In which I try to say goodbye

Goodbyes have never been my thing. I don’t like them and I’m not good at them. Since the time I have been assigned to teach the graduating batch (then Grade 7, now Grade 8), I say goodbye perfunctorily to my students at the end of every school year. And sometimes I look back with regret at those times. I would catch myself thinking I should have prepared better for it. I could have done this or said that. I could have prepared the tearjerker presentations that some teachers do. But, by the time I realize that, the moment has long passed. So this year, I thought I’d say goodbye to each of the four classes I had taught. I wasn’t planning on something fancy. I just told myself that I will say a few words at the end of the period, like my own “pabaon” for them. I made mental notes about what to say, and revised them until I had something substantial to say. I was planning to address each class before I left, right after administering the Grade 9 Readiness Test. But the universe had other plans. The test took the entire period, and left me with no time to say goodbye, except in the standard “Goodbye-and-thank-you” way. And I felt cheated. It didn’t feel right at all.

Saying goodbye to a graduating batch always has finality to it. In the past, I often told myself that part of the reason why I don’t say goodbye is that part of me believes in the possibility of meeting again. But in reality, from experience, I know that after graduation, I will never see some of these boys again. Some I will see only after several years, and mostly only through accidental (and sometimes awkward) encounters. I may chance upon them on campus, along Katipunan, or in the malls. Some might stay in touch through fb or twitter or text. Others may visit from time to time, especially on their first year (Grade 9). But the truth is, once they leave, nothing will ever be the same again. And one can only hope that the time spent together will leave enough of the good stuff to be remembered, enough of the bad, the unpleasant, or the painful to learn from.
I wanted to tell my boys that it had been a difficult year. In fact, for me, it had been the most challenging one in my close to 20 years of service. I wanted to tell them that it was a tough year, but I did my best for them, and I know that they (majority of them anyway) also did theirs. I wanted to praise their efforts and commend them for adjusting, surviving, and later on, thriving. We jumped into the deep and murky JHS river and were able to keep our heads above the water. I wanted to tell them that, all things considered and regardless of the outcomes for some of them, they had done a good job, and are emerging from this year as better versions of themselves. And is that not the whole point, after all?

I wish I could have wished them the best in the coming years. I wish I could have told them that no matter where life takes them after Grade 8, whether they leave the Ateneo or stay, the Ateneo spirit will never leave them. As some die-hards would often say, “Once an Atenean, always an Atenean”. I also wish I could have assured them that they go to the next level armed with the skills they need to survive, and that, in the final analysis, everything that they truly need in life is just somewhere inside of them. I wish I had the chance to say that, whether they believe it or not, I will miss them, quirks and all; and that despite the few untoward incidents and the fact that I’m almost always exasperated in class (“Boys namaaaaaaaaan..”), I truly enjoyed having them this year.

So, to the classes of Gonzaga, Kostka, Pignatelli, and Regis 2014, if you’re still reading this, you’ve already read close to 700 words which I wrote in a total of 80 minutes, and I hope you’re not feeling like the last few minutes and past 10 months had been a sordid waste of your time. Because even with all the literally sleepless nights I’ve had, all the brain cells that had died with that, all the coffee that I had to drink to stay awake and alive, all the papers that I had to check and the whiteboard markers that I had to refill, it certainly wasn’t a waste of mine. You guys made it all worthwhile.
I know that sometimes you don’t feel the love. I’m all business as soon as I enter the room. I’m often masungit in class. And I do get mad from time to time (Okay, a lot). Also, I’m not one to break into song or do a chant or give you high-fives. But the love is there. Beyond the glare of the whiteboard. Underneath piles and piles of homework. Hidden in the x’s and the y’s.

So goodbye and thank you, Gonzaga.

Goodbye and thank you, Kostka.

Goodbye and thank you, Pignatelli.

Goodbye and thank you, Regis.

May you always find the value of x even in the longest and most complicated equations. But more importantly, may you always find the value and meaning in life, even in the most mundane and seemingly inconsequential tasks of every day.

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.

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