Home » Online Uni Life #4: Sympathy and Empathy (Part 1)

Online Uni Life #4: Sympathy and Empathy (Part 1)

I am one of them.

I remember this being my mindset going into UP Open University. With the way the University of the Philippines is structured, there is a separation of faculty from the rest of the staff and the students. I tried to reject that separation early on. I did not want to be called sir or prof and my skin crawled whenever somebody did. At times, I wonder if it was imposter’s syndrome. But it doesn’t seem like it. I’ve always known who and what I was. I knew I could do the job. Maybe it was because of my father. After all, I came aboard just after the end of his second and last term as UPOU’s chancellor. Some of the staff, I’ve known since high school and even way earlier. Every single person working in the university knew my last name and everything attached to it. I wanted to distance myself from that baggage. Being known as the brat who got in just because he was the boss’s kid was far from desirable.

I entered UPOU as part of the Faculty of Information and Communication Studies in late 2007.

I was facing a little roadblock, though. In a previous blog post, I mentioned that I realized that Computer Science was not really my calling after all. In fact, I had just earned my Master’s degree in Environmental Science from UP Los Baños when I applied for a faculty position at UPOU. The hope was to be involved in their programmes in Environment and Natural Resources Management and R&D Management. I had hoped to stay away from their Computer Science and Information Systems programmes, but those were exactly where I was going to end up starting with, anyway. I was not fully aware of what happened, and I won’t lie. It was disappointing. But I needed the job. I also did not want to seem ungrateful for the opportunity. I had heard that there were people who really went out of their way to get me in. That was the first time I really felt wanted in a professional capacity by any company. Part of me wanted to prove to them that I was worth their effort. So, I dealt with my disappointment and took the job anyway. Besides, given some time, maybe I’d have the chance to work with other fields. And if it it didn’t work out, at least I’d have earned some experience to be more attractive to other employers. However, at that moment, I had a less than ideal reality that needed facing.

On the bright side, at some point, it occurred to me that my predicament could actually work in my favor. Rather than try to hide my shortcomings in Computer Science and risk suffering from Impostor’s Syndrome, or worse, get exposed by my students, I decided to be more upfront. First thing I did was embrace the facilitator vs teacher dichotomy, where UPOU faculty would rather choose to be the former. I was by no means an expert in the field, but I could help ensure that students will be able to learn what they needed to learn to make it through my courses. And by admitting it was likely that I was learning things the same time they were, I felt I was truly one of them. I just happened to be the guy writing numbers on the grade sheets. It wasn’t a perfect run by any stretch of the imagination. But I did well enough. I think I also had a generally good relationship with my students back then. I still keep in touch with a few of them in Facebook to this day. But most importantly, the experience would also shape how I approached online learning from that point on.

I still found myself in a similar predicament in my move to the Bachelor of Arts in Multimedia Studies programme, not being formally trained to handle any of the courses in it’s curriculum. Unlike with Computer Science, I had little to no relevant formal education to lean on. But the thing is, nobody was. Not really. Multimedia Studies was the first of its kind in the University of the Philippines system, and perhaps the entire country. Many of us had expertise in related fields, but all of us needed to frame our knowledge in the context of what BAMS is supposed to be about. But what I lacked in education, I made up for with enthusiasm and passion. I was a computer hardware enthusiast. I’ve been an avid gamer since I was a little kid back in the 1980s. I was also eager to improve my multimedia production skills.

Just now, I was going through old files, and I found the attachments I included when I applied in UPOU. Some of them were articles I wrote during my years with PinoyPC, an old community website for Filipino computer hardware enthusiasts. It would seem that I was already immersed in and writing about multimedia long before I started teaching. This may have meant that I had started saying my long goodbye to the field of environmental science. But at the same time, I felt that I had found my niche at UPOU which I could stay and thrive in for the rest of my career. I felt that most BAMS students back then were of the same standing, if not superior. Most of them were people looking into taking their careers to different directions. But there were also those already carrying tons of relevant experience, dwarfing my own, but have not put in the necessary time under the rigors of the academe I was the faculty in charge, but I was truly going to learn right alongside my own students. It was an exciting time.

To be continued…

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