Category Archives: teacher

The Grateful Dead

Me, that is.  Well, kind of dead.  Ok, more silent than dead.

I’m grateful to see that, despite my long silence, people still drop by to read my posts and even continue to comment.  This, and my best friend’s words of encouragement, has stopped me from deleting this blog completely.  To be honest, I no longer feel like writing about teaching because it just hurts that I can’t teach music for now (and for who knows how long).   So if ever I choose to continue this blog, it will need a radical revamp.  Possibly even a change of name.  Maybe I should focus more on music, rather than the teaching of it.  But the thing is, I haven’t been musically active or creative for the past few months.  I’ve too busy adjusting to this new life.

If you are interested, though, to find out what I’ve been focusing on for now, head on to Man Hands Lizzie.  Mind you, it’s totally different from The Music Teacher.  As one of my former students exclaimed, “Ms. C, I didn’t know you were into fashion!”  I’ve always been but my new blog isn’t just about fashion.  For now, I’ve been posting outfits and projects but I’m hoping it will evolve into something more holistically me.  Anyways, I hope to find you there. 🙂

And now, as I ponder this blog’s existence, I leave you with more silence.

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Celest 039

Celest is my babe’s guitar.  If you ask him about her, he’d mention things like the length of her neck, the tension of her strings, the acoustic wonder brought about by her sound holes, etc.

I’m a piano girl.  I don’t know about those things.  So let me just say that Celest is a shiny black beauty with deep tones and a teeny buzz.

I’ve always wanted to play the guitar.  Acoustic.  Nylon.  Steel is ok, I guess, but they hurt like hoot.  I love the acoustic guitar’s mellow and, compared to the piano, soft tones.  I love that you play it close to your body, as if embracing it and whispering to it secrets that you would only tell your diary or very best friend.

I was a freshman in college when my dad bought me my first guitar.  It wasn’t a good one since it was the cheapest he could get.  He believed my interest in it was a passing phase and ordered me to stick to piano.   But I badgered him and he relented.  I came home one day to find the very heavy, very painful steel stringed-guitar wrapped in paper in my room.  I appreciated my father even more for that cheap guitar because he got it for me even though he didn’t have to.  So I had to learn how to play.  I had to show him he was wrong about the passing phase thing.  It was summer so I had all the time to practice.  My fingers, and I’m not at all exaggerating here, would have  bled if it hadn’t been for the callouses that formed almost immediately to protect them.  My back, neck, and shoulders hurt.  I woke up in pain with my hands frozen like gnarled roots.  Again, I am not exaggerating.

Then summer ended and it was time again for school.  Piano was my concentration (which had more weight than a minor subject) and I was pretty serious about it, too.  But my teacher was shocked.  “What happened to your left hand?”  She said it was playing awkwardly and heavily.  She eyed it suspiciously and discovered the callouses at the tips.  “Aha!  You’ve been playing guitar!”  She said it like I committed a mortal sin.  She demanded that I stop playing guitar, “that is if you’re really serious about piano…”  So I made a choice.  I had to.  My left hand was never as good as my right but she put up a good fight and was getting there.  But guitar developed tension in her that made her pound the keys like a big bumbling buffoon.  The callouses made her fingers slip from the keys, and, worse, they made faint clacking sounds as she played.  So that evening I came home from piano lesson,  I told my dad I had to stop playing and propped my guitar against the wall until it gathered dust.

Then, after years of countless wonderful distractions, my piano started gathering dust as well.  I no longer practiced 7-12 hours a day.  In fact, 7-12 hours became my year’s worth of playing.  During this time, I rediscovered the guitar.  I had long given away my first guitar, the one with no name.  But a fellow I knew was looking to unload his barely-touched Yamaha C30, a beginners nylon acoustic guitar, and I bought it.  I call her Lizzie and I gave her a feather necklace to make her wholly mine.  She’s on her way to Georgia as I write.

I’m no rockstar who enjoys dangling his guitar while parading onstage.  I play the guitar as an introvert thing, almost a loner thing.  Give me an empty room, a guitar, and a little sunshine streaming in through the window, and I can stay there and play the whole day, or until my fingers bleed.

It takes me a while, though, to sing while playing the guitar.  Always, I start out singing ‘whisperingly’.  Hahaha.  Its soft strains embarrasses my voice and I always croak and choke, sputter like a car that’s been left alone for a long time.  I’ve gotten used to hiding behind my piano, physically and vocally, when I sing.  Singing with the guitar exposes my ears to vocal nuances and flaws I wouldn’t hear if I were singing with the piano.  My voice is more naked and, therefore, as embarrassed as a woman who realizes she’s been walking around the mall without a bra and walks on as if nothing’s missing to make the best of it.  I know the feeling from experience.

