At 10:30 yesterday morning I was sitting in an empty classroom in PSU, smiling to myself. My class had just ended: we had had a very good discussion of the short story “Flowers for Algernon” in which a young man with some serious learning disabilities was used for a scientific experiment in creating intelligence by manipulating the brain through surgery. Charlie, the young man, who had always considered himself stupid, became very very bright, and soared past even his doctors in academic intelligence. He also increases his understanding of some human truths along the way.
And then Algernon, the experimental mouse subjected to the same procedure, dies, and the reversal of the results affect Charlie as well. So that’s the end of Charlie’s brilliance.
The students loved the story: one of the girls said she had cried. We got into a good discussion of whether this whole adventure did Charlie any good or only harm, and whether such experimentation was moral or not. One woman in the story thought Charlie had fallen into the devil’s hands (a la Faust) and we got into several religious questions. I was delighted to find that the students could give a good accounting of their own beliefs, questions, etc.
This particular class of BS-ED second year students is very good. I know one shouldn’t generalize on a case of one, but this is the first group I have taught who actually went through the complete K to 12 curriculum. I think it has done well for them.
So what am I doing back in the classroom after having left it some years ago? I left PSU to work full time in our family NGO, Roots of Health (Ugat ng Kalusugan). But two years ago, at the age of 75, I felt I was not very effective in my role, and so I retired yet again. So I considered myself unemployed or maybe self-employed if that means you don’t have a salary and you just do things that feel right at any moment. I did some writing, spend some time socializing, spent time at home not doing much but being present for my grandchildren and husband. I took piano lessons, got more serious about exercise (we have a rowing machine now!), did a lot of reading and joined a book club.
But I missed the classroom, I missed talking with young people, and I missed knowing young people! I even missed having a set schedule. (But I don’t need too much of that!)
So I am currently team teaching with a regular faculty member of the College of Teacher Education. Yesterday my co-teacher was called to an urgent meeting so I had the class to myself. But it is always fun with two teachers as well.
But I did sit there in the classroom after the students left and smile to myself. I don’t quite understand why I have so much trouble actually retiring, but I know that I am almost haunted by Jane Fonda’s maxim “Service is the rent we pay for living.” I can’t seem to get around that, and teaching always seemed a good way of “serving”.
So for the time being, at least, I am back in the classroom!