You have never been to that all-glamorous, wildly projected prom night. You cannot be found within 6-inches of another person of the opposite sex. Your listening and reading material are highly screened, your hairstyle definitely nowhere near Rihanna’s. Your idea of sportswear is restricted to culottes (before my ACE days, I had no idea there were such things) and shirts covering up to your collarbone.
You do sentence diagramming in your spare time!”
You apply for college and the university registrar thinks you are a genius with grades never coming below 90%. Freshman year. First day. First class. It’s Chemistry 101 and our professor is not so inclined to ‘profess’ on the first day, so he compels everyone to get into the ‘Introduce Yourself’ zone. Suddenly the glamor of that “’Twas a stylish congregation…” day you had back in high school doesn’t seem to be saving you from this quagmire of embarrassment you are about to get into, name and high school you graduated from. That about sums up your block mates’ opinion of you for the rest of your 5-year prison sentence. And so you stand up, man up, “Hi I’m _______ I graduated from Philippine Christian (barely audible) School of Tomorrow (even less audible) “. Your classmates look at you like, “Where in the entire universe is THAT??” They stand up, and with the same amount of initial trepidation, they state their name, and by the time they get to their high school, they about looked like they were the “King of the World, “…from Philippine Science High School”. And you withdraw into the abyss of obscurity for the rest of the day. Up until English 101 Class. The professor, this time, decides to actually ‘profess’, calling you randomly upon anyone, expecting you to blurt out some profound sentence structure. That “Brother Ira” glory day is beginning to come to life right here in this overcrowded classroom! Ah yes…. This is the start of living THE life. You are the only college student who actually knows the concept of subject-verb agreement. After the final period, you are high fiving with the gang, lunching out with the select few, and whistling your way back to your dorm, thinking to yourself college life is SOOO much better than high school. But after one semester of settling in, the realization hits us that the challenge of college life isn’t JUST about passing your midterms. We are hurled smack to the middle of freedom, the freedom that we never knew existed back in high school. And we are swung from one end of the pendulum to the other. We either party like an animal who has just been released into the wild, or we hole up in our ‘righteous’ cocoon, afraid to make choices, afraid to risk rejection, afraid to find out that our so-called goodness goes only as far back as our supervisors & monitors’ bionic eyes. There is no one to measure the length of our skirts. No one to call out ‘lights-off’ on out-of-town school trips. No one to check if your collarbone is covered. No one to go through your offices (well, you do not HAVE an office) checking your reading materials. And we learn to tightrope across that fine line that separates lawlessness & self-righteousness, cheating or failing a midterm. Lying to your parents or popularity with your friends, Oh, believe me, it even comes to a point where we are put in a position where we actually think it’s okay to have a few thousand bucks on tuition ‘kickback’ (All your friends are doing it, so it must be fine). And we wonder how Ace & Christi did it all those years. We are gearing more towards the Victor-like lifestyle. You reach adulthood and by the time you are a professional, the same challenge looks you square in the face. Your boss asks you to manipulate data. Your supervisor subtly implies that you take a questionable action to save his face. Your colleagues are paid the same amount as you are, but spend all their time at work surfing the net, or having coffee breaks rather than doing any actual work. There is no one to sign your assignment slips. No one to spot-check your work for scoring violations. And don’t expect that the boss will make rounds through your office (you HAVE one this time) & you will get stars for ‘professional tests’ you pass (you’re lucky if you get a ‘thank you’ and a pat on the back). You do not know it, but sometimes you wonder if you ever learned anything from those corny Wisdom PACE’s you had. At this point in your life, you are searching for it, and you do not seem to have it. After all those years of memorizing verses showing a character trait, you become an adult, and you chuckle because strangely, all your adult problems can be solved by all the animal songs you learned in ABC’s. You are Ricky the Rabbit, running a race against rats or you have become a rat yourself, never realizing you will not always be first. They asked me to write about matters of the heart. Well, this IS a matter close to my heart. My mother is a stellar ABC’s teacher; my dad is an advocate of Christian education, my sister and I are products of certain people’s generosity and burden to give us a chance to have the best education, and we had one.
We did not come out as perfect adults because we came out of ACE. But we know one thing. We know deep in our hearts what things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. And we may not always practice them, but we walk with a God who gives us as many chances to pass a repeat PACE as your Supervisor did for you on your Math 1080. Even if it takes the rest of the quarter. He will be there.”
For all the educators who are bearing the load, day-in and day-out, striving to teach, striving to train, striving to mentor, and above all, striving to mold young minds to have hearts that will eventually know what matters more than PACE 1144, kudos to you! If there is but 1 in a thousand of the students that go through your Learning Centers in your lifetime that would be salt & light in whatever grown-up world hey end up in, that would have made it worth it to be faithful to the calling that you have been granted. I will be spending my first Christmas with my husband by the time you read this, 13 years after I finished PACE 1144 & I am planning to have a dozen kids. Someone important asked us recently where our kids would go to school (yeah you might know a control freak like that within the ACE headquarters). Without batting an eyelash, I told her, “…at home. With me, Ace, Christi and the Aging Ape.”
By Sherlin Camacho-Duazo (pictured here with her husband and daughter)