GLEE has finally arrived in the Philippines. Last Wednesday, upon the frenzied recommendations of some students, I set aside papers to check in order to catch the Asian premier of the newest US TV hit comedy show. The first episode lived up to its exuberant title; it was a fun, uplifting, and filled with so much music in just one hour that one can't help but smile. The characters may at times be over-the-top but its depiction of high school life with its caste system and lack of, well, glee rings true.

It was also refreshing to see a teacher portrayed as someone admirable and determined to bring the best out of his students, a great contrast to how teachers are portrayed and treated in Philippine TV and movies. (Mr. Rene Lizada wrote a passionate and touching piece entitled "Teachers" for his column Papa's Table on January 20 concerning this. If you missed it, check out the Sun.Star website and read it.)

Click here for stories and updates on the Sinulog 2010 Festival.

One of the memorable scenes involving the teacher Mr. Will Schuester was when he discovered the football quarterback singing. He then said that this is why he loves what he is doing, because he can discover hidden talents, even talents students themselves do not realize they have or are afraid to reveal they have.

I remembered this scene while I was checking the essays of my students. There are just days when things are not going the way you envision, days when, teaching (as if it is not already hard enough) can be like extracting wisdom teeth. Some days, a lesson that you taught one section and produced intoxicatingly enlightening discussions just makes students in another section catatonic. I even caught a couple texting in class. It was exhausting, dispiriting, and energy sapping. Teaching is already one of the most underappreciated jobs, and to be faced with such attitudes makes all the glee ooze right out of me.

And then of course, there are the piles of papers to read and check. Sigh. I love essays. I believe they best allow the teacher to gauge student understanding and assess what part of lesson stuck with them. Also, essays encourage students to use their analytical, communication and higher order thinking skills. But with more than 200 student essays to read in a week, boy are they a pain to check. However, just as discovering the quarterback singing made Mr. Schuester's day, finding insightful essays made my day. Allow me share one by John Lorenz Mirhan discussing Friedrich Nietzsche's ideas:

"Friedrich Nietzsche, although a very controversial man, was correct in saying 'that which does not kill us makes us stronger'. In our lives, the worst thing one can do is give up; give up their dreams, give up their endeavors, or give up their determination. Hardships and trials are put there for us to emerge victorious. Obstacles are set up for us to overcome them. Many cancer survivors, with the right attitude and perception of life, turn out to be better people, happier people after the life-threatening disease. They did not let the hardship get to them. They retained their strength of mind and heart and got through the tough times. Truly anything that does not kill us makes us stronger and can even be what keeps us alive." Lorenz's explanation of Nietzsche's quote shows that trials that come our way give us an opportunity to rise to the occasion, and that in every difficulty there is a lesson to be learned, a way for us to be better people.

As much as Nietzsche looked down upon religion and Christianity, I believe his thought is similar to the one in the Bible that says, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." (I Corinthians 10:13)

Students may appear apathetic at times. They may be unnecessarily noisy at times. But there is great talent there, great thinkers, great writers, debaters, artists, actors, mathematicians, scientists, environmentalists, servant-leaders, kaleidoscope of individuals, all with potential to shine.

Reading my students' essays, not only was I reminded of having the right attitude to face days that are not going my way, but I was also reminded of one of the reasons why I love my job -- discovering the talents young people have and being gleefully surprised by power of these talents.

Jocy L. So-Yeung teaches at Davao Christian High School.