So, Celest.

She and I have gotten acquainted long before I met her.  In fact, I helped my babe choose a name for her after he bought her.  But our friendship started when I was online one day and miserably missing my piano.  Typing on the laptop keyboard reminded me of tinkering with Mildred’s keys (Oh, how I miss my clavinova!).  From the  other room, I could almost feel Celest say, “hey”.  Yes.  Nothing witty or wise.   Just… “hey”.   But she said it in a snazzy-friendly way, like cool and kindly stranger who takes pity on you because she notices you’re a bit sad.  So I trudged towards her and played the two songs I remembered from my short guitar venture.  Her strings really hurt and my fingertips doubled their size after a couple of minutes.  My back started aching after ten and my neck straining after 20.  But, boy-o-boy, was I happy.  I played those two songs all afternoon.

Actually, I’m getting a little tired of them.

It’s time to learn something new.

Hello from Georgia

So here I am in my babe’s office hoping he’d drop by from his class so I can ask where the computer center is.

Waiting and listening to the goddess Tori, I decided to look inside the boxes of books I sent him from home.  Some of them were mine and I was pleased to see my Neil Gaiman collection safe and intact.  Among the random tomes, I found, to giddy pleasure, a book given to me by my Glee Club.  It was actually a bunch of letters and miscellaneous comic strips and drawings sturdily bound and covered in plastic.  It’s title: Pumpkin Patch.  The cover was done by the budding artist, Meggy, who drew a Tim Burtonesque jack-o-lantern watering little pumpkins in his patch.  I guess the long-legged Jack is supposed to be me and my girls, the pumpkins.   It was charmingly creepy (or creepily charming) done in black and white because for some reason they thought I was into goth.

Digression:  On one of my birthdays, my club officers asked the girls not to wear anything colorful (a.k.a. only black) because “Ms. Cabel won’t like it.  She’s into goth.”  The truth is, I didn’t NOT like goth but I wasn’t into it as much as they assumed.  I wore mostly black because 1) it was sort of a UP College of Music performers’ uniform.  2) black was easy to mix with … black.   And when you’re a full-time teacher, you don’t have time to mix and match pieces from your closet when dressing up.  But me in black in ICA, it became my thing.  It was a piece of the Ms. Cabel puzzle along with my toy cactus, Pablo, and my ability to swing from one mood to another.

Alright, enough of that.

It’s been a couple of years since I read Pumpkin Patch.  I read it only twice since I got it because, even in my own company, I get very embarrassed when people say nice things about me.  I just go all squirmy and shy, wishing to just explode — poof! — into a cloud so I could hover away.  I know how to react to nastiness but niceness, not always.

I miss my Glee Club.  Those two years of moderating were the most exhausting, most emotionally-draining, and most gratifying of my time as a teacher.  I get teary-eyed just thinking about it.

You see, I’m no longer a teacher.

Here in Georgia, USA, I am not a teacher.  I am not a musician.  Not a writer.  Not an actress.  I’m not despairing, though, because I like where I am now.  I’m finally with my best friend and love and there’s no place I’d rather be.  But everything I was back in the Philippines is a memory for now.   I’m waiting to be who I was meant to be in this new and strange place.

I am in a cocoon and I’m waiting for wings.

The Role of Art and Design in Citizenship Education

              What does it mean to be a citizen?  Surely it entails more than being born into a country, or have lived there all one’s life.  During the French revolution, the people called each other “citizen” to signify their alliance with the movement.  If you were a citizen, you were for the people and believed, as they did, the means for change that they have chosen.  We’ve heard of the phrase, “citizen of the world” which hardly means that a person has a citizenship in every country.  It implies a sense of belonging.  Whether deeply planted or newly ensconced, it involves roots. 


            What does art and design have to do with citizenship? Every country has its unique sense of aesthetics based on its culture and history.  Indeed, even within countries you have a diverse sense of what is considered beautiful reflected in buildings, art, music, and even fashion.  We can safely say that art and design may be a reflection of citizenship, especially when the works were done by citizens themselves.  Art and design is an expression of belonging and of roots.   Paintings, buildings, sculptures, music, and dance can portray images that tell us about people, places, and attitudes, while also revealing ideas in a certain period of time.  Since this is so, art and design goes beyond its aesthetic intention and can be one of most solid ways to educate people about their country’s culture and history. 


