Tuesday, June 08, 2004

You're on the Air IV

You're on the Air IV


nough of this Mr./Ms. Xanga stuff--Damn, ddsb, he sees right through me! Okay, okay, I'm a narcissist. Besides, its 12 noon and the voting is closed. Hahahah. Well, I think its time to get back to what really matters... me. I've talked about my daughter and about sex, even though there isn't really all that much to tell since I'm on the wrong side of middle-age: The big 5-0 in less than two years. Anyway, I wanna get back to SweetLilV's question, but after I take a call or two. Hi, you're on the air.

The Man Who Changed Me

tif383335: Eeh? Wrong side of middle age? I think most of us Xangans and bloggers out here can vouch that you defy that stereotype rather well... until you said so on an entry one time, I had just assumed you were a really young JA teacher.

O-man: Flattery will get you everywhere, California college boy. So what's your question?

tif383335: What made you decide to be a teacher?

O-man: Hmmm. That's a broad question. Um... Let me think, hmmm... uh... What if I tell you about the trigger that got me to get my shit together and change my freaking life around.

I have mentioned previously in NLUTE--my abbreviated life story--that I was pretty much a smart-ass punk and refused to study through the latter years of highschool. Consequently, I could not get into a four year university. So what, I thought. Who needs school? Well, it turns out that I did. I first went to Japan for a few months, came back to work part-time and then went to the local community college in an attempt to at least look like I was being the GLOB (good little oriental boy). Of course, my mind was not really into academic. I was still in my high school, I-don't-give-a-shit-about-anything frame of mind, finally quitting after two years to work full-time at the confectionary factory I had been working at part-time for a number of years. In fact, I had become plant manager and was suddenly burdened with the one thing I was trying to avoid: responsibility. How much sugar to order, how much rice to prep for the following days production, determine daily production figures based on standing orders and retail outlet sales/trends. A year and a half of this at a wage that barely paid my bar tab and I was suddenly open to the idea of studying. I quit full-time work and decided to go back to the community college.

Before my full-time stint, I had gone to school for two years, long enough to earn about a year's worth of credits. I was not very studious and class after class I withdrew from as many classes as I had finished. Returning to school, my expectations were not so different. But I was determined to at least graduate and move on to a modest four-year college, such as Cal State LA which would take virtually any warm body willing to pay tuition. So I quietly returned to ELAC (East LA College), figuring the fewer who knew, the fewer to be disappointed. But this time around, things were different.

It was the Spring semester of 1980 and I took courses Health and American History. I attended class regularly, did my reading and was producing adequately. But what made the difference was my Human Anatomy class and the professor who changed my life. In our very first lab, we had to dissect a rat. Woah! The most I had ever done was a dead frog in HS. The professor with salt-and-pepper hair told us with a wink that he was going to put the rats to sleep, and of course, I presumed that he meant he was going to kill them. Wow, I thought, fresh kill. He then brought them into the lab and distributed them to each group of four students. "Professor," some screamed, "It's still breathing!" When our group got our specimen, we could see its little chest still heaving as it breathed. It was alive! Well, this beginning got me rather interested in my course. But more importantly, it got me to observe this professor more closely. He was funny, sarcastic, playful and encouraging. During the course of the semester--I was at the top of the class with a 99% average--he approached me asd asked me what I intended to do after ELAC. I told him my modest plans of going to Cal State and majoring in business.

"Why business?" he asked.

I just shrugged my shoulders and told him, "That's what everyone else is doing."

"I suppose business is a fine field," this now ad hoc advisor said. "But why don't you go to UCLA and pursue it?"

Well, I had been a UCLA football fan since I was a wee little lad, but I was also aware of its academic reputation. "Me? To UCLA? Professor, don't kid me!"

"I'll tell you what. You apply, and I'll write you a wonderful recommendation. If you don't get in, I'll pay you back for the application fee."

I was stunned. I had never met a teacher who exhibited so much confidence in me. I had no intention of letting this man pay me back, but I figured if he would go to such lengths, then maybe, just maybe, I could get in. And so I applied to UCLA for the Spring quarter of 1981... and got in.

No one had ever shown such support for me, and I felt incredibly good. Man, what would it be like to be able to make others feel like this? To show total support and to help them succeed? And so tif383335, this is when I decided to become a teacher, when I realized that teaching could be a rather rewarding profession and career.

I wonder what Professor Vince Perez is doing these days?

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