“Cher, ngiti din pag may time.”

The more I call them my children, the more I get closer to them; the more it pains me to see them hurt by other people; the more I love them.

Yesterday, we conducted an earthquake drill. Sadly it was not as successful as we had expected. I remember being worried when my smallest student was pushed and pulled by the crowd as he let go of my hand, as he had no choice or else he’d stumble. I stood by the side, telling the other students not to push each other. I could not find any of my students, but I found others being pushed by those at the back. At the back of my mind, I just wanted to fly and call a helicopter to look for my students. Kinakabahan ako na baka may nanunulak din ng ganon sa kanila.

When the guard told us to go back because something was wrong, my students showed up one by one, two by two, group by group. I went upstairs, ready to exhale the deepest exhale ever. As we all entered, the first thing I told them was, “May nasaktan ba?” Each one of them shared a story of how “big” students punched them for no reason at all. One of students cried and said, “Cher akala ko mamamatay na ako. Hindi ako makahinga.”

As they told their stories, I felt a seething pain in my insides that produced tears–yes, my students caught me crying. They went silent for a moment as I said, “Sandali lang class.” until someone asked me, “Cher, bakit ka umiiyak?”

That question changed how I looked at them. They were my children after all.

“Class, ang pinakahuling gusto ko mangyari ay yung masaktan kayo.” I told them that as I reached for my handkerchief. Silently, I was scolding myself for crying in front of them. Though, I could see in their eyes that they already knew how special they are to me. “Cher sa susunod wag na tayo sumama. Masasaktan lang kami. Masasaktan ka din.”

Today, I realized that I was becoming closer to them. Yes, I reprimand them at times for not following procedures, scold them for misbehaving, and remind them about why they go to school. I never had a day where I would not give a student a warning, but this week was somehow better compared to the other self-contained weeks.

I gave them yellow papers as said by my co-fellow. I told them to write anything they wanted to tell our president, about themselves, about their family, or even about what they feel about the country. (story to be continued later)

During science period, four students went to my class and sat in front. Though my class disliked it, I told them that it was okay if they would not disrupt the class. One of the students, who I would term as student A, suddenly attacked one of my students. I could not remember what he said verbatim, but it was a threat of suntukan. I was dead surprised by the deed, I was not able to move my feet from where I stood to protect my student. I just remember telling him, “Luis, BUHOS student.” Even though I knew he wanted to avenge himself, he kept calm.

My student cried afterwards. I told my class to settle down for I will talk to student A. I asked student A what my student had done to him, and he replied, ‘none’. I told him that I respect them, and I could remember how well he did when I was teaching in their class. I told him that those students are my children. So if he could not behave and respect our home, I could not allow him to enter my class.

I continued our review-game in science. One of my very curious students went to peek at the door. Before I could even ask him to go back to his seat, student A entered my room again and pushed my student. This time, it happened in front of me around two meters away. This very curious student of mine would normally avenge himself. At that moment, I was ready to stop them if a fight would start. But for some reason, I stood and observed my student as I told him, “Reinier, ipakita mo sa kanya na isa kang BUHOS student na dapat niyang gayahin.” Surprisingly, he went from closed fists to open palms, went back to his seat calmly and bowed his head. I gave him time to absorb the event as I closed the door, went to the teacher that was supposed to supervise them and told them to bring student A and the other students back in class because they were literally hurting my children.

I could remember how I told them, “Class, hindi ko hahayaan na may mangyaring masama sa inyo. So kung papasok ulit siya, hayaan niyo lang. Andito ako. Hindi ko hahayaan na kahit sino saktan kayo.”

One of my students replied, “Teacher sa loob ng classroom to eh. Pano pag labas? Bubugbugin kami.”

So I said, “Sabay-sabay tayong uuwi.” I could see smiles and amazement in their faces when I told them, “Sinong tumatawid ng tulay?” A number raised their hands; these students were actually my, say, ‘students-with-adrenaline-rush-everyday’.

Normally, I’d stay until 7 to wait for my co-fellows. At that moment, we were so excited to go home together, a reason why we cleaned the classroom so fast. It was actually the first time I went home with them, and it was the first time I saw them with wide smiles and excitement in their eyes as if saying, “Sumabay sa atin si teacher!”

At around 7:30, I got home. It was the only time where I was able to read their letters to P-Noy. I found so many stories about them. One even said, “Gusto ko po ng sapatos kasi wala akong maayos na sapatos.” I felt guilty on how I reprimanded him when he’d go to the bathroom bear-footed. Several students talked about how they would miss a class because they do not have money to go to school, and how they wanted to finish their studies to help their parents.

Before the day started, I packed my things to bring in front, put out my microphone and gave a deep sigh. One of my students heard my deep sigh and said, “Cher, ngiti din pag may time. Kami nga ngumingiti. Dapat ikaw din!”

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