Checking and wronging

By: Radel Paredes October 18,2015 - 01:08 AM

As the canteen in our college building closed as soon as classes ended, my colleagues in the faculty decided to have a “checking and wronging” potluck party at the office last Monday. I wasn’t able to join them as I got sick so I failed to bring the food assigned to me. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t turn up, but it was still fun, I was told. It was like a picnic with everyone partaking of lunch and snacks laid out on the table as they took breaks from checking student projects, exam papers, and even a pile of thesis drafts—all in a day’s work of today’s teacher.

Making grades is the least enjoyable part of the work of a teacher. And in my nearly two decades of teaching, it’s only recently that I noticed how we, in the faculty, seem to have developed different strategies to make it more of a social activity. Some of my colleagues love to gather in a café to check papers together. There they would pore over student designs, read essays and calculate grades over frappés and pastries as they take breaks for chitchat.

There is apparently this common desire to make the task of checking and making grades less stressful by being in the company of colleagues and having something to nibble and drink. Yet often it only makes one’s work even slower as everyone gets distracted.

I don’t enjoy that part myself. If I had a choice, I wouldn’t want to give grades at all. I would just want to teach! But then again, there are standards that need to be met and students have to be evaluated for us to know that they actually learned something before they move to the next level.

I took up teaching because I thought it won’t rob me too much of my leisure time, which I valued as a precondition to creative work. Yes, it is during our free time that we get to read, develop ideas, and do things with our hands—like art, for example. As I have always loved to draw, read, or just relax and think, I figured rather early in my youth that leisure is essential to a life of learning and creativity.

Although I did part-time work for ad agencies and a nongovernment organization even as I was studying, I realized that some employers didn’t really care how much time you spent in the office.

What mattered more is what you came up. As I was about to graduate, I had a privilege of working on a full-time status for a magazine that did not really require me to report to the office so long as I got to finish my work, which consisted mainly of graphic design and illustration.

When I graduated, I promised myself not to do the usual nine-to-five grind. I liked to think that my main preoccupation was art and I wouldn’t mind getting a day job that wouldn’t really require me to stay long hours in the office, so I could still use the rest of the time to make art at home.

That’s how I got to work in local newspapers as an artist. What mattered to my editors during that time was that I was able to deliver my work on time. After that, I could leave. Sometimes, I would even submit my drawings in advance so I won’t have to report. This was the period when Internet was in its infancy so I never thought of just scanning my work and sending it to the newsroom online.

Later, I thought teaching was another good career option. In principle, university professors are not really required to spend the usual eight hours of work in the office because they had to have time to read, do research, or (ideally) write their own books and articles related to their field of specialization. And, if you are an art professor, you need to continue your creative practice aside from doing your academic work. It would be ridiculous for the university to require the artists and designers in its ranks to give up studio work so they can spend more time sitting in the faculty office.

Recent “reforms” in higher education, however, now require the art faculty to develop rubrics that turn evaluation of art into a very tedious process of calculation. And faced with the usual 40 to 50 students per class, it makes checking and grading students’ work a kind of drudgery that robs the artist-teacher of his much-needed studio time.

And making grades is not the only paperwork that the art faculty has to attend to, on and off campus as part of his or her academic duties. There is that seemingly endless flow of meetings, seminars, planning workshops, religious retreats (if it’s a sectarian school), etc. that the teacher is also required to attend.

This reminds me of Professor Roberto “Bob” Feleo, one of the senior artists in the Fine Arts program of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, who is notorious for not attending meetings and who sucked at doing paperwork. Until now, he doesn’t use a computer to write and prefers writing formal letters by hand. Yet, he remains one of the most prolific artists in the faculty despite his age.

When we had sculpture workshop with Sir Bob during our fellowship at UP, he told us: “It is okay to teach, but never forget your career as an artist. Teaching is only secondary to your real work, which is art.” Sometimes, I feel that my job is getting in the way of my real work.

Read Next

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of Cebudailynews. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

TAGS: canteen, college, drink, nibble, UP

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.