The Jab

In tae kwon do, you never know when they’re going to kick you in the head— It could come straight at your face, or a counter back kick right to your stomach; their foot digging through your skin. That concussion I got from it was unexpected too. Turning points are always unexpected. At times they hit you like a truck and other times, you don’t realize it until after it happens.

The bell rang and it was time for second period. The first day of school, no matter how many times you’ve experienced it, is always a fresh experience of wonder, devastation, hope. Filling the room was laughter, gossip, complaints and —

“Shh—. When the bell rings, we don’t make noises. We enjoy the silence together and connect with the whole class.”

Who is this guy?

The class quickly fell silent as he sat before us, a smile on his face as he tilted his head back and glanced to his left. I had no idea what his eyes were speaking; it was all a mystery, as it usually is with the first encounter with your new teachers.

The first day of class was laid back. He’s pretty chill. English was one of my least favorite subjects and to be entirely honest, I wasn’t too optimistic about my English Honors 2 class either.

I’ll just get A’s in my English classes for the next three years and just move on with life. It’s not like I plan to ever major in English. I’ve just got to get through it like I always have.

Each day, period two seemed to breeze on by. I’ll admit, it wasn’t like any other classes I’ve ever taken. Walking into room 130 everyday, I had no idea what the lesson plan was. We never— ever took a test in his class, but that one pop quiz. It killed my grade. From then on, I was always anxious and in fear of what we were going to do for the period.

It was April when he presented before us our final assignment: The Innovation Project.

This was worth 200 points, and lasted for two whole months. I would later find out the amount of impact this project had on me (For me, at least. I don’t know how the other kids in the class felt about it).

The rule was simple:

“Find a problem, come up with a solution, fix it.  It’s never too early to make a difference in the society,” he told us. “Make it amazing. You don’t have to be an adult to go out there and do something cool.”

As those words came out from his mouth, it went in one ear and out the other. Me? Make a change? Do something amazing? I can’t build a life-changing software program or write a piece that would persuade our district to get rid of grades. I have nothing.

Any ideas that Christina and I came up with, Jennifer and Jennifer (Yes, they’re both Jennifer) would turn it down. “How about we create an art show where we draw on fruits and use fruit peels to create a fruit show?!” “Uh… That’s a waste of food,” they would laugh and reject. Group projects can be a pain when no one can agree on just one thing. But when you do come up with something, though, group projects are wonderful.

“How about origami? They seem pretty easy and it looks nice,” Jennifer suggested.

“I guess.”

“Do you guys want to set a date and maybe do an art show somewhere like Miles Square?”

“No, let’s do it at school. No one would take some time to go there just for some kids’ origami project.”

“Oh. my. gosh. We can collect recycled paper from teachers and use those to make origami to raise awareness of recycling!! It would look nice too!”

Genius.

And with that, the Paper Project had begun. (Most people would recognize it as the paper cranes project, but the ‘Paper Project’ was more simple.)

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It was brilliant. Right away, we started collecting paper; LaFramboise gave us a bunch of colorful recycling paper, Tanaka gave us half sheets of paper, Suzane gave me a big stack of her old tests and homework she no longer needed. It was a long process— We calculated how much paper cranes we would need in each row and in total, how much strings we would need to hang all the paper cranes up, what part of the English hall we were going to put up—

We decided to put up all the paper cranes (around 1000 of them) in the English halls on Sunday. When we got to school in a Sunday afternoon, he was sitting on the couch in room 130 by the door. I’ve never seen him wear shorts—or sandals.

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Laying out the paper cranes we strung, staying up until 3am the night before 

It took us four to five hours; climb the ladder, put up the string of paper cranes, come back down, shift the ladder a feet forward, climb up, repeat. He helped us the whole time, either climbing the ladder himself or watching over us so we don’t injure ourselves. “Ever since I had a son, I’m very protective. Safety is the number one thing,” he would say.

The end result exceeded our expectations. People were walking under rows and rows of paper cranes during passing period and often, I would hear pretty sweet things about them. Our principal even tweeted about it and our school newspaper wanted to do an article about it— a simple project by a small group of high school students.

We started with nothing—ended with something. Creation is beautiful, I thought.

As much as I can go on and on about the paper cranes, that’s not it. As I sat during second period thinking about how much he helped us, how passionate he was even though it took up his precious Sunday, how much he cared about teaching, I realized something;  this whole year, I thought he was just incorporating art into his lessons just to make the class more fun, and there were no purpose. At unexpected times, things really kick in.

This guy was really passionate about teaching; a lot of things he made us do had a purpose.

He wasn’t just telling us to go follow our hearts and don’t listen to what your parents, authorities, society want us to do. He didn’t just tell us to give it all we have because you never know what you’re capable of  accomplishing. He didn’t tell us to study hard, get good grades, and go to a four-year college, because that’s not what life’s about. Instead, he showed us. This past year was his creation— his artwork that he created and revised over 20 years of teaching. And most of us were all oblivious— it took me a year to be able to take it all in.

I feel sweat. Lots of them. I can feel one going into my right eye. I move in. She flinches. I go for a sliding roundhouse kick. She slides back—BAM. Followed by a grunt. Last 10 seconds of round 1. One kick to the back of the head and a concussion.

I think passionate people, people who are hardcore and continue to find something more to simple things are really amazing. For me, my English Honors class of sophomore year wasn’t just any English class. It changed my view towards school, adults, and most importantly—

I experienced a transformation. It can happen when you least expect it, just like that concussion.

The last day of school came. Then summer. Then registration.

I got my schedule for junior year—classes and teachers.

3) AP Language  Theriault

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