Chapter 6:


The Ballad of the School Hallways

Time sure flies fast, huh?

It’s like June just happened yesterday. But every time I look at the calendar, hey, I managed to pass two penniless months and I’m still going alive! Yeah, probably it’s because nothing much had happened for the past days, weeks or months…

Oh, wait, something did happen…

I still couldn’t move on from that stinging loss of Golden State Fighters in the FBA Finals last June. It surely pissed me off, more than my students did. I think Stephen Flurry played lousy that time…and it’s a heartbreaking series loss for me. Some of my students who were Cavalry fans did not waste their time to gloat over my sentiments, and it sure annoyed the heck out of me that I threatened to fail them since they were on the other team’s side.

Of course, it’s only a joke. I will not fail them because of that reason…and they know it as well.


Ah, anyway, July came like a whirlwind. And then, the rainy August. September said ‘hello’, and on the fifth of that month, the annual ‘Teachers’ Month’ celebration kicked off in our school. The student government launched a few programs that was aimed to honor us for our ‘hard work’ and ‘sacrifice’ befitting our ostensibly ‘noble’ profession. My fellow teachers had also allotted at least one day of their class for the said activity—you know, having the students make something that ‘honored’ us and stuff like that…

And, since it’s an opportunity to ‘legally’ laze around in class, I quickly followed suit and designed my own ‘teacher’s month’ activity. Since it fell on a music class, I let the students write their own verses that seemed to make their teachers feel special. Well, whether or not they wrote all of those down, it’s not important for me…what mattered was that they created something that reflected their feelings towards their mentors.



“Hey Sir Seth!” it was Stephanie. She was writing her piece on the teacher’s table, “Have you chosen your little teacher already?”

Oh, that…” Now that I remember, there’s that ‘Little Teacher’ event that came every time the ‘Teachers’ Month’ arrived. It was actually a good time for us; the ‘Little Teachers’ were the students chosen by their respective teachers to teach a topic for at least a day. One could say that they were like our ‘proteges’. We get to rest for the duration of that event; our only concern for that day was we were required to submit our daily lesson plans as usual.

“Well, Sir, have you?” she noticed my silence and reiterated her question.

“Nope. I haven’t thought of anyone just yet.”

“I see…” Stephanie continued on her work, “You know, Carl is a little teacher for science last year.”

Ah yes. I remember he stood in for Mam Jacques. I guess he did pass the challenge?”

“I think so,” she replied. “Carl’s intelligent, and a lot of teachers have been sending him proposals that he become their little teacher even this year, too…”

“Yep, you’re right. If I recall, last year, Mam Ria from TLE tried to convince him to become her teacher. But Carl hates her, so he declined.”

Ah! So that’s why Mam Ria is always irritated towards me!” Stephanie exclaimed. “I knew it! It’s that Carl’s fault again! I’ll tell his mama about it!”

Heh, you guys seem to be so close!” I sardonically suggested.

Eh?! That guy?” Stephanie had a disgusted look on her face, “Eww! He thinks he’s so handsome that it freaks us out!”

Haha! Well, just continue on what you’re doing and I’ll dismiss you guys in about a half-hour.”

“But sir!”


“Well, you haven’t chosen your teacher just yet!”

“I’ll get down to it once I’m free of work.” I replied, and that sealed the question for the day for Stephanie.


To be honest, it’s quite hard for me to choose who’s going to be my little teacher. Unlike my co-workers, who already had an idea of whom they would get, I select my ‘teacher’ based on my ideals and their capacity. I mean, hey, if I wanted someone intelligent, I could just pull someone from our level’s star section—Platinum. They’re all more than capable and willing to cooperate, and it’s a tried-and-tested tactic for my fellow teachers to get their ‘little teachers’ from that class.

Saves time and effort, see?

However, it’s a problem for me. Not because I hated the top class, but you know, I love to break barriers and stereotypes in everything. And because the Class Platinum was the epitome of intelligence in our grade level, if possible, I won’t assign a little teacher from them. I often go to the other sections and choose someone who was reliable there.