            Art and design can be vehicles, as well, for teaching values.  Good citizens make for a better nation; and good citizens have values such as discipline, industry, and respect, to name a few.  All of these values can be gleaned from the process of making art and design.  Discipline and industry comes from the constant honing of one’s craft, be it in the visual arts, music or dance.  Perseverance and sincerity comes from never settling for a half-baked creation.  Respect comes from the appreciation of one’s creative process and of others.  If our youth are encouraged to make art, they will surely have a deeper sense of appreciation for hard work.  A better sense of accomplishment makes for a more sound self-esteem.  If a country’s citizens feel good about themselves, then surely they will be better citizens.  Today in schools, art and design have taken a backseat to subjects such as math and science.  They have been lumped together with other subjects (music, art, P.E., health, and computer) and are required to be integrated so as to fit in all the information in a 40- to 50-minute lesson.  Most schools, even the private ones, don’t have Art.  Public school students don’t have Music until they reach the fourth grade.  Math and science may be good vehicles for training minds to think logically, but art and design can also be used for this purpose as well as impart important values to citizens young and old alike.   





An Ode to John Keating: A Reflection on Dead Poets Society


I was in third year high school when my brother and I discovered the Dead Poets Society.  He and I watched it over and over until we knew all the lines well enough to stage our own play version.  We pondered over John Keating’s words as much as his prep school pupils did.  Robin William’s character, this inspiring and creative imparter of knowledge, was my teaching muse.  He still is.

To say that Keating was not a traditional teacher is an understatement.  The film starts out showing the teaching styles of the other teachers in the school.  They epitomized the complete authority figure; their tools of the trade: rote, authors as indisputable sources of knowledge, and fear.  Then enters Keating, whistling Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture as if strolling down the park, caught up in an exciting world of his making.  Exactly then we assume that this is no ordinary teacher and we’re right to do so because in a few beats he brings his students to the school gallery and gives them the famous “Carpe Diem” speech.  “Seize the day, boys,” He said in eerie tones.  “Make your lives extraordinary!”

Keating’s methods were unusual.  They required a certain sense of boldness, a willingness to take the plunge or even act the fool.  But he didn’t appreciate the clumsy audacity, the crazy dive into the abyss.  He didn’t encourage the wise-crack remarks and antics of Charlie, especially when he pulled off the phone-call-from-God prank (“It’s God. He said girls should be allowed in Welton!”).  He wanted his students to be brave thinkers and thinking braves: to rip (-rip-rrrrip!) the pages off a book that boxed and judged poetry as one would a potential American Idol; to run in the field and recite a poem as strongly, and as passionately, as one would kick a soccer ball; to stand on the teachers table and view his classroom, and the world, differently.  His goal was for his students to experience knowledge and life.  Not all of his students appreciated it.  One of them, Cameron, couldn’t wait to get Keating into trouble in order to get brownie points from the headmaster.  Another, Todd, was so inhibited that he welcomed his teacher’s passion as much as he would a rattlesnake.  Certainly, his colleagues didn’t, except for the Latin teacher who eventually started holding his classes in the school paths, striding along with the rhythm of Latin words. 


When I was younger, I passionately hated the close-minded headmaster and Dr. Perry, the uber-strict father of Neil, the student who joined the production of A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.  My brother and I would snarl at these characters each time they appeared because they did nothing but disapprove and discourage.  But now that I’m older and, in the 5 years that I’ve been a teacher, have bore the brunt of disapproving headmasters (or nuns, to be more precise) and discouraging parents, I can say that I understand where they are coming from, and it is fear. 

People fear what is different.  Sometimes fear manifests itself as narrow-mindedness and self-righteousness.  In Keating’s case, his teaching method was deemed improper because it didn’t fit the defined cornered mold from which the faculty was modeling.  What was so wrong with holding classes outside of the classroom? Or asking the students to step on top of a desk to illustrate a point?  These were not corrupting activities.  They weren’t fatal or anarchic.  However, if one is encouraged to step off the gravelly path then maybe that person will eventually step further away and walk a different path or create paths of his own, or so Keating’s colleagues feared.  More than to keep order, rules, in essence, are meant to control.  If you allow a student to veer away from a rule, even in the slightest, they might eventually rebel.  In the conservative school administration’s eyes, any teacher or student who thinks outside the mold is suspect, therefore, to be feared.

