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13 February 2018

To All Graduates of DLSL… From Your Former Teachers

DLSL teachers during commencement exercises late 70s or early 80s.
During a lively conversation with a few of my former colleagues a few months back, unfortunately the occasion being the wake of another former colleague of ours, the esteemed Rogger Basco told this story of this one time when, walking along the streets of the city with some friends, he encountered someone apparently his former student.

This former student’s face brightened up at the sight of him, and s/he called out gleefully, “Sir Basco!!!” To which Basco cheerfully replied, “Huy!!! Ano ga!!!???” Standard enough rejoinder around these parts, but when the said former student was out of earshot, he turned to his companions, frown on his face, and muttered, “Sino nga ang potanang ‘yon?”

That was Rogger Basco at his irreverent best! Truth be told, the anecdote was not just hilarious but also very reassuring to hear. That self-same thing happens frequently enough to me and, I am guessing, to many of my former contemporaries at DLSL as well.

Let us all face it, some of you made an impression on us back in the day; and others just didn’t. Whether the impression was for excellence or notoriety, I leave it to you to decide.

Then let us look at the numbers. A regular teaching load for a teacher at DLSL’s old high school and into the Integrated School was 18 hours or six sections of three one-hour sessions each week. Let us place the student population per class at a very conservative 40.

I say “conservative” because back in the eighties when many of my generation of teachers started working at DLSL, it was typical for a class to have anything from 55 to 60 students. In fact, it was not unusual for a page of those old paper Record Books – where the quiz, exam and recitation grades were recorded – to not have enough rows to record the names of students of one class in.

Since we have placed the average class size at 40, this means that a teacher had at least 240 students every year. If a teacher goes the full 30 years of service, a grand total of 7,200 students would have passed under him or her at one time or another. That’s an awful lot of names and faces to remember!

Sometimes, remembering isn’t the problem; recognition is! As a rule of thumb, it’s perhaps easier to remember alumni than alumnae. Men often retain basically the same facial features they had in their adolescence so that even if the cheeks and bellies have bulged out, they are easier and quicker to recognize. For those who have gone bald, of course it’s a little harder.

Women, on the other hand, after graduation learn to pluck their eyebrows, put on makeup and style and color their hair. Not to mention wear more stylish clothes. Contrast your current look to your graduation picture, which incidentally is how we your teachers remember you – and you will all understand why recognition can be problematic for us years later.

It is always easier if we bumped into you every now and again after you had left DLSL. The tricky part always is when we run into those among you whom we had not seen for 10 years and more.

There are many alumni and alumnae who are timid about approaching former teachers for the reason that they are doubtful that they will be remembered. But there are just as many who will call out to a former teacher, their faces betraying the expectancy of recognition, 10 or 20 years since graduation notwithstanding.

Those of you who have worked in database programming will be able to appreciate the number of conditions and queries that need to be processed just to be able to attach a name to a face. When we get to a certain age – and this you will all appreciate because you will all get there as well – the processor starts to slow down and the hard disk has gotten really full.

Of course we can ask for your names – and often a name and a year of graduation are enough to bring recall – but for some reason there are alumni and alumnae who feel and look hurt when we don’t recognize them. This is why, sometimes, we feel the more diplomatic way is to pretend recognition.

So the next time you have a chance encounter with one of your former teachers, unless you have stayed connected since you graduated, do the sensible thing and introduce yourselves. It certainly spares us from having to go through the charade of pretending to remember you; and the trouble afterwards of thinking who the fuck was that?

Pardon the French.
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