group hug

The Heart of a Teacher

Charmaine Endaya-Cuartero shares a heartwarming group hug experience in one of her days as a gradeschool teacher in a little, sleepy town of Los Banos, Laguna.

group hug

Monday morning. Again. Another weekend passed by without some semblance of real happiness. It was rushed. It was plainly driven by a need to rest. I don’t even remember the last time I had a “real” weekend. You know, those Laugh-So-Hard-It-Hurts Days, the No To-Do List Days, the Sleep-All-You-Can Days. They’re all gone now. Probably forever. I don’t know…

“Good morning, Teacher Chamie…” my Little Early Bird Girl greeted me the moment I opened the door. Even before I entered our blue-and-yellow classroom. Every Monday. Actually, every single school day. They own one of the school shuttles, hence, the consistent punctuality.

“Hi Sweetie. You’re early…” I mustered a generic comment and a weak smile. I was too sleepy to be more creative.

“Teacher! I’m always early!” she widened her eyes and placed her small hands on her waist, like a doll which has come to life. “You’re funny!” And she covered her mouth to stifle her giggles.

“Hey, that’s me. The Always Funny Teacher Chamie…” I laughed along with her as I shrugged my shoulders and proceeded to fixing my table and unloading my things into the drawers.

And just then, as if on cue, shrill, tiny voices filled the hallway outside our classroom. The rest of the gang has arrived. Small but quick footsteps came rushing closer and closer, getting louder and louder, still with the shrieks and laughter. Suddenly, the door burst open and four breathless boys came rushing into the room, almost tripping on their own feet.

“Hey! Cut it out, boys. Slow down. You’re gonna get hurt…” They all stopped running and stumbled into their own seats, without throwing a glance at me. There goes my good vibes. I messed it up again. I haven’t even said “Good Morning” to them and the first words that came out of my mouth were orders. Nice one, Teacher Chamie.

I continued to fix my table and started bringing out the materials I would be using for my first class. I’m making homemade clay with the first-graders upstairs. That would be fun. I don’t know but for some reason, there seems to be a decade-long gap between first-graders and second-graders. First-graders are like babies. Very sweet to everyone and they never hesitate to show it too. Second-graders, like my own class, are teenager-wannabes most of the time. Say something “uncool” for them, for instance, declare that you’re not familiar with the newest cartoon craze on TV, and they’ll roll their eyeballs at you. And they won’t even try to hide it! Oh well…

The door opened and in came my Little Miss Sad Eyes. That’s probably how I look like when I come in after realizing that the weekend was over and it was Monday again. Only I knew it wasn’t totally like that for her. This girl in my class hates the weekends. Her mom left them when she was practically an infant. She “grew up” in this school, practically “raised” by all the teachers together. It’s heartbreaking. She can’t hide those dried-up tear stains on her cheeks, as she walked to her seat with her head bowed down, dragging her bag along with her. She looked up.

“Good morning, Teacher..” she managed half a smile for me. I had to bite the insides of my cheeks to control my own emotions. I just smiled back. A huge one at that.

One by one, all eleven seats in our classroom filled up. The hushed murmurs got louder by the minute. Everyone except Little Miss Sad Eyes was talking, exchanging stories about their weekend adventures, the movies they watched, the new toys their parents bought for them, some even showing off their new stuff… and many more. Monday has officially begun. I checked the clock. Seven minutes before first period begins. I stood up and gathered my things. I walked across the room towards the door.

“Bye guys. I’ll see you later. Be quiet while you wait for your teacher, OK?” I waved and closed the door, not waiting for anyone to answer.

My first class with the first-graders turned out to be a success. I was right. They all loved their homemade clays. It was a very simple experiment but the smiles on their faces were priceless. If only we could do this every day, for all grade levels! It will be recess time after the first period so I’ll probably get a 20-minute power nap before my next class. Those twenty minutes can give me the battery life my brain and body need for the whole day.

Suddenly, a loud voice and footfalls were heard from outside the classroom. A rapid succession of knocks on the door followed suit. I put down the empty basin I was filling up with used supplies, wiped my hands on my apron, and opened the door. It was my supervisor.

“Teacher, your class…” Her voice trailed off. I didn’t even have to hear the rest of her sentence.

“I’ll be right there,” I answered. I quickly gathered all the materials that we used for the clay-making class and rushed out of the room. Somebody could get hurt in all the ruckus. And I’m going to get in trouble with my supervisor for sure.

I was running down the stairs two steps at a time. I met the first-graders’ homeroom teacher on my way down and gave a quick wave. I didn’t even have to say anything. She knew what I meant. She made her way to her classroom as well, to watch over her own kids.

True to my supervisor’s report, the room was in a fiasco when I came in. In fact, they didn’t even notice me. The Rowdy Boys were running around, chasing each other. Three of the girls were seated on the floor, playing a game, dolls and toy cookware scattered all around them. A couple of boys were gawking at one of their classmates, Little Boy Genius, as he explains some new intergalactic discovery he read God-knows-where. Little Miss Sad Eyes was reading quietly in the corner. Little Early Bird was furiously drawing on a piece of paper, standing over her desk, with one foot on the floor and the other one on the chair. Another one of my little girls, Little Dancerina was, well, dancing alone near my table, twirling to a beautiful tune in her own head. Her eyes are even closed. It was a magical sight.

I was glued to where I was standing, just a step inside our door. I realized that I had been watching them for a few minutes already. And tears had started to form in the corners of my eyes.

The Rowdy Boys passed by me and one of them saw me staring at them, holding back the tears and smiling. He stopped running and so did his friends.

“Teacher! Are you alright?” He ran towards me and hugged me. Quickly and tightly. I put down my things and wrapped my arms around the boy too. He let go of me and shouted, “Hey everybody! Teacher Chamie is crying!”

And just like that, it was as if somebody hit the Pause button on a movie player. Everyone froze in their positions and turned to look at me. Little Dancerina stopped in the middle of yet another twirl and stared along with the others, her arms still raised like that of a ballerina. After about two seconds, she dropped them and ran towards me, hugging me even tighter. As if it was the signal the rest of the kids were waiting for, they all rushed towards me and I found myself in the middle of an awkward group hug. With everyone pushing and trying to find his or her corner in the loop, our huge, tight ball of bodies collapsed onto the floor, with everyone giggling nonstop.

“We love you, Teacher Chamie…We love you very much….” Little Miss Sad Eyes said. I smiled to myself and at that moment, I knew the reason why I was there.

We all flopped into a pile on the floor, the laughter left ringing in our ears…

And in my heart. Forever…

This is an official entry to the The Learning Site’s Christmas Carnival.