[DETOURS] Left the media to teach media

Editor's note: Not everyone has the calling to teach so when you do have it, you heed it. In this essay, Michelle shares how she did exactly just that. You, too, can share your life’s greatest detours. Here’s how.

When the government enforced community quarantine restrictions due to COVID-19 in March 2020, I was already working from home. I don't remember the particular reason why. Perhaps, it's because I didn't have any meetings that day or any need to be physically in the office. Rappler, the company I was working for, was allowing this setup even before the pandemic hit.

As we went on lockdown, I continued doing my work as a senior content strategist for the company. I was working with the content innovation and marketing teams to pivot the services and campaigns that we offer. We looked at the data and trends and planned on how to keep our audiences engaged as the pandemic was changing our behaviors. Strategizing, planning, and pivoting. These are the things that I was doing for most of my career. I had been so comfortable with it, so certain, so clear on the craft that I was honing. Until one day, I wanted to do other things. I wasn't exactly sure what it was that I wanted to do, but there is one thing I was sure of. I wanted to explore.

You see, I’ve always been the type to keep on taking on challenges. And before the pandemic, I had plans of going places, of achieving a lot. But while the pandemic halted all of those plans, my desire to explore lingered. I was in limbo. While I was enjoying my work at Rappler, and the people there, too, I was also afraid that the comfort I was experiencing would make me become complacent and keep me from yearning for growth. I know that I want to keep being in the media, but where else would you go when the government clamps down on the press? How else can you grow in this field within limits imposed by the pandemic?

The answer to my questions came in the form of a job opening for a faculty member. I stumbled upon the call for submission on the day of the deadline itself. And I thought you know what, why not? It's still about media, and I think what really drew me in is it's based in Mindanao, my home island. To be honest, I didn't really see myself going back to the province anytime soon. But the pandemic has a way of stripping us down to our core. It made me realize that maybe it's time to go home and spend time with my parents who are also growing old.

When I started my work as a faculty member this first semester of Academic Year 2020 - 2021, everything and everyone was adjusting. We were all grappling with how to function under an administration that is obviously ill-prepared for the shift. In my first two weeks, I received messages from students that they plan on taking a Leave of Absence (LOA) instead. Some due to health reasons, others because of family situations.

The entire transition drained me. I was doing everything I could to provide adequate learning materials and adjustments for learning to be possible for students, and somehow, it still wasn't enough. There were still students who were left behind. In a systemic problem, faculty and students can only do so much. It's equally frustrating and aggravating. I lost count of asking myself if this is the growth that I wanted. 

But a previous mentor at Rappler gave a piece of advice that stuck with me. She said, "there is no better time to teach, but there is also no more difficult time than now." 

"There is no better time to teach, but there is also no more difficult time than now."

It became my guiding force, really. The remote learning setup imposed by the government is unjust for both faculty and students. It’s difficult and anxiety-inducing. The only way I can make sense of it is by making sure that I show students what could be done. I found myself linking principles, practices, and theories to the situations today; to use communication and media in critically analyzing the situation that we are in; and prepare students to be effective communicators that will help shape the future. A future that is hopefully so much better than what we have right now. One that is just, true, and empathetic.

I write this piece as I am finishing my modules for the second semester. Is the process easier than the previous semester? Not one bit. Maybe, it got even harder. We're all drained, frustrated, and anxious. But I am taking a leap of faith and pushing on. Because while this may not be the growth I planned, it is one that is worth it. – Rappler.com

Michelle Nidoy is a faculty member of the University of the Philippines Mindanao, where she teaches communication and media subjects. She was previously a Senior Content Strategist of Rappler.