The last time I was in school was more than twenty years ago, when I decided to drop out of college. I decided to go back to school because I woke up one morning and I had a revelation that there is no future for a “getting old” old worker like me in a small town like Jamestown. This is the reason why, at the age of forty eight, I decided to sit in a class room to do what is needed to pursue a decent career. My first semester in class, not only did I learn what kind of student I am, but I also had learned that there are good and “bad” teachers and I just do not know which one I am going to get.
Most times, good teachers are define by students as either “cool”, “easy”, or “helpful” and my personal definition of a good teacher is someone that has a positive contribution towards my educational journey. A good teacher is an individual who will teach me what I need to learn, in order for me not look like a fool when I enter that “real” world of being employed.
In my first semester at Columbia College, I had experienced teachers that were good. They were good because they gave emotional support, when overwhelmed students felt that the work load was too much to handle. I had a teacher not only give me a hug during one of my “stress test” moments but she also made sure to give me all the support I needed to not get discouraged. Basically, a good teacher will go above and beyond their calling to help a student to achieve his goal.
Unfortunately, as much as there are good teacher there are also bad teachers. I had witnessed and had experienced such atrocity. I had a teacher that would deplete the student attendance in school by blurting out “you do not learn in class, you only learn from doing homework” and all I can do as a reaction is to give her that look asking her without saying it out loud “what are we doing in school?” and “what do we need teachers for?”
I took English 151 prior to this semester, as excited as I was to entertain the thought that I might learn how to write in a decent manner, that excitement had turned into a nightmare instead. My excitement came from my passion for writing, and having an outlook that writing can be such a powerful tool; it can be either used as weapon that can destroy a person, a place, or an organization. Writing can also be used as a positive tool to open doors, minds and change a life, build a civilization, make a country and even the world. Not only did I not learn how to write in a correct manner, but I also had built a severe “fear” towards it from all the homework writings I did, which the grades confirmed that my writing did not improve. Months had passed, still waiting for that light bulb to come on, but instead I watched my self-confidence slowly dissipated and developed paranoia that “I am not good enough nor the wit to write”. I stopped writing my journal; I go into a sweaty panic attack writing a short note to an employer.
I did not quit because I was failing the class, in fact I was getting a “B” before the class was dropped. Deep inside me something just did not feel right. My grade did not reflect what was inside me, which was a big bungling confusion that made me realize that “I simply do not get it”. I had decided that I will not have a grade dictate what I know and do not know, which gave me the courage to walk out of that class. Confiding with my counselor, in tears, shaking in frustration, and then she suggested taking the class with Mr. Riviera. She described him as good and strict: “three absences in his class, you will be dropped”. All I heard was “he is good” and my attitude at that point was, “we will see”.
I still went back retook the class, discourage and doubtful that this short- haired, pony- tailed man, with glasses, wearing his summer casual “professional” look, dressed in shorts and short sleeve semi- formal shirt, can teach me how to write. He presented himself as a published writer which it did not really get my attention nor did I fill myself with hope and excitement. Surprisingly, this teacher, oozing with aura of “coolness”, who I am so tempted to address as Mr. Dude, did what no other teacher had done before. The first week, I was getting restless. I compared all the handouts that I already got from the last English 151 class, and figuratively, the handout was so thick that incorporating all those paper work will result to two more course book, this was also the reason why as a student, I did not even bother reading the assigned book. Even if I had read the assigned reading, it was useless; because when question comes up, it will not be answered, explained nor discussed in class. We would be required to write four papers by the end of the week and not knowing how to write what was required does not seemed to matter.
Here I was blaming this guy for being slow in his teaching, but aghast, Mr. Riviera actually doing it the right way all along. I saw the process of how he prepares me to write my first paper the right way. He brought that excitement of wanting to learn again, and I read the required assigned homework now, for I know if I get confuse there will be answers. Thank you, Mr. Dude, Sir.