Homeroom and reflection

4 September 2012

Don't let school get in the way of your education," Mark Twain or Albert Einstein was supposed to have said.

It's a popular quote, one we often repeat to ourselves or our groupmates in the midst of a difficult task, like doing a long homework in Calculus or preparing for an oral exam in Philosophy; when we have all but lost sight of what we're doing it for.

"School is getting in the way of my education," we would grumble, when we could just as well be doing other tasks of seemingly more practical value, like participating in org activities or community work. Anything, really, but sitting down to learn concepts and ideas that we will most likely forget as soon as we graduate.

I'd venture to guess that this is how most of us felt during our time in the classroom. We might still be asking ourselves, what was the point of all learning all that algebra? Or of learning that light behaves both like a particle and a wave? Or that George Dewey took the harbor of Manila on May 1, 1898? As it turns out, however useful these facts and concepts may be-and they are, no doubt about it-they are of little practical value in our everyday lives.

So we feel that 90 percent of what we learn in school end up having no practical value in our lives whatsoever, and that 90 percent of what we needed to know, we weren't taught in school. For all the stuff that formal schooling crams our craniums with, a lot of the things we really needed in life, we learned elsewhere.

There is, of course, the remaining 10 percent that they do teach us in school - practical things like managing your time, setting your goals, and knowing when to take a break. Useful guides like the 80/20 Rule, Parkinson's Law, or your MBTI personality type, or even those highly-touted 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; stuff that you don't normally learn in the course of your studies. These things I learned from a subject that most of us might have already forgotten about: Homeroom.

Homeroom was that first period of the day after you say the morning prayer, sing the Lupang Hinirang and recite the Panatang Makabayan, when the teacher would make announcements and do other administrative tasks. In grade school, homeroom was the time of the morning when you brought out your assignment notebook, copied down all Ms. Mia's or Mrs. Chona's reminders on the blackboard, and showed to your parents after you got home from school. Homeroom was close to my heart because it was the only time of the day where you really didn't do anything.

Homeroom was also a time for reflection. In my experience, Homeroom was the time for our class adviser to talk-not about classroom work, but about "more practical" stuff. Sometimes, that meant scolding the class, or laughing or sharing an easygoing conversation with the teacher. Occasionally, members of the class or outside guests, usually former students and alumni, would speak about a prescribed topic, or about their own experiences. These were the most valuable five minutes that we would have in the classroom, as far as practical learning was concerned.

Unfortunately, as is apt to happen in high school, one doesn't always listen or regard these things as important. Eventually, the penetrating insights start seeming like unremarkable platitudes; otherwise, there are much more "important" things on one's mind, such as the homework due for the next period that wasn't finished last night. Of course, the reflections that strike us the most tend to stick in our minds the longest-but how I wish I had the sense to note all of them down. If there's anything I've learned after starting work, it's that there are so many things to remember, so many things to pay attention to, that you are bound to forget all of them unless you write them all down.

I guess that was what Homeroom, first and foremost, tried to teach us: to write all the reminders down, and remember to consult them when today ends or tomorrow begins. Then hopefully, as we grow older, we remember to note down the important things that we learn every day.