You raise your hand. You’re nervous and jittery, and you don’t want to make a fool of yourself in class. The professor’s eyes stare into yours, patiently waiting for your answer. The place is different but the face is familiar, you’re just not used to seeing this part of their life. Here, you say “Sir” instead of “Pa”. Most people only see their professors during class hours, but what is it like when your parent is the one grading your test papers at the end of the day?
That was the reality for Miguel Escolar (BS-MEE, ‘12) one fateful term. As a mechanical engineering student, he had no choice but to take the class his father was teaching. His father, Anthony Escolar from the Mechanical Engineering department, was the only one who taught the subject. He recounts that there would be times at home when his father would ask him if he studied for their exam the next day, and Miguel laughingly remembers the one time he replied with “What exam?”
Having a parent as a professor in one’s university might seem like a dream, what many might construe as a home court advantage might turn out to be a point of pressure, and Brendan Lejano (IV, BS-PSYC) echoes such sentiments. Hailing from a different department than his father, Brendan doesn’t have to worry about having to take his father’s class; so unlike Miguel, he luckily—or unluckily—can avoid meeting his father’s teaching persona in the classroom. Nevertheless, Brendan admits that there is a sense of caution in how he behaves in campus. He clarifies, “Not that I will do bad stuff in school, but whatever I do might reflect on my dad.”
Welcome (back) to La Salle
Free from the usual anticipation and excitement that comes when one formally enters DLSU as a student, setting foot in campus carried a sense of familiarity for Miguel and Brendan. They and other students with DLSU professors as parents most likely already had some memories of walking around our hallowed halls. They don’t get lost like the rest of us.
But getting lost doesn’t just mean losing your way to your class; many students get confused with some of the University procedures and protocols, particularly, the shifting procedure. Isabel Escolar (BS-ADV, ‘17) shares that having a parent who’s familiar with how the University works takes a lot of the confusion away. “Filling up paperwork and forms are easier to understand since whenever we have to go through a certain process, we can ask our dad and he’ll give us a detailed explanation on what to do,” she says.
But no matter how far away your program is to your parent’s department, the fact that one’s parent is a professor has most likely influenced some interpersonal relationships. The nature of stories is to be shared in a community, and in a community like ours, stories travel fast. Curious students will, of course, want to know how their beloved professor is actually human beneath the polished exterior.
Usually, it’s the little things that intrigue and surprise people. Brendan recalls with amusement his friends’ reactions whenever he nonchalantly drops the bomb that his father is a professor, pointing him out when they pass by him on campus. For Isabel, it’s when her engineering friends would refer to her as “Anak ni Sir Escolar” (Sir Escolar’s child) instead of by her real name. Miguel, for instance, shocks people when he called his dad “Sir” in class instead of “Pa.”
A particularly memorable incident for Isabel was when her Mechanical Engineering friend kept trying her best to avoid taking Sir Escolar’s class. As a frequent visitor to the Escolar residence, she wanted to avoid the awkwardness of having the patriarch as a professor. “She got so scared [of him], she made sure not to take him as a professor and immediately dropped classes he was teaching,” she laughs. By the third time, she finally got a different professor. “Once or twice, our dad accidentally went to the wrong classroom during the first day of school, and she’d tell me how she almost got a heart attack thinking that the professors might have shuffled and she’d have to drop that course [again].” Her friend is doing well and is very relieved that Sir Escolar just mixed up the rooms.
Another common thing that these students experience is when their parent’s students jokingly ask for a little “help” with their grades. Isabel shares that her brother would have classmates try and bribe him for the test answers, but even if it seemed like a good idea, she says that “it’s not like he knows our dad’s laptop and account password anyway.” While these jokes are mostly just that—jokes—everyone is hopefully well aware that kissing up to the kid doesn’t do anything for one’s GPA. Most likely, it’ll be a story shared around the dinner table or with friends. Miguel, however, has experienced being on the receiving end of animosity from students who garnered poor marks under his father. “It usually doesn’t last very long,” Isabelle reassures us on behalf of her brother, but it’s still a rather distasteful experience when it does happen.
With a parent who is up-to-date with the issues circulating around campus, casual discussions regarding news around campus pepper the conversations Brendan has with his father over dinner. “My dad and I talk about issues in DLSU sometimes—For instance, the U-Break change and the rallies student groups held in and out the campus. I take his opinions as a foundation to form mine, so as to give me a much more well-informed stance on issues,” he says. These exchanges with his father broadens his perspective and encourages him to be more critical with his opinions.
On campus, however, the environment is rarely adequate space for lengthier and more in-depth conversations. Whenever Isabel would run into her dad on campus, their run-ins are usually marked by a smile, a wave, or a nod. Maybe a “what’s your next class?” or “I’ll finish at 4 later”—small actions that encapsulate years worth of knowing, of memorizing each other, of being familiar with every small act, and just knowing the words left unsaid.
When the school day begins, their paths diverge; parent and child lead distinct lives as teacher and student. They let each other become their own person and, as much as possible, they try not to interfere. But familial relations keep their lives and identities intertwined, so at the end of the day, their trajectories re-converge. The little greetings and pleasantries beginning and ending with “Sir” shifts back to warm and passionate exchanges between parent and child.