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That First Fall Day


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I sat staring out of our classroom’s four large, parallel, windows; their rich wood framing a stunning view of campus. The green lawns flourished, and the earthly colored leafs smoothly rippled by the windows in a gust of wind. In the distance, I could see teachers and students briskly walking in the dewy morning air.

“La da, la da, la de da”. Across the classroom, my professor, Mr. Oberwetter, was slicing banana bread. The potent scent of bananas was leisurely wafting through the room propelled by the slowly revolving ceiling fans. I momentarily considered abandoning my work, as my taste buds tingled in excitement; instead I returned to my assignment, gently setting my pen back into motion. Mr. Oberwetter had long been known for his peculiar personality.
Yet, undisturbed, I went on writing my in-class essay, as he turned on Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing”, and danced about the room.

“La da, la da, la de da” he hummed rhythmically as his shoes smoothly gliding across the floor – the same floors they had been gliding across for some thirty-five years. It was on that first fall day that I realized Mr. Oberwetter, was officially, crazy. But I was young. It would be a long time before I would ever truly understand the importance of Mr. Oberwetter, the floors his weathered leather shoes glided across, and the long nights I would spend slaving away at his homework.

Mr. Oberwetter was a passionate writer, a poetic reader, an excellent teacher, a blatant eccentric, and a hippie. But in order to truly understand Mr. Oberwetter, you need to understand Mr. Oberwetter’s workload. He assigned at least eight books a year, rich in mythological Greek history, multiple essays per week, ungodly in-class essays, pop quizzes, monstrous tests, various projects and all kinds of other torturous assignments. His classroom could at all times second as a debate team. He constantly had circles formed, students debating, conversing, arguing, reading newspapers, discussing topics, acting out plays, watching news clips, presenting current events, and reading aloud speeches as well as books, papers, poems, songs, and articles. Each day I spent at least an hour and half within the strangely decorated classroom, equipped with several life-size cut outs of Star Wars characters, posters of motivational quotes, peace signs, tattered old band posters, and various historical maps; and each day I left with a new piece of knowledge, something to laugh about, and a long list of assignments to be completed.

Little did I know that what had begun as simple autumn afternoon, would soon change my life, and my relationship with writing forever. The previous night, I had written an essay for Mr. Oberwetter. It was a simple of account of an event that changed me as an individual. I wrote an incredibly moving piece about the death of my good friend and coach, Scott. At that point in my life, I had never spoken to anyone about his death, let alone put my feelings in writing. When it was finally my turn to present, I was timid and unprepared.

“MacKenzie. . . MacKenzie it’s your turn to share” Mr. Oberwetter exclaimed. Dragging my feet as I went, I made my way to the front of the class. I reached the podium and paused, taking one last breath, in minute attempt to disappear. But as my lungs filled and emptied, I found myself still standing in my Freshman Humanities classroom, and still embracing the stare of each of my classmates. My heart beating rapidly, sweat forming at my brow, and tears threatening to leap from my eyes, I slowly began, my lip in a slight tremble. I remember wondering if people in the front row, could see my hands shake as I turned the page. Carefully chosen words rolled off my moist lips, as I finally shared my feelings of pain, of sorrow, and of confusion that I had for so long tucked away. When I had finished, I felt a deep pressure lift from my chest, and the heavy guilt I carried slip away, as a single tear rolled down my cheek. With that speech, I finally expressed myself; I finally found a way to be heard. Writing became more than an assignment, but a way to tell a story, express my feelings, cope with an experience, and captivate an audience.


Despite my stirring incident, like all freshmen, I eventually grew to resent Mr. Oberwetter. But no matter how many times I called home to complain of him, or I turned in assignments stained in tears, or stayed up all night to meet dead lines, constantly exhausting myself to satisfy his requirements, I always knew I would eventually appreciate him. Everything I have amounted to I attribute to that first fall day. The day I set aside my fears, and forged a relationship with writing that will never fade. For that I thank the greatest teacher I ever had – the wonderful, wacky, work-you-till-you-faint, Mr. Oberwetter.




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This article has 3 comments. Post your own!

MacKenzie D. said...
Apr. 13, 2009 at 12:51 pm:
You're an inspiration! Rumor has it, Mr. Oberwetter is taking up tap dancing. Oh, to tap through life teaching children as he goes--it doesn't get any better than that!
 
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thebikeguy said...
Dec. 24, 2008 at 3:49 pm:
Although we teachers enjoy our day-to-day and year-to-year existence in the classroom, we live in part on our hope for the future -- that something registers, that something will eventually make sense, that something might mean something in a student's life. MacKenzie, you always could write and think and learn. It was just a matter of doing all that and discovering the value for yourself. Thank you. But hippie? Oh, the pain!
 
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luv2write44 said...
Nov. 14, 2008 at 1:49 am:
Wonderful story! I love the vision I get when I see this man through your writing. The last sentence summed it up perfectly! Keep up the great work.
 
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