“In any given moment, we have two options: to step forward into growth, or to step back into safety.” – Abraham Maslow
Good morning, everyone! I am both nervous and excited to be in front of you today. I would like to begin today’s reflection by sharing parts of a reflection I gave to my AJHS family last May 17, 2013 in the Singson Hall.
“The reflections that we have been given over these past few days were truly amusing and inspiring to me. They were amusing because whenever I listened to the first part of the reflections, I felt that I was in an Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting. You know, the famous introduction in movies that go like this: “I am Arienne Monique Beatrice Romero Lambo and I am an alcoholic” and then everyone goes, “Welcome, Arienne.”
Last May 2013, It’s like I could hear from all corners of the room, “I am _______ and I am afraid to be part of the Grade 7 and 8 or TMT or JHS” and everyone sighed or laughed in agreement.
Do you remember this time, my dear AJHS family? Do you remember that there was actually a time when we didn’t have a name, when we were called Grade 7 and 8, or the Transition Management Team? Do you remember that there was actually a time when we didn’t feel a spring or a skip in our step when we went to school? This seems so long ago now for me. In fact, so long ago that I have actually forgotten that this was how we actually started.
Last May 2013, It’s like I could hear from all corners of the room, “I am _______ and I am afraid to be part of the Grade 7 and 8 or TMT or JHS” and everyone sighed or laughed in agreement. Perhaps, it is because we all seem to have a common theme, like we can read each other’s minds and hearts, like we are all in the same boat. The reflections I heard have inspired me by showing me how we teachers have accepted this fear and have transformed it into determination to succeed and to keep the boat afloat and sailing until we reach our destination. So, allow me to say, “I am Arienne Monique Beatrice Romero Lambo, and I was afraid to be part of the grade 7 and 8 or TMT or JHS”. Please allow me to share my story.
In April of 2005, I was so pregnant with our second child, Luis. We felt prepared and ready as ever. My hospital bag and the baby bag were all packed weeks before. My husband, Jing and I were on our way to the hospital. I was in labor. In the months leading up to my delivery, I was trying to recall how it felt like to give birth to Danielle, our eldest. I had read up on Normal Delivery again because 1997 was such a long way back. I had interviewed the doctor on what was going to happen to me and our baby. I remember how my doctor last 1997 told me to keep informed about all procedures before I gave birth so that I was less anxious about my delivery. You know, “Knowledge is Power”. So there I was in the Labor Room, telling myself, “I know this. There is nothing to be afraid of” when my doctor entered and informed me that she had spoken to Jing and that I was going to get a C-section. Oh my, I thought. I felt all the power that came with all the knowledge and mental preparation slowly disappear. I remember thinking, how could I have not prepared myself for this eventuality? With a sigh, I promised myself that I would try very hard for something like this not to happen again.
School Year 2012-2013. My original plans for that school year were so far from what actually happened. I had intended to take a one-year leave where I would work on my thesis until my defense and then rest and then lose weight. I was so sure I wanted to do this that I had spoken to my very supportive husband, who agreed to support me financially, for the semester I was no longer going to be paid. I had spoken to my principal, Mr. Mallillin, APAA, Jen Concepcion and Math SAC Janice Antonio. I also told anybody and everybody who would listen- even Orly, our beloved server in the MST coffee room. I was so set on taking a one year leave that I volunteered to teach 2 classes of SEP during the summer as a final way to help the Math Subject Area out and even agreed to join my husband’s entire family to go to Mindanao to visit his old Lola from June 3 to 7, 2013. During Subject Area Meetings talking about k-12, I was a listener, sometimes I contributed to discussions but I was mainly a third person, an outsider.
Until one day, I felt a disturbance in my heart and mind. But I ignored it. I didn’t know what it was about until I recognized it as God’s kalabit (because I was too afraid then to call it a calling). That realization surprised me and shocked me! I asked “Why God and Why now and Why me?” Those were the words that filled my prayers in the chapel, in the Church, while walking in the corridor in between classes and even in bed. It would enter the moments I sat alone and ate and even in between yoga poses. It was a disturbance. A life-altering disturbance. I had been part of the ACLC since first year college and one of the biggest lessons I took with me was how to recognize God talking to us- so there I was, shocked as ever. With a jolt, I realized that God was talking to me. One of my favorite lessons in the ACLC is that “when you are where God wants you to be, everything falls into place, there is peace.”