Not only did it raise the students’ morale, it also broke the connotation that the ones who were intelligent and capable could only be found in the top class.

But well…

I hadn’t found anyone who met my criteria just yet. See, it’s a given that my subject—MAPEH, an acronym for Music, Arts, Physical Education and Health—was a hard one. Imagine, you’d have to teach four distinctly different subjects in four different days in a week. It’s a mystery for me that the students didn’t get their notes mixed up in the course of our lectures…

Anyway, back to my problem.

So, as I said before, I hadn’t found anyone who met my criteria for my little teacher. Well, there were capable students from the other sections, that’s a given. But, it’s either, these students were extremely shy, or their voices couldn’t be heard from the second row of chairs up to the final row at the back. If I carelessly pushed the responsibility on them, they might end up getting traumatized by the supposedly ‘fun’ experience.

And hey, being a teacher wasn’t fun, you know…it’s a stressful profession, to be honest. If you asked me, I’m not even here for the money; I’m staying in my work because I love what I was doing.

Hmm…I wonder what I should do?

“Hey, Sir Seth!” It was my co-worker, Mam Ria. “You already have your little teacher?”

“Me? Nope, I haven’t chosen anyone just yet.”

“Mine’s a girl from Platinum. You know Lois? Apparently, she’s a good cook.”

Oh, Lois?! I didn’t know she’s good at cooking.” If I remember, she’s that active girl from Class Platinum. Active in a manner that she’s highly-responsible in everything…including taking over the roles of the real class officers. That girl had already made an impression on me after she came barging on the faculty one time with a gift of a box of whiteboard markers for me on my birthday, which fell in June. It was an unexpected gesture from her; since my birthday was close to the opening of classes, I usually get nothing from my current students because we’re not that close yet during those times.

Not that I’m bitter or anything, but it’s definitely a new experience.

“Yes, she is. And she’s dependable too.”

I got to agree with that. Lois could fall into the category of ‘Ideal Student’ except—we didn’t like her mother. Her old lady’s one with an ill-temper. It’s like, if we talked to her, she’s always angry or prepared to pepper us with ugly words. As much as possible, we try to keep Lois’ mother away from school…

“What’s taking you so long to choose one?”

Hmm…I got a few names in my mind,” I admitted. “But, I’m weighing my options. A lot of those students in my choices were shy, though they are excellent performers in class.”

“I see…” my co-worker nodded. “So, when you said that your options are ‘shy’ students, then I guess Cefiro is out of the question then.”

“Cefiro? Stephanie?”

“She approached me about my ‘little teacher’, asking if I can give her the assignment,” Mam Ria chuckled. “That girl is bubbly and kind. However, unlike her cousin, Carl Mijares, Stephanie’s a ‘level’ lower than him. I doubt she can properly teach.”

“I see…” Well, for some reason, I agreed with Mam Ria’s assessment. Carl Mijares was an achiever; he’s the type of student a teacher could rely upon, even with few instructions. On the other hand, Stephanie Cefiro was average. She’s a hard-worker, though her ‘intelligence’ lay not on the academics, but on how she treated people around her.

“Well, Sir Seth I guess you should choose your little teacher soon!” Mam Ria interrupted my thoughts. “The good kids in Platinum were being grabbed one by one.”

“Haha…” I could only laugh for my reply. For some reason, I felt some weird chills when I was talking to Mam Ria while we’re taking a break in the corridor.

Ah yes…8-Jade’s classroom is nearby, that’s why.


Hey Sir!”

“Yo!” I waved at Stephanie when we met again at the corridor during their recess. She was with Kyle and Ferdie, as they were having a music session, with Kyle playing the guitar, Stephanie singing some songs and Ferdie dropping the wicked beats. When they noticed I was coming towards them, they stopped in their jam.

I greeted them, “You guys already got your snacks?”

“Yep. We already have one, Sir.” Kyle answered, “And Stephanie here doesn’t eat much; she wants to keep her figure on the slim side.”

“Eh?” I stared at Stephanie. To be honest, she’s a healthy girl—not that thin, but not that fat either. If I would give my opinion, her body size was right for her age and height. And besides, I’m the one who took their BMI (a ritual—I mean, requirement—that we MAPEH teachers do every start and end of the school year), and the results were pretty good for her.

