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B-304 and the Birthday Treats

Ever so often, a teacher comes upon a sort of class which is really just agreeable any which way you look at it. One senior class that I taught History in the schoolyear of 1988-89 was one such class. It was the section B-304.

The use of humour inside the classroom is one that any trained teacher knows is highly recommended; if just to break the monotony of the daily lessons. Indeed, its use is even one of the items in the instrument that is used for evaluating a teacher’s performance.

A teacher learns over time when and with whom to use humour. There are always classes where, if the teacher unfortunately cracks a joke, he or she inadvertently starts something akin to nuclear fusion. The unfortunate joke becomes a trigger for members of the class to get started, each telling his or her own take on the joke and the result is always prolonged mayhem.

And naturally, the lesson is interrupted and the unfortunate teacher struggles to restore order…

There are other classes which are a little easier to manage; although it takes a bit of reputation to do so. Once the mayhem threatens to break out, it takes a dagger look or a quick holler to suppress the noise.

The sort of classes that I loved and always developed very agreeable relationships with were those that knew when to be quiet – such as when there was serious lecturing or discussions going on – and when to break out in laughter – such as when I said something funny. Most of the so-called “cream” classes were like this; but I could not say the same of other sections.

With the latter, management nous was always necessary; and there were classes with whom I was completely hesitant to be humorous. With the former, I could be myself; and despite what I must have looked like to those who only knew me from afar, the truth of the matter is that I had always – and still do – loved a good laugh.

B-304 was like this. For some strange reason, just about everyone in that section – as I remember them to be – was pleasant and agreeable. I was in good terms with many students in this section both inside and outside the classroom.

We were so comfy with each other that we got started with this silly little rule that whoever was celebrating his or her birthday was obligated to treat the rest of the class even to just Coke and Chippy. I thought this was but fair; since everyone except those whose birthdays were during the summer months would get his or her turn.

It was against regulations, of course. The manual was very explicit about when and where students were allowed to eat. But while I get aghast at those who habitually break rules, I am probably more aghast at those who do not keep open minds. That is just a horse dung justification for the fact that we were having fun against regulations.

I was comfortable enough with the class for me to allow the students to eat their birthday treats while they were taking my signature 8-minutes essay quizzes. I even recall one student sitting right in front of the teacher’s desk complaining that it was hard daw pala to take a quiz while eating. Indeed, the crackling sound of potato chips being chewed was unbelievably loud inside a quiet room!

Then, one morning, the unthinkable happened. The principal, who usually made her rounds in the early mornings, happened to pass by just as members of the class were munching on chichiria. Who knows? Maybe somebody got jealous and reported us to her. God knows there are enough prissy people there even to this day.

“Patay!” somebody interjected with a half-laugh.

“Naku,” somebody added, “we will be in the Daily Bulletin tomorrow!”

Everyone laughed but went on eating; while I continued lecturing. It never failed to amaze me how members of this class could listen intently to me, take notes whenever necessary and dig into a bag of chips intermittently. It was almost a skill, when I come to think about it.

Of course the next day, true to form, there was a gentle reminder in the Daily Bulletin that students were only allowed to eat during Recess and at the canteen. To be fair, there was no mention of any class; but we all knew who that item was referring to, anyway.

We all laughed about it the next time I saw the class but decided we would humour the Principal and have our birthday treats during Recess or after hours and at the canteen instead.

Not that we ever really managed to arrange these because I was still in Discipline and had to keep an eye on the seniors during breaks. Then, there was football after hours. Still, the story counts among the endless little things filed inside my head in a folder with a tab that says FUN. It really was.

I just wonder how many of the students in this class still remember this silly tradition and if they will talk about it when they hold their twenty-fifth anniversary reunion in a few years. My hunch is that they all do.

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