But that did not happen yet or soon. With so many questions as to why this calling came, I informed my SAC about my desire to volunteer and then to Ria Arespacochaga and then I wrote to Fr. Pabayo. I spoke to Mr. Mallillin and then to Jen Concepcion and then to Mrs. Oracion and then I felt tired thinking about telling everyone I had already given my press release too, they will all find out eventually anyway.
During our first meeting in the KEMC, I was more disheartened than encouraged about my decision. It finally dawned on me how unfamiliar and scary this future was going to be and how unsure I was about myself and my decision. I looked around and saw new and scary creatures, the AGS teachers. In that room, I felt people’s uncertainty, fear and anxiety but I knew that I could not turn back because I had already given my word. I had already volunteered. I was so sad, so sad, in fact that I didn’t want to go back to the AHS. I didn’t want my AHS family, my friends or anyone else to know or even see that I was overcome with regret. So sad, that I WALKED until National Bookstore (I found out later on in between fits of laughter, while sharing this to a friend, how NEAR National Bookstore is to the AGS.
When I started teaching in the AJHS, I realized, malapit nga. Malapait na malapit nga.) So, in that short walk, I asked God, like a daughter without any fear of disappointing her father, why couldn’t he just have made it easier for me to step into this AJHS boat. I asked him where was the Peace that came after saying yes? I accepted all those feelings with a heavy, heavy heart but I knew that I wasn’t going to turn back- not then, not now, not ever. NOT EASY.
Little did I know that peace wasn’t going to come anytime soon. My world, my comfort zone was once again challenged when I was asked to become Math Subject Area Coordinator of the AJHS. I remember telling God, “God naman o. Hirap na nga ako mag-yes magturo sa AJHS, tapos to take me out of my comfort zone even more, you ask me to be a SAC.” Naks, Tapang!
In my thirteen years teaching in the AHS, it has never occurred to me to be a Subject Area Coordinator. Deep inside, I felt that positions of office were for ambitious people, and I am not ambitious, I am a contented person. The most striking message Ria Arespacochaga, an ACLCer too, said the night she talked to me about being the Math SAC, was for me to pray over it and to talk to my husband, Jing, about it. The following day, I was telling God when I awoke that I didn’t see this one coming. I didn’t think my saying yes was just a start of a long string of yeses he wanted me to give, the first one was painful already.
During my reflection session with my moderating class, 1-E, I told them that God is whoever we want Him or need Him to be. If we want a noisy God, he speaks through the noise of events and people. But if we need a silent God, like the silence of a friend or a parent who is just beside you saying nothing at all, just being present, then that is what God will be. Then I said, “Today, we need a God of silence. So we will all be quiet. “ Please allow me to brag once- I have trained these boys well. As early as the first term, we have been going through the different levels of silence already: absence of physical noise as level one, absence of thoughts as level two and the highest level of silence as being present to God or better yet allowing him to be present to you. So, my boys and I spent the next 8 minutes in silence. They didn’t even question why THEY needed the silence. Oh what a student will do for the love for his teacher! In that 8 minutes, I swear God said only these words: “Arienne, it is not about ambition. It is about service.”
So I reflected on that and saw that I was being called not because God didn’t think I was a contented person, but because he knew that when someone asked me for help, I will not, or dare not, say no.” Who is the late bloomer? So with my quiet first year boys, my God spoke. I called my husband shortly after and asked him why he insisted I take it. He asked me why I was afraid to take it. I told him that my greatest fear is succeeding as a teacher and failing as a wife and mother. In my early years of teaching, Mr. O would always say, “Always prioritize the family. Do not bring home work. But if you really have to, work when the kids are asleep.”
