The wisdom of a two-decade experience has taught us, Batch ‘96, ways to surpass the next two decades in our life. We are now indeed in the midway of our career life here at Ateneo. Some have chosen to journey the path going to the left, others are still thinking to take the right way, and the rest undoubtedly looking forward to retire in Ateneo.
Our life in Ateneo was not always a bed of roses, but, sometimes, a bed of nails. And, that shapes a perfect chemistry on how we live our life here as teachers and workers. While the batch had experienced sincere appreciation of our administrators and mentors, we had also gloomy days for we failed to live up to their expectations.
Modesty aside, it is noteworthy that two members of our batch had been rated Excellent in their work performance. That is an extraordinary achievement; for we know that it was not given as a free lunch as appraised by the likes of the supervisors who loved to see the details but did not forget to affirm even the least of what we did before the end of the day. It is in the principle that runs where, in a snow-white piece of paper, a single dot does not mar the whole page. Thank you, our seniors, who saw us as the glass that is half-filled and not half-empty.
I am honored to call the members of the Batch 1996. Please stand to be recognized. The survivors: Reggie Gamba, Oca Ramirez, Roming Arellano and Mercy Rota. Also, I would like to mention those teachers who were once with us, Pat Torrato, Girlie Conde, Jelorie Peroja and Daisy Jurilla.
Teachers have a great role in changing the world slowly by making a difference in the life of others. Having a desire to commit with the Ignatian ideal of love, service and tradition of excellence, we strongly believe in that statement as we would like to share our homemade formula for “living longer” in Ateneo.
First, value the seniority of experience. It is not the age, size of your waistline, quantity of knowledge and the number of titles you achieved that matter most but the wisdom of real-world teaching experience of those ahead of us. We salute our senior teachers and mentors who have journeyed happily with us and kept the culture through long years of teaching experience. We were greatly influenced by your charisma in bringing the Ignatian spirituality into full life in school. Without you, we could have been estranged with our vision and mission, and the school might have been led to somewhere else. We do acknowledge that there are people who are ahead of us as well as those who are behind us. The strong partnership and mentoring between the neophytes and the seniors mark a significant collaboration with the end in mind, that is, Ateneo propelling defined solutions to real-world problems, that is to develop committed Christ-centered leaders for the community.
Second, your words can make or unmake you an Ignatian leader. In the civility best practices, we, teachers and workers, should model respect and professional demeanor to help reinforce civility and positive norms. Let us strive to treat others with respect, dignity, collegiality and kindness for this is the way to maintain smooth working relationships in Ateneo. It is a rule of thumb to be sensitive to the feelings of others and to be sensible of the words we say.
Conflicts arise in any organization nowadays, and they are just common day-to-day menu. But, conflict indicates something misunderstood between the two, which invites us to reflect and resolve in the spirit of humility and acceptance.
Third, believe that every seed planted on a suitable ground will yield fruits. This is a multiplier effect on the efforts we strived for our students and the Ateneo community. We are so blessed to see our graduates of their achievements. To mention a few, it is pleasant to know Dr. Charisse Toledo, Dr. Lyza Camille Gadong, Dr. Christopher John Po, Dr. Jan Patrick Ng, Dr. Leif Bayani Marold… We are proud of them as our students. As their science teacher before, I would stare meaningfully and say “I was the one who told them about cells. And now, they are doctors.”
One time, I met a familiar face, smiling to me from afar. And immediately, he uttered, Sir Pradas, remember me?” I replied humorously, “Of course how can I forget the noisiest boy in my class? How are you?” He said, “Sir, lawyer na ako.” That was Atty. Angelo Karlo Guillen. Similarly, I am so happy to see the billboard at University of San Agustin, which states, Atty. Bryan Kevin Tung.
Those are just a handful of success. And, of course, we are not neglecting our own students who decided to be teachers now, Marjie, Maryan, Janelle and Van. Kidding aside, it is a good choice that you do not teach Science, or else… A piece of advice for you: When you teach, commit your life, and go beyond the purpose of compliance. Commitment is more than just compliance. God will always bless you in your efforts and honesty.
Last, listen to your mistakes and make a great effort to innovate. I remember Fr. Manny, who always told us in the past, “Do something more every time. Imagine the details, details and details.” Fr. Salty implies something like “reinvent the wheel, rehash, relevance, para maiba naman.” As Fr. Jhaw would normally remind us, “Let’s innovate.” Amat-Amat is one of his favorite words.
Dear teachers, the bottom line is, let us all raise the quality of standards. The Zen principle says, “When it is working, it is obsolete.” This invites us to think of the ways to make a difference every day in our work.
Ateneo will soon lose its identity if we stop innovating. We would sound like a conglomerate rock, which is composed of several particles, clumped together through sedimentation. Precisely, if we would not be innovative, we would be left behind, we would sound like a combination of different schools in the locality. And, this is an honest question, how far do we differ from them? If we see no difference at all, that’s dangerous.
But, Ateneo is not the building. Ateneo is its community of believers. One of the great pillars that spell the difference in Ateneo are the teachers. I would congratulate all of you as part of this celebration for your choice of becoming teachers. Once you're entangled for love in teaching, you would have a difficulty of moving away from it; where many of us remain single because of teaching. I guess, it’s a choice. A difficult choice.
On a personal note, I take this opportunity to thank my colleagues, supervisors and administrators for accompanying me for all the ups and downs of my stay here at Ateneo, for the gift of friendship, for understanding my shortcomings, for welcoming me back to the classroom, salamat gid. Somewhere, someday, somehow, I will proudly tell myself and always remember this… I have been a teacher in my life, which I never dreamed of before. And take note, in Ateneo.
To look beyond the glory is the hardest part, for a hero's strength is measured by his heart. Let us keep our hopes high.
This is our story. Our journey.
Thank you and happy teachers’ day!
(delivered by Jose Neil Pradas during the Teachers’ Day Program @ Smallville 21, 2 October 2015)