I had a music room in my former school, ICA*. It took me a few months before I started feeling like it was MY own room. I brought a couple of personal things for the room which the students immediately noticed. I realized then that I could make the music room an extension of myself, a way for my students to know a little more about me.
After the Christmas break, Cherry, one of my co-teachers, brought some toys her daughter had outgrown to donate to the school’s social action club. Among them was a green rubber cactus in a cowboy get-up: big red hat, shades, and purple bandanna. It was one of those toys that you can slip into an antenna or bar-b-que stick, having no spine to keep itself upright. Its strange soft rubber texture amused me so much that Cherry gave it to me, and I returned the favor by using it to play pranks on our co-teachers, making her laugh the whole day. A spineless rubber cactus + teachers caught unaware = a recipe for a roaring good time.
Well, not really. Maybe just a fun break between the mundane routine inside the faculty room.
When the novelty of the rubber cactus wore off in the faculty room, I relocated it to the music room where the CD player antenna became its permanent backbone, and forgot all about it — until my first class for the day arrived. They noticed the cactus right away and seemed fascinated with it. When they asked me why it was there, I told them it was an observer and will make sure they participate in the activity. Here he is:
During recess, I thought I’d give the toy a name. I thought of Pablo but wrote Pablo Honey on its name plate without thinking. I decided not to change it, thinking the girls would easily make the connection to Radiohead’s first album. They didn’t. Many of them teased me, saying Pablo must be my ‘honey’. Others had their own theories, like a reference to Pablo Neruda or to other famous people named Pablo. I saw the futility of insisting its Radiohead origins and decided to remain mysterious. What surprised me was the girls’ immediate acceptance of its name. Not one of them suggested a different name or wondered why a toy would have a name in the first place. From then on, the rubber cactus ceased being called ‘it’. He became my sidekick and the music room’s official mascot.
Pablo Honey helped me reach out to my students. His presence caused a change in my and the girls’ attitude. Maybe it was because he really did seem to watch over them from its high antenna spine, maybe it was because they saw a different side of me, one that was more playful or cool enough to bring a toy to class; whatever it was, the girls became more relaxed and happy to be in the music room because of him. They liked shaking his jiggly arms and patting his head. They took his picture (in fact, the one I’ve been using was taken by a student and Emailed to me) and doodled him during and outside of my class. One of my seniors, Meggy, even drew his portrait:
It hangs above my clavinova at home. Another senior, Christine, gave me a little cactus on the last day of school. The tag on the pot said: “Pablo’s Honey”, which really warmed my heart. As much as he gave my students the chance to see a different side of me, he gave me the opportunity to see a different side of my students, one that I never would have seen had I remained distant and non-human in their eyes.
My last day at ICA was bittersweet. Pablo Honey watched as I packed up all my stuff, making me feel less alone inside the quiet music room. In my new school, SPUQC**, I don’t have a music room or my own CD player. Even if I did, I couldn’t bring Pablo Honey over there: he will always belong to my girls at ICA. In the meantime, my new students seem quite fascinated by this timer I bring to class to keep me on schedule. It’s shaped like a carrot and everytime I take it out of my bag, they giggle.
Maybe it’s time to think of a name.*Immaculate Conception Academy **St. Paul University Quezon City