I did the rounds, performed the necessary oblations, genuflected to the idols and icons of the systems, and quietly waited for the word to come down if our application to teach at PSS was seriously entertained. Not a word. We graciously attributed the missed communications on Soudelor, the convenient excuse for all our wayward proclivities.

Cha-Cha’s Mr. de la Cruz revealed that he called my number a few times but he was told that I was in China. Fair enough, I failed to instruct my wards to take messages and the names of callers and their numbers, and if they wanted me to call back pronto. He offered the Social Studies position he was to talk to me about to someone else.

A position was advertised for SSHS. One conversant in world geography and history was a stroll down my alley. I applied and was interviewed. I waited. Soudelor’s came, so I went over to PSS central when they finally generated power. I was directed by HR to check back with the school. I did. The school said it was an HR affair. I went back to HR and was told that I was not recommended. I would have preferred to receive the word from the horse’s mouth without my chasing rainbows, but that’s sour graping. 

So I focused on my own business, dba Waterbear Language Studio and Earthbound Enterprises, until my NMC neighbor thought my experience in Natural Resource Management, Social Sciences, and Language and Humanities should be made available in the classroom. I went to NMC’s NRM head who noticed I did not have the science credentials. I went to the Social Science department but they did not need anyone save an expert in careers. The Language and Humanities Department was happy to see me. I was immediately marched to HR and I thought that today, Monday, I would be in the classroom. HR evaluated my transcripts. I had done master’s level study in Texas for theology, graduate studies in English in North Carolina, but the bachelor’s degree that the department head was banking on was earned in the Philippines. By requirement (WASC accreditation is the suspect), it had to be evaluated by an independent third party. Absence of such evaluation meant that I did not qualify. No malice was intended; everyone was going by the book. 

The ego was bruised to think that we were not conversant enough in global history, geography and current events on the one hand, and non-academically qualified to teach English on the other. The affront was mellowed when I was told that the social studies field was awash with entry-level talents and it was just a matter of economics. The system could get two for the price of one! A cynic, however, added, “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” I shan’t submit to that measure.

I told friends that I was too old for anger, just sad, upended “by the book.” I definitely belonged to an older era when what one knew and did was more important than whether one had a U.S.-stamped sheepskin in his possession. 

I looked forward to bantering with middle and high school minds, or dealing with language-challenged foreign students at NMC, but the opportunity for regular discourse did not arise. A former student in Zhejiang south of Shanghai opined when I decided to forego formal teaching: “It is just as well; now, you can focus on the language studio.” Yes, I can.

That I am not on PSS or NMC’s employ is not the focus of this reflection, never mind that the hiring procedure at NMC smacks of hard wood, IMHO. I do care for education. I am not in conversation with PSS curriculum folks but what is obvious is the advent of digitized technology overwhelming the rest of ordinary society, and the universe of the young.

I was interviewed at SSHS in a room full of boxes of game consoles. Since I left PSS in ’08, Kilili enabled digital technology for students. Tablets are common equipment in middle and high schools, and everyone has a smartphone in their pocket. Human conversations have been reduced to shrieks in the hallway for those going through puberty; glued to the PDA is more than a fad.

Like any other age, technology is servant to content. It harkens to the experience of objective impressions brought by five senses, reflective emotional response shaped by one’s upbringing and the social milieu that fertilized one’s growth, the interpretive cognition in dialogue with others through symbols and words, history and philosophy, and intentional behavior to reflect a compassionate intent and a comprehensive context for actions and deeds. 

Technology is a tool, a wonderful tool that I had not forsaken but I must confess, after the MacBook Pro, I am a dinosaur. Still, Siri cannot replace the human voice in the pedagogy of profound humanness. I am a child of the Earthrise, and I refuse to be cowed by the shuttling to the side the vestiges of sage. If we do not qualify just because our academic degree earned in a non-U.S. institution in the mid-60s “by the book” has to be evaluated, then bureaucracy just nurses paper reach. I just teach.

Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at

Related Posts

Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.