I retired from teaching in 2017.
For 28 years, I labored to impart my knowledge of the law to eager and wide eyed students who attended my classes every night. That I have seen many of them succeed in becoming lawyers and achieve greater heights than me is enough compensation for the hard work I devoted to the job.
I retired not because I got bored. I simply wanted to rest from the stress of the profession. Somehow, I felt I was getting old and going to the classroom every night (yes, Law classes are held on a nightly basis) started to become a physical burden. There were more students to accommodate, parking within the periphery of the university was difficult, and traffic was getting worse every year.
Heck, it was time to hang up my teaching jersey and enjoy the quiet solitude at nights watching Netflix or anything close to it.
I was invited during the height of the pandemic to teach online by another leading university. At first, I relented because I might not be up to the task. I was not versed in computer and operating gadgets was not my cup of tea, not at this age and not with my background. I am among the teachers who were oriented in the old school that classes ought to be face-to-face and students are supposed to meet their instructors physically on a daily basis where recitations are done and written examinations are submitted. A system of computerized teaching was totally alien to me. I was more afraid of operating the computer than teaching the students who are online.
Still, my dean urged me to reconsider. He said there is nothing to be afraid of since there will be a comprehensive seminar for teachers to familiarize with online teaching. Well, I am not afraid of new experiences. So, I was plucked out of retirement and I went to teach online – for the love of it.
At first, I found the experience strange and comical. After 28 years of feeling the pulse of my students, interacting with their fears, jitters, and joys, I was in an uncharted world dealing with blips and images. The faces I saw were but projections of human beings. The feelings they exhibited were far from real. They were figures with name tags and numbers indicating their identities. They were not different from the characters I saw in the movies I watched on Netflix. They seemed indifferent, unconcerned, unresponsive, and distant. Every time I started lecturing, there was this feeling of emptiness, a futility that what I am saying might not be absorbed at all. I had this conception that anything on-screen is only good for entertainment.
Still for whatever worth it had, I persevered and persisted. I talked and talked, unmindful that some of my students online were exiting at the middle of my lectures or were joining late or were none at all. When I conducted graded recitations or gave quizzes, they were more adept in answering.
Perhaps, they had codigos or perhaps, students like them are more intelligent than those who come to the classroom. I had no way of knowing and had no way of judging. It was unfair to say otherwise. In a way, my ignorance about online teaching was, in all probability, taken advantage of by my students. I gave them the benefit of the doubt.
After five semesters of conducting classes online, it was deemed by those in authority that enough is enough. It is time to haul the students back to the classroom and have them attend classes face-to-face, notwithstanding any and all oppositions. What a relief. Students who only had classes online have weak inter-personal and intra-personal relationships. Because of their seclusion, they have a hard time relating with their emotions. They have become anti-social and are more comfortable being alone. Their best friend is their computer. If the online classes persisted, we might be breeding self-indulgent individuals who will not be able to distinguish a human being from an image inside a computer. Very dangerous.
And so, I am back inside the classroom as are my students and millions more. I could not be happier. Having been allowed to teach face-to-face gave me a renewed purpose, a new found strength to do what is right. More than images, I am now sure that the people I am facing are going to be instructed into becoming useful and productive citizens.