Laws of Motion

Retrospects and Reflections| Entry № 1

TRIO FILIPINO. This photo was taken minutes after I set foot on XLC. I was welcomed warmly by my fellow Filipinos in XLC, Ivy Jane and Aivy Rose.

“Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.” –Carl Sagan

Science has always fascinated humanity since the beginning of time. This fascination propelled people to make use of her beauty to think, to create, and to elevate science even more. Many of us believe that this body of knowledge has satisfied millions of questions raised by humankind. Moreover, what makes science a fascinating field is her paradoxical nature — that no matter how much science tries to answer humankind’s questions, humanity will never run out of curiosity. Yet, we sometimes put this paradoxical nature of science into our peripheral perspectives. We settle with answers; we forget that what drives science to fuel her way is our never-ending curiosity.

My 3-month relationship with Xavier Learning Community (XLC) has been a “scientific” experience. I have asked countless “whys” and “hows,” hypothesized, experimented, and interpreted results. Anyhow, maybe not in the most scientific sense, I can associate my volunteer experience to Newton’s three laws of motion.

“The First Law: Every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force.”

The gloomy weather of one Saturday morning in March 2018 provided saturation to what I was feeling that time. The steadiness of my career already seemed to be unsettling.

That time, it felt that I was travelling on a long straight road in a constant speed, seeing nothing in front of me but the eternal horizon. Seven years of teaching in Davao, I thought, already feels so monotonous. I felt I needed to stop or to change my direction. I felt I needed to regain my enthusiasm, my burning passion in teaching.

Then, that very morning, I received a text message, which provided an overwhelming surprise to my seven-year long journey. The message said: Are you willing to become a volunteer in Chiang Rai, Thailand? Right then and there, I told myself that that was what I needed.

Newton’s first law denotes that some forces will make an object stop. If not, things will keep on moving after being compelled to move. I considered the opportunity of volunteering here in XLC as the exciting force that would provide a new key to the monotonous practice of my vocation. The offer felt that it was a new thrust to move onwards and with a new direction: a chance to practice my teaching in a completely different environment and culture, similar to what the law suggests: that an object only starts moving if an external effort is put on it.

It was a slingshot moment: I had been thrown into the air with glee while processing my documents for this volunteer mission. Yet, I ignored the idea that I would eventually fall to the ground when it was time for the gravity to pull me back.

Days before I left Davao, I realized that I would eventually satisfy the second truth of the law: that things like to stay where they are; that an object will remain at rest. The separation anxiety was beyond my control; I then thought I might have made a mistake of saying “yes” to this mission. I wanted to keep doing what I had already been doing. The thought of teaching in a different country, which once had been exciting, was slowly becoming disquieting. I was slowly embodying the law of inertia that suggests that an object always wants to stay where it is.

I wanted to stay in Davao and teach there — alarmingly, that was slowly becoming a certainty that time.

And so, my first few days in XLC make up the longest inertia of my life.

DEAFENING SILENCE. The quietness of the inertia that I had experienced resembled the silence of a group of students taking an exam. The stillness of the moment is just a facade; one can never tell how much there is internally.
The Second Law: Acceleration of an object depends on the mass of the object and the amount of force applied.”

The second law suggests that if an object has more mass, it needs more force to move it. True enough, I needed a big push to move me to action. The longest inertia of my life added more and more mass on me. I felt idle on my first few days, not knowing where to direct myself. I badly needed to change my state, I thought. I was looking for that powerful combination of the first and second laws.

Indeed, it was a hard find — that I almost felt crippled by that commanding inertia. Then, the truth dawned on me. The force that I needed has been with me ever since. I figuratively defied the laws of physics; I needed not an external force at that moment of my life. Looking inwardly, I found my much-needed internal forces: my commitment to teach and my compassion for those who needed education.

It was a slow process; the internal forces needed to build up slowly a sufficient amount of their strength in order to push me. Yet, in the process of gaining acceleration, I found a new perspective in teaching. I learned that teaching is not just sharing one’s strengths to others; it is also sharing one’s difficulties with the goal of making each other’s lives better.

Undeniably, I was not in my best emotional condition in my first few days in class. Yet, the moments I had with my XLC family helped me. I was with my students in these very difficult times. I could see in their eyes their thirst for learning and I supposed they could see in mine my longing to replenish the passion for teaching.

It was a revelation; I knew then what I needed to regain my enthusiasm in teaching: to boost my commitment to teach and to heighten my compassion for my students.

Truly, these internal forces were powerful beyond compare. I soon thought to myself that signing up for this volunteer work is one of the best decisions I have made in my personal and professional life.

Now, I am enjoying the acceleration that these forces are giving me. Undeniably, my 3-month journey in XLC has been a bumpy ride in a rough road; the inertia comes in small, separate rocks. I was asking for a different journey to begin with. And this is exactly the journey that I wanted to take — bumpy but meaningful.

And so, I allow these forces to drive me wherever this mission leads me to. I am gaining acceleration; I am being moved!

SLOWLY BUT SURELY. My personal connection with XLC students and staff has tremendously helped me in gaining the acceleration that I needed.
The Third Law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

I was wrong when I thought I already knew the meaning of the word community. Its picture for me was that of a group of people living in the same area. But, semantically, I had been looking at the word community in a very referential sense. XLC thought me one thing: community is more than people living together. Community is a group of people living to get there — to get to the shared vision through a unified mission.

Sharing in everything is a culture here. The community does almost everything together. I witnessed myself how students and staff helped each other in cleaning, cooking, studying, farming, and other activities.

The values of kindness and thoughtfulness reverberate in the community. The act of charity that one shares bounces back to himself and/or to others. It is more than what the third law suggests; the action of kindness reaps even greater reaction of community building.

Subsequently, this certain action-reaction relationship has stirred me to see education in a different light. I have better grasped the importance of character building. It is more enriching for a teacher to see his students manifesting the values of love, compassion, and generosity than to see his students just merely complying what is academically required and merely competing with others or with the circumstances. In the real world, competition is inevitable; yet, collaboration is also undeniably existent. In the most real sense of community, education definitely needs the latter.

In the surface level, XLC might look like a small community. But, it has an immense vision of youth empowerment among the ethnic peoples of the Northern Thailand. And by achieving this vision, the students and the staff are together in doing the mission through a magnificent display of a community life, unified and firm. The positive influence that one does is responded by a positive reaction that is shared to and by all.

And so, the XLC has acted a culture of community onto me. It is my pleasure to react to and take part in this culture.

My ongoing journey here I hope will be like the fascination of humanity for science. I hope this volunteerism would continue to propel me to think, to create, and to elevate this noble profession even more. I should not settle with answers; I should always reflect and ponder upon my choices with never-ending curiosity, driven by my commitment and compassion as a teacher.

“Science is a way of life. Science is a perspective. Science is the process that takes us from confusion to understanding in a manner that’s precise, predictive and reliable — a transformation, for those lucky enough to experience it, that is empowering and emotional.” –Brian Greene