’s your favorite color?
It’s nice to be asked such simple things as one’s favorite color. And yes, it’s red. It’s always been red. I wear a lot of blacks, but red will always be my favorite color.

What were you doing before you came back?
I was doing lots of things. I’ve been here, there, and everywhere it seems.

What made you come back?
I was asked. I always want to come back. I’d always say yes in a heartbeat. I was here every year the past years, even for a few days, or a week. I always made it a point to come back for a year would not be complete if I have not set foot on this patch of gravel, this brown clayey soil, and this white sand.

Are you glad to be back?
This place, this little town in this island, is my home. I have had many homes, but when I think of “home” this is always the first thing that comes to mind. I am home, and I am glad to be.

Did you miss us?
I missed you every single day. I missed you all the time. Yes, in all honesty, I did.

And someone asked, this boy, who was my student when he was but seven, How are you?
I’ve somehow missed the question on his paper, but he insisted, even to the point of raising his hand and saying, “Teacher, my question?”. It is so nice to be asked such a question, and even more poignant, is the sincerity in which the question was asked. I could only wish we asked such questions in that manner, and really expect an honest answer; and not ask because it’s customary to. Of all the questions to ask, a simple, poignant “How are you?”

One of my new students, a boy of twelve, who was in pre-school, having classes in the living room of our house back in 2005, asked, “What’s the funniest moment in your life?” and that made me a bit introspective than the usual. I feel that I always have a ready answer for the saddest moment in my life, but none for the funniest. I have to start remembering the funny ones more. If I do, I would sooner find out that the funnest ones thoroughly outnumber the saddest ones, but that the ones I find funny may not be as funny to others, but that the saddest, are really quite sad.

My fourth year high school students are more unique than the rest. They we’re very concerned with this question, “Are you strict?” I looked at three of them, my students when they were in Grade 3, and asked them, “Am I strict?” They all smiled, sheepishly looked down, covered their faces and said, “Yes.”

Yes I’ve always been strict. Even my St. Paul College high school students know this to be true. I am notorious for being strict. It can be embarrassing to admit that sometimes, but that, I would always be.

And finally, the question that struck me the most, “Is it hard to fall?”

I asked in what context he wanted me to answer his question and he said mysteriously, in whatever context Teacher. So I said, “Yes it’s hard to fall… in love.”

And that is how my first few days here were.

My Grade 2 students all grown up. This was taken during their graduation from elementary in April 2010. They’re now in third year of high school. I teach them Chemistry.

Teachers at Heart

Question: Do I look strict?