Despite that, Stephanie wanted to slim down…

“Sir, I’m always teased by my friends that I’m fat, so I need to do some sacrifices,” she told me the moment she noticed I was looking at her.

“Err…I don’t think you’re that ‘fat’. Come on, you’re still young. You need to eat properly.”

“I’ll be fine, Sir,” Stephanie insisted. “I’ll show to that Carl that I can be a smart and good-looking student like him!”

Hoh…you two are in some kind of a contest or something?”

Hah! Sir, if you only knew…” it was Kyle. “Their mothers love to lock them in competition, and Stephanie is always los—”

Hey, Kyle, shut up!” Stephanie interrupted him. “You’re saying too much!”

“You’re losing against Carl?” I continued what Kyle was about to say.

Stephanie fell silent and sheepishly nodded. Maybe for her friends, it was a trivial, and familial, matter. But as for me, it’s something that’s quite painful and irritating, you know, to be compared to someone else…like your sibling, or a relative. I mean, Carl was a different person, and so was Stephanie—I didn’t like this culture of ours that always pitted one person to another, as if they were the standard.


But I guess, as their teacher, all that I could do was to encourage her to think the otherwise. Technically, I’m an outsider to their family issues; the moment I meddle was the moment I could see myself getting a complaint for being ‘overly-familiar’ with a student.

I don’t want to lose my job.



“Don’t mind what the others tell you,” I reminded her. “You’re a different person, so you can’t compare yourself to someone else, alright?”

Stephanie just nodded. Her eyes were staring at nowhere, as if she was in deep thoughts. I wonder if my words sink in her mind.


Haa…I guess I have to resort to some ‘desperate’ measure, eh?

“Hey punk,” I grabbed her head in a vice-grip, “And it’s not good if you don’t pay attention to the needs of your body. See, if your stomach produced acid and it has nothing to break down, it will eventually end up destroying your tummy tissues and that could lead to painful ulcers.”

O-Ow! I-I know that Sir!” Stephanie countered.

“Well, if you know that, then do something about it.” I scolded her, “You still have a long day in class; you’ll need to replenish your energy, or you’ll be weak as heck.

“Y-Yes, Sir!”

“Hop on to it! If you want to beat Carl, then you got to eat! One can’t think properly on an empty stomach, after all!”

Haha! Seems like you got no choice but to get fat, Stephanie!” Ferdie teased her, and Kyle joined him.

“And you brats need to keep your mouth shut as well.” I turned to the boys, trying to sound angry. “You’re not helping her by teasing Stephanie; you’ll only encourage her habit of skipping meals.”

“Sorry, Sir!”

“Well, if you understand…” I cleared my throat, and then took a chair and sat beside them. “Okay, Kyle, continue on playing the guitar. Ferdie, you drop some good beats. I’ll join your jamming session as well.”

“Nice!” Ferdie said, excited.

“What’ll I do, Sir?” Stephanie asked.

“What you need to do…” I threateningly told her, “…is to go down to the canteen, grab some food and eat. Come back here and sing with us when you’re done, Tank.”

Huh? T-Tank?” Stephanie was visibly surprised by what I called her.

“Yes, Tank. If a child doesn’t eat properly, she’s malnourished. And when she’s malnourished, she’s small, just like you. So, again, eat up, or be teased mercilessly. Got questions?” We had nasty smiles on our faces. Her nickname ‘Tank’ comes from that blue LPG canister we use here for cooking. It was stout and small, similar to her, and it was used by her classmates to tease her about her ‘fat’ size and relatively ‘small’ height. (1)

Stephanie walked away utterly pissed.

Author's Notes:  (1) In the Philippines, people either use charcoal/firewood or LPG tanks whenever they cook their food.  Yes, the LPG supplied through a centralized storage can only be found in the condominiums here, which are reserved for the rich families.  Most of middle class people use the portable LPG tanks for everyday cooking, and one of the famous--as well as the safest--brands here is that blue LPG tank manufactured by a petroleum company here.