You know, after 13 years of teaching in the AHS, my life was easy and simple. I performed the daily moderator’s inspection, gave daily reflection, taught 3 classes a day, attended 2 YLM a week, prepared 5 lesson plans for each of my 2 preparations, prepared 2-4 quizzes a week, checked Quizzes, long tests, HW, POWs in between classes, chaired the FACDEV committee, handled SSP, a homeroom period once a week, and attended weekly faculty meetings. From time to time, it was my turn to make a Departmental Long Test or a Summative Quiz in one of my preparations.
Occasionally, substitution is added. I would leave at 4pm seldom bringing home work because if I don’t work on it in school, I knew that I would not have the chance for it at home. When I got home, I would attend to 3 children ages 15, 7 and 4 then. Listen to stories, referee fights, check their HW, study with them, sit with them during dinner and then making sure they were getting ready for bed before I left for a 6:30 pm yoga class where my husband would pass for me after and we would have dinner at home together and watch TV together. Tagal na nito because we have now swapped TV time for walks around the neighbourhood. We have 2 date nights per week. SIMPLE. Life was simple. I was happy. There was balance.
I was afraid that saying yes would mean neglecting something. I was afraid of neglecting my husband or my kids. What my husband said, the same person who helped me check tons of backlog in my early years of teaching, who stayed up with me during the nights I need to work on something (like this reflection) and who believes I am sexy already, said that he knows me well enough to say that I will not neglect any of them. Besides, he said, they were just here and that they were not going anywhere. God spoke through my husband too. Yun lang pala yung PEACE that I needed- the peace that came with the reassurance and support of loved ones.
So the rest was history. Did I get the peace I was expecting to feel after this big yes? It came in constant trickles, bucketfuls, and waterfalls especially when I got to know these new creatures, the AGS teachers. I realized almost instantly that they had such big hearts and were willing to give so much. They supplied bucketful and waterfalls of support, laughter, friendship, good vibes and good times. These were the people I worked hard with, the people who labored with me, my team mates- not only “teachers from the Grade School”, but this new breed of “AJHS teachers”. To my AHS family, I want to say, they’re good, these creatures. They’re family.
Our first year of transition wasn’t easy. Like any school, new policies, practices, structures and everything else in between, had to be worked on. We had to step out in courage and step forward into growth many times. The boat sailed and reached its first destination. Year two of transition was easier in some aspects but new challenges arose. Two school years after, we are far from perfect but we are, I believe, better versions of ourselves. The boat is not only sailing but sailing merrily. Change is upon us all. Yes, it was and is scary. Yes, it is full of uncertainty. But one important lesson I learned is that I do not need to know all the answers right away. It’s okay to wait and see (and pray) for things to unfold. It’s okay to trust the sturdiness of the boat, to do our roles, and to do them well as we put our trust in our captain. I realized too that although it is true that knowledge is power, power comes in some many different and more important forms too- TRUST, FRIENDSHIP and LOVE. I learned from Mrs. O to ask for a meeting of hearts and minds during gatherings. I believe that this is what happened and is what’s happening in the AJHS.
I believe that whether we realize or not, admit it or not, we did not just say yes to grade 7 or 8, to TMT, to the JHS, to K to 12, we said yes to God. He is in the same boat we are in and this boat will keep floating, keep sailing until we reach our destination. Let me end with wise words from a dear friend, Meng de Guia, “it will not be bad to ask God, since nag-yes naman tayo, na sana wag na tayo masyadong pahirapan”. Lastly, in relation to our task for today and the days ahead, let me quote these wise words from Mr. O: work, work, work!
To end, let me say, I am Arienne Monique Beatrice Romero Lambo and I am filled with hope and charged with determination and passion to sail to our destination.
Let us continue to pray for each other in this journey, for our loved ones and families, our school and administrators…
+In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Father, big changes are more difficult than small changes. Help us to hold on to the truth that no change happens outside of Your presence. Your perfect love and changeless grace surrounds us.
Father, Keep us focused on You as we face change. You are all we need in every circumstance. You are our strength, our hope, our peace.
Note: Arienne Lambo is a member of the Math faculty of the Ateneo Junior High School. She reflects on her struggles in the midst of the K-12 changes.