It’s the learning

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By Stella A. Estremera

Spider’s web

Saturday, March 15, 2014


I HAPPENED to sit through, and yes, help a little, in a mock defense of a thesis proposal. It was disconcerting to see young men stammer and be all jittery. I was like, really?

My friend Mabelle, who was coaching the kids and I just happened to have been invited to dinner on the same night the kids were to be coached, said the group were the intelligent ones, albeit ‘bugoy’. They really sounded ‘bugoy’ but they knew their report and what they wanted to achieve. They were just jittery.

That brought me decades back to my college years… and remembered… not being that way, ever.

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I got the exam jitters, who doesn’t? But nervousness while presenting a project… nope. To think that I had the worst stage fright during those times; that battle against stage fright was a long-drawn one from grade school until late in college.

So, why can’t I recall being jittery when speaking up?

Rewind further, a few years earlier. In a pool. Half an Olympic size pool, on the shallow end.

“Miss Estremera!” our swimming teacher shouted from the other end, the deep end. “Aren’t you coming back?”

I shouted in return, “Ma’am, ano na ang grade ko kung hanggang dito lang ako?”

“Dos singko!” she shouted back.

I climbed out and told her I’m okay with that grade. I think it was shock that crossed her face; maybe it was her first time to see a student happy with a 2.5.

That was the finals for PE 3 where I struggled through one semester of fighting my fear of water. I did survive. For the finals, you have to tread water on the deep end for five minutes and then swim across and back jumping from the deep end then turn around from the shallow end to return to the deep end using back stroke or breast stroke.

I managed to dogpaddle my way through five minutes of treading water. After that, I jumped in at the deep end and was just very thankful I made it to the shallow end, I didn’t want to take the chance of losing my stamina when I’m back in the deep end. Learning that I will be getting a passing mark of 2.5, I did not return for the perfect mark of 1.0.

In my class was a foreigner, a girl from another Asian country I can no longer recall, who was doing worse than me. We were all swimming and still she couldn’t figure out how to do the breast stroke. As I climbed out from the pool, I saw her diving for the third time in the deep end. I later learned she also got a grade of 1.0. I was the only one in class who settled for a 2.5. Everyone got a 1.0 because while Miss Violanda was a terror, she gave the girls one week to try and try again. Me? I didn’t care. I was happy enough that I survived one whole semester facing my deepest fear. Suffice it to say, after passing swimming for PE, I forgot how to swim again, and the fear of swimming returned.

Light bulb lights up.

It’s because I don’t really care about grades that’s why I was never nervous. It was only pass or fail, and even if did fail, I would just take up the same subject again, no sweat at all. In that swimming class, all I wanted was to get it over with and I didn’t relish the idea of not being able to complete the second lap and ending up dogpaddling on the deep end.

In a long-ago time, we had to line up before the crack of dawn to enroll one subject at a time, then the enlistment priority number (EPN) was thought of based on the last three digits of your student number. On the first bell, if your last three digits was 001, then you are number one in line. Once the bell rings anew, your number will be reversed or you will be number 100. My last three numbers were 252. Whether on the first, second, third, fourth ad nauseum bell, my number would still be 252. Thus, as I finished enrolling for one subject I noticed that right beside that was a PE-3 class that did not have any line. I immediately enlisted only to find out that it was for swimming. Do or die. I did. I lived.

I was there to get the least of my concerns done with – PE. At the end, I got a passing mark. Good. That done, I’m gone.

Some may say that’s the loser’s way out. I say, that’s my way of saying grades shouldn’t dictate who we really are, especially grades for swimming among non-swimmers. Look at me now. In the end, it’s what we learn in life that matters, not how good our grades were. saestremera@yahoo.com

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 16, 2014.

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