The Teach for the Philippines Fellows are getting a lot of media mileage as graduates of top schools who have chosen to leave their mark on our country as teachers for two years in the public school system. They were trained as transformational teachers, instructed by top education professors and inspired by education and industry leaders. But let me recount these Fellows as who they were to me: friends.
During my last day as Program Manager of Summer Institute, we had a thanksgiving Mass. After the Mass, I saw footprints leading to the dining hall. Little did I know that those footprints actually had individual messages from the Fellows. As I made my way to the dining hall picking up the footprints, I was greeted by the Fellows with a most wonderful song: Salamat. As they sang, eyes were hazy with tears–mine no less than theirs. It was a wonderful way of encapsulating my experience with Teach for the Philippines.
I started my Teach for the Philippines journey as everyone else did — by applying to be part of the Cohort. I initially applied to be a Fellow and went to the office for the interviews. But my application to the Society of Jesus took precedence. Yet it so happened that they asked me if I would be willing to take the position of Program Manager for Summer Institute, the two-month training program of the Fellows, and I was.
I started work with briefings at the office, but my work officially began during the Opening Ceremony for the Fellows on April 3, 2013. My work involved dealing with administrative, logistical and schedule concerns. I would take care of the graduate program concerns with Ateneo, registrar documents, application and enrollment, feedback database, transportation requirements, schedule dissemination and so on.
But I don’t think the Fellows remembered me for doing these things since these were things that people do in the background. Maybe they will remember me as the guy who put chocolates and notes in front of their dorm rooms when the most stressful weeks of Summer Institute came. Maybe some will remember me as their companion to the clinic, who reserved snacks for them when they were too ill to get these. Maybe some will remember me as the person who organized weekly prayer sessions so that they will feel energized and secure. Maybe some will remember me as a person they could talk to or raise concerns with. Or maybe they just remember my presence–quiet and unassuming, silent yet caring.
Much to the same temper, I don’t think I’ll honestly remember the Fellows as teachers (although I have observed them teach Grade 3 students). But I will definitely remember them as friends. These are friends whose generosity surpasses all the chocolates I could ever give. These are friends who gave me health and strength through their kindness and thoughtfulness. These are friends who have helped me with my faith–much more than what they have profited from the prayer sessions. They are friends whom I have talked to and been inspired with. And they are friends who by their mere presence continue to make me wish to be a better person.
Most times, our ‘jobs’ have specific job descriptions: mine had administrative concerns and theirs involve teaching students. But amazingly, the most fulfilling things we do in our jobs are not in our job descriptions. The most fulfilling things we do are in the everyday encounters we have of people: an insight into their generosity, kindness, thoughtfulness, faith and inspiration.
During my two-month tenure as Program Manager, I hope I had fulfilled my duties according to my job description. At the same time, I hope to reassure the Fellows and all the staff of how much inspiration I take from their hard work, passion and determination. Yet more than these, I am confident that we have grown as people and as friends.
As I enter the Jesuit novitiate on 30 May, I say my prayers for all the Teach for the Philippines Fellows, staff and executives. They remain good friends on top of their fantastic work of leaving their mark on our education system.
Jose Eos Trinidad, 21, graduated from Ateneo de Manila University in 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. After initially applying to be a member of the 2013 Cohort, he eventually joined Teach for the Philippines as the Program Manager for Summer Institute 2013. We wish Eos all the best as he enters the Jesuit Novitiate with five other young men, all of whom will leave their mark through their priestly vocation.