Welton found a way to get rid of Keating because of Neil’s death.  Still wearing his Puck garland, he died by his own hand; although it may well have been Keating who pulled the trigger, if you ask Neil’s father and the headmaster.  His crime was that he nurtured the boys’ love for the stage and believed Neil when he said he had gotten his father’s approval.  Should Keating have pursued the matter and called Dr. Perry to verify this?  Would that have pacified the rigid father and stopped him from sending his son to military school, thus preventing Neil’s suicide?  We, teachers, should always do more than what our job descriptions ask of us.  Our contracts don’t ask us to wait with a student whose parents are late in picking her up, or lend an ear while another tells us about an argument she had with her friend.  These are not written in our contracts but they don’t have to be.  Good teachers do them for free because we care for our students; but in the end, we can only do so much.  We are not their friends.  We are not their parents.  We are responsible for their welfare only up to an extent, and beyond that hope that their parents and guardians are nurturing them well. 

Several times I’ve been paid a great compliment.  On separate occasions, a few of my students told me they reminded me of John Keating.  They might as well have called me “O Captain, my Captain”. In all those occasions my smile was a mile-wide.  There’s nothing more blissful than to hear my students tell me they think I’m doing a great job.  This wonderful benefit isn’t in our contracts either, and I’m glad it isn’t. 

When you’re a teacher, happiness is not always about money.    

Film poster and still from
The video clip from the movie is under fair use.

The Toxic Teacher and Karma

My Philosophy in Education professor, Arthus Muega, drilled an important point into my and my classmates’ heads early on in the semester.  For our first three sessions, he repeatedly asked us: “What is an educated person?”

It seemed like the most simple of questions, prodding many of us to give the simplest of answers.  Answers that included words such as “schooled”, “learned”, “skilled”, all of which were deemed lacking by our teacher.  Though he never gave us an exact definition, in the end, he offered words like “values” and “morality” that somewhat soften our misses, or at least, gave them a deeper dimension.

When I was a student, I hoped for a few things in my teachers.  I hoped for them to be, not just knowledgeable, but passionate about their subject.  I hoped for them to be friendly and fair and fun to have around.  I guess you could say, I wanted them to be, not perfect, but ‘educated’. 

Teachers are human, yes, but I’m not referring to flaws or mistakes that need forgiving.  My point revolves around Prof. Muega’s question about educated persons.  If your teacher’s actions prove to be consistently vile yet he seems not to care, then his MA or the intelligence he advertises with every opportunity, will always be overshadowed by his deceit and utter disregard for a person’s rights.  In the absence of good values and a sense of morality, his actions, then, declare him to be an uneducated individual. 

If, by now, you have an inkling that I am referring to a real teacher and not some general profile, you read between the lines well.  

toxic.jpg Recently, I have come to realize that a certain teacher I have admired for his intelligence and passion is as toxic as many people have avowed.   I used to look up to him and so forgave him easily for unkind remarks aimed at me or my friends.  I used to defend him from people who would call him two-faced or untrustworthy, retorting that he is, in fact, honest and unafraid to call things as they are.  I believed what he said that every one in his  former department has edged him out because they were too narrow-minded about brilliant (his word) curriculum changes that he had offered.  I applauded him for his recent promotion and wouldn’t agree with others that he had gotten it mostly because of calculated charm and insincere show of support for his superiors.   

An incident of late made me realize what a bane he really was, and how easy it was for him to turn against you when you question his “brilliant” methods.  Suddenly, I saw him for what he was and realized that everyone around me had been right:  he IS narcissistic and two-faced.  This teacher is toxic,  not only because of the things he’s said and done, but more so because he seems to think he has a right to say and do these things because he is, as he had declared so many times, brilliant.  

A friend of mine told me of the time this teacher was wondering out loud, woefully asking why his siblings had all the financial luck in the world when he’s actually the smartest and most talented one among them. 

He wondered. . .

I know why.

The answer is spelled K – A – R – M – A.

rainbow.jpg In fact, after you so unfairly edged me out and caused me to lose my only means of livelihood (of which you were fully aware) this semester, not even a week had passed when blessings started flooding into my life.  This happy deluge has brought exciting opportunities, not just to earn back the living you took from me, but also new directions in my career both in Music and Theatre.  An overflow of love and support has also strengthened my bond with new friends, and renewed my kinship with old ones.  Despite your treachery, I feel so deeply and overwhelmingly loved by the Universe. 

Like I said, KARMA. 

So thank you, erswhile dearest teacher.  Your actions, though vile, have ushered me back to a beloved path.  No sarcasm there.  Truly, I bear no grudge.  I laugh at your continuing malicious actions without malice myself.   Though, I may never trust you again, I wish you all the best in your endeavors and pray that Karma teaches you to value the people around you and treat them with respect and kindness.