I seldom acknowledge my students in this blog since I usually stereotype them as spoiled brats who never displayed the academic rigor expected of UP students.
However, I have to hand it to John Gabriel Pelias – my former English 1 student and the valedictorian for this year’s UP Diliman graduating batch. More amazing is his feat – garnering the highest ever general weighted average of 1.016 in post-war UP.
I remember John as that bibo kid who always had something meaningful to contribute to class discussions. He sat in the second row, three or four seats from the door sporting an iskolarly shirt, shorts, and tsinelas, his face sporting that youthful eagerness accented by an unshaved post-pubescent mustache.
I had a sense back then that he will undoubtedly be an achiever. Teachers somehow get to develop that sixth sense to notice who’d be the better (and worse) students in class.
My most memorable interaction with him is when he approached me regarding his score for his first formal composition. One day, after our class, he came to my office and asked if he can clarify something about his paper.
The paper was marked 2.5 (which in UP grading standards means “Satisfactory”). His face was marked with real concern (that look of disappointment from someone who appears to be not so used to getting what’s expected) so I asked him if he was grade conscious.
He answered no and that he just wanted to know how he can improve. And even in my young teaching career back then I knew that was rare. In hindsight, it was kind of bad of me to operate on the stereotype but many students who do consult regarding grades are just concerned with the numbers, getting honors and pleasing mommy and daddy.
So we sat down and pored over his paper. After I pointed out how his essay rambled, lacked focus, and had a number of lapses in grammar and mechanics, he thanked me and left.
True to his aim, he got better. Each of his subsequent formal compositions was a significant improvement on his first. While his classmates were content with submitting within specifications, he always added an extra page or two of insights. And they weren’t fluff to pad length either. They were carefully crafted, well-written, and insightful.
It was apparent that he wasn’t content on just an improvement – he wanted perfection. And that is perhaps what I admire about him. Knowing that he was a scholar in a sea of kaburgisan, made me admire him more. His academic grit, his openness to criticism, and his drive to improve that can be seen in tangible ways – I really don’t doubt why he got such high grades.
Yes, I admit. I am one of the three people who made him appear (more) human by giving him a grade of 1.25 and I usually dismiss honor graduates of the RGEP and post-TOFI generation as beneficiaries of grade inflation but John clearly deserves the accolade.