"Use red ballpen when you mark their papers. And then they would know you are serious."
Such were the words of the department chairman to me two weeks ago, when I conducted a teaching demonstration in preparation for my engagement as journalism professor at the Ateneo.
That was one nerve-wracking day. I know my stuff, of course, and I think I can handle millennials, living as I do with four of them of different temperaments every day. But teaching demos are when academics -- okay, your former teachers and would-be superiors -- sit in your make-believe classroom, listen to you deliver a presentation, and pretend they are your students. The thing is, they are not students no matter how much they get into character. They are PhDs who have been around longer than you have. A bonus: One was twice your teacher, who is on first-name basis with your publisher, and who was your mom's colleague back in the 80s and early 90s.
I did not know how I got through it but I did well, apparently. At the suggestion of my office friend Joyce who is a journ professor herself, I chose a topic I knew very well so I could be more confident. The "students" said it was fine, I could stop. They shed their roles and began giving me helpful tips on how I can engage my students better. They would be Communication and Interdisciplinary Studies students who would appreciate personal stories about how I went about my job at the newsroom.
On Thursday I met my students for the first time. The classroom was cramped and I have yet to decide whether it did me good, or wrong. I had to design my syllabus myself -- not from scratch because I got some guidance from the department, but that was all. I talked about the course as I envisioned it, played the first episode of The Newsroom and asked them to write a brief reaction to it. It was, I hope, a good preview of the rest of the semester.
I still have to get used to writing in red ink but I sure as hell am serious. I wonder whether I would ever do a job good enough to inspire even one of them to take up this profession, warts and all.