"I motion that, because everyone is half asleep, the entire class must spin around in a circle and scream AwhoopSHHH ahhh!"' This motion not only woke up the dormant members of my debate class, but it caught the eye of my debate teacher. He paused for a moment, not knowing quite how to respond, and simply said, "Is there a second for that motion?" The motion was seconded and then passed. The entire class, including my teacher, stood up, spun in a circle, and shouted, "WhoopSHHH ahhh!" The class was now certainly wide awake, but wondering why I hadn't gotten in trouble for being so bold. The answer is simple. There is a fine distinction between someone who disrupts while others are in the process of learning, and someone who disrupts while they are in the destruction of that process. Some people say I'm a nonconformist to traditional classroom etiquette. Some say I am bold enough to make class interesting for them. Some say I am uninhibited. But if being bold is a crime, then no teacher would ever have taught, no artist ever been discovered, no leader ever lead, and no student ever learned. I enjoy learning, and the second I stop having fun is the second I become an everyday, unmotivated member of the class.
In my freshman year, I asked my immature self-righteous self, "Why am I in school?" The first thing that crept into my permeable, adolescent mind was that I attended school because the repressive authority figures (whom I felt were infringing on my rights) put me there. I concluded that teachers served only to imprint evil ideas into the minds of youth, consequently sucking every inkling of creativity from our brains. I thought it was a cleverly concealed, numerical system based on the number five. In literature class I learned about five paragraph essays, and in gym I was forced to run five laps a day. In math class, however, I discovered my idea was erroneous because I learned that five plus five is not five, but ten. Other justifications for the existence of school flashed through my mind. I thought of an alien plot to convert teenagers to doing their bidding, and tobacco industries' schemes to lure children into buying their products. Nothing fit. I decided just to go along with it until I could make it make sense.
One day it finally hit me. We were studying Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in my freshman honors writing class. I had always thought of the tragedy as a story about two youths who happen to fall in an immature, self-destructive love. Each of us was assigned to groups to reenact a scene from the play, and I jokingly asked to play the nurse. How the kids responded intrigued me. The fact that they thought I, a guy, couldn't play the nurse sparked a wick, and I decided I was going to be the best nurse ever to explode on the stage of the freshmen honors writing class. That fateful week, I imprinted the lines of the supportive, motherly nurse in my head: they seemed to permeate my mind as easily as my prior anti-school sentiment. On the day of the performance, I walked onto the stage, dressed in my grandmother's authentic Italian ensemble, and poured my heart and soul into the scene. The look of awe on my peers' faces was all I needed to realize what school meant to me. School was now a place where I could explore unknown realms of my mind and uncover new ideas about the world and my peers. Perhaps this realization had never manifested itself before because I had never been bold enough to uncover it.
I decided that to feed my newly found hunger for learning, I needed to take the initiative and not shy away from being bold. I began raising my hand higher and higher in class discussions; I was at the point where I no longer felt obligated to participate, but did because I wanted to. I made certain teachers knew me by my first name by the end of the hour of the first day of school. In oral communication, I chose unpopular speech topics like "The Flat Tax" and made them interesting through the use of improvisational characters for my introductions and sincere evaluations of the topic. In British Literature class, I opted to write a song for a creative project on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Recently, I wrote a satire on women's equality in which men were forced to dress up like ribs, patterned after Adam's rib from the Garden of Eden to get in touch with their feminine side. What better way to get in touch with one's feminine side, I thought, than to be the actual object from which women sprang? Through these creative devices, I made class interesting and fun not only for me, but also for my peers and teachers.
In short, I've discovered that learning is not just something teenagers are forced to experience. Rather, learning is a means by which kids grow and eventually become leaders. What distinguishing qualities do I have to contribute to my peers? The answer is simple: I'm a bold, creative, uninhibited, non-conforming, motivated actor, musician, writer, determined that each of his teachers knows his name by the end of the first day of school; whose name will consequently be reinforced each day through his bold behavior; and who happens to look great in his grandmother's authentic Italian ensemble. -
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.