By Edward B. Antonio
It’s closing time again in schools, fellas, and closing time reminds me of Ana, many years ago.
I first taught in a private school.
It was a big school with more than 1500 students where the girls’ uniform was white and blue and the boys wore white and khaki.
I had, in class, a dark-skinned girl who was squatting with her parents inside the compound of a rich storeowner. Let’s call her Ana. Her father was a junk shop employee and her mother sold vegetables in the market.
I could see she was always hard up with her school materials.
One day, while I was explaining the mechanics of the test, she came to me and said she didn’t have ballpen to use. I gave her my ballpen to borrow. Somebody even gave her a piece of paper. I was already at the faculty room when I remembered my ballpen. She did not return it after the class.
The following meeting, I could see again that she was in need of something. Everyone in the class could sense it. They knew her family background and the class took pity on her.
Someone gave her a ballpen; another gave a pad of paper; somebody else gave her bag. Some gave pencil, crayons, and yes… money, too. I told her she may not return my ballpen anymore.
She was all smiles. I told her to stand up and say thank you which she did.
All went well the following days.
One day, while administering a summative test, I noticed she was again starting to get uneasy. Could it be her mannerism during tests? I pretended that I did not notice her.
While she was writing her answer, I noticed she was bent down. I slowly approached her, and there, she was copying from a little piece of paper glued or taped neatly inside the fold of her skirt. To copy the answers, she must unfold the bottom of her skirt.
Ana was more than surprised when I accosted her.
“Excuse me, what is that?” I asked.
She did not answer but I could see in her eyes her guilt.
The class stopped writing. All their eyes were focused on us two.
I did not scold the girl, but I asked her to stay in class for a while after dismissal. I wanted to talk to her.
It was a brief conversation. She said she was sorry but I told her she might not win the trust of her classmates anymore.
True to my words, the class did not mind her anymore until the end of the school year. But I kept on helping her in simple ways. On our last meeting that March, I advised her to thank her classmates and to be sorry for cheating in one of her tests.
Which she did in the vernacular.
“Thank you classmates for all your help and I’m sorry for what I have done. It won’t happen again… Thank you for the time I spent here. My family is going back to Cagayan this summer and I am continuing my studies there,” she said meekly.
There was a long silence.
I asked the class president if she could say something.
Dana stood up and said:
“We have forgiven you. We hope that you learned your lesson here which you must always remember when you study in another school,” she said.
“How about giving something to her before she leaves… as her remembrance from you…” I said.
I was the first to give something, my not-so-cheap new ballpen. Others followed: papers, pencil, crayons, erasers, a new handkerchief, a pentel pen and yes, money, too (again).
Dana gave her new bag.
“Anyway it’s closing already. She needs her more than me,” she said.
Everybody flocked around Ana. They bade her goodbye and good luck.
The girl was all tears of the love shown her.
She has learned her lesson.
During the opening of classes that June, she was no longer around. But a parent, her former neighbor, gave me a letter when she came to enroll her child. It came from the dark-skinned girl.
The letter read:
“Sir, thank you for everything. I promise to be a good girl from now on. You were really kind. I won’t forget you. You helped me to change my ways which I will always remember as long as I live.” Sincerely, Ana.
Tears fell down my eyes. I did not even try to hide them.
Ana taught me also a valuable lesson: everybody deserves a second, third, fourth even up to ten chances. Life is a continuing journey and in our quest, things may not go their way as we expect them to be.
Nobody, indeed, is perfect, but we can always strive to perfect our ways so as to influence others along the way. We can influence our families, our friends, our neighbors.
I added Ana to my list.#