Today’s lesson is on perception.
“You say your homework is done,” Teacher threads around the seats of student desks collecting his most recent homework assignment. He glances at each paper before placing it in the stack in his hands. “But some of these seem incomplete.”
When he’s done collecting, he steps back up to his desk and straightens the stack of papers on the corner. He flips through them in the silence of a class full of students who think they did the homework correctly.
“I am disappointed in some of you guys,” he says, never lifting his eyes from the papers.
I thought my work was stellar, and Hope let me see her homework. It was amazing. What was he looking for? This thing was tough! At first, I thought it would be easy, then I remembered the color that made me miss my true love — the indigo of his eyes. It all went downhill after that.
Irreverent Student seems just as irritated. He raises his hand but doesn’t wait to be called.
“I don’t get it, sir. What did ya want? I followed your directions to a T. What the hell did you expect?”
Teacher nods slowly as Irreverent continues his gripe.
“I mean, really, it was hard to get a negative for Orange, but I got it finally. I finally remembered the Caution tape around dangerous construction zones and how danger could mean untimely death. I get that this assignment was meant to have us stretch our perceptions, but I don’t get why you’re not happy.”
Teacher sits on the edge of the desk, shuffling limber legs over and around impatiently before finally dropping down onto the top step.
“Do you agree, Writer?”
I fumble for an answer.
Irreverent jumps in before I can answer. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be disrespectful, sir, but we’re fucking 3D beings, remember? Heavy. Isn’t that what you called it?”
“Um, we tried our best, sir,” I say, trying to soothe frazzled nerves.
Teacher focuses on what Irreverent had said. “Why do you think I’m not happy?”
His pointed question makes me mute for a couple of seconds until, “Because, sir, you haven’t smiled. You haven’t said Well-Done.” And, to tell the truth, I can’t even tell what he’s wearing today. It’s like something is blocking my vision.
“Why do you need my approval?”
What kind of a question is that from teacher to student?
“We’re only students, sir. We need proof that we’re heading in the right direction. We’re still learning.”
He shakes his head, running a hand through his fluffy hair before straightening the deep purple bandanna wrapped around his forehead. Suddenly I see what he’s wearing: a dark blue, Avenged Sevenfold band T-shirt, black skinny jeans, and metal, rocker wristbands.
“No, you’re re-learning. You knew all of this before.”
Oh, yeah. That argument.
“Why do you need my approval? Why do you need my autograph with a big, dopey happy face and blood-tinged A, man?” He makes rocker fists and walks away from me.
He’s walking away from me? Hell no!
I run up behind him and tug hard on his arm. “Because we’re human and we need approval,“ I shriek. My voice, aching with the pain brought on by his dark mood, cracks. But I have to hold my own.
“That’s exactly your problem,” he says, his voice just a little more gentle than before. Maybe my reaction shocked him back to being the Teacher we know and love.
He shuffles through the pages again. “You’ve all done a remarkable job on Steps 1 and 2, the color identifications, but Step 3 was a massive fail.”
“But there was nothing to write for Step 3,” Hope’s soft voice enters the conversation.
“Exactly. How could I gauge your comprehension but by your reactions?” Teacher says. “Why did you need physical proof if you knew you were right? Your perception of your own advancement in these lessons is crucial. You will not be successful if you have no faith in your own abilities to conquer these lessons. Your self-judgments will damn you. You will never succeed if you don’t accept that you have actually re-learned.”
He walks back to me and helps me onto his stool. “I’m sorry, Writer, for using you for this lesson.” He walks away, gently tracking his fingers down my arm for support before turning toward the rest of the class. “Come out of the darkness. You’re armed with all the knowledge you’ll need.”
“But it’s so tough.” I say, my voice barely above a whisper. “Being a student sucks.”
Our eyes lock and it’s as if he’s only talking to me.
“There’s someone looking out for you. I’m here to help guide you through this 3D darkness.” He pauses, his eyes dropping slightly. “What do I need to do to prove it to you? You gotta trust. I can’t do anything if you won’t just let go of the crap that weighs you down.”
He comes back to my side, kneeling so close that I can see the gold streaks in the hair near his temple.
“Writer, please tell your classmates what you know.”
At first, I have no clue what he’s talking about. Then something clicks. “Everything we want already exists,” I say, remembering a recent tutoring session I had with Teacher. “Only our own beliefs hold us back.”
“Your own perception, dear students. What holds you back is your own perception.”
But no matter how much I understand his lessons, I still have moments. Like today.
“Why, sir,” I say. “Why do we doubt? Why do we perceive things so harshly even when you assure us that we’re right?”
And then, suddenly and for the first time all class, he smiles.
“Because you’re human. You said it best, this shit sucks.” He skips up the steps to his stage. “You’re flying blind down here.”
When he turns to us, his eyes are glassy and empty. He places small, John Lennon sunglasses over them. In his hand he holds a black cane that he clicks around in front of him before moving forward.
“I don’t blame you. In fact, most of my buddies bet me that you guys weren’t ready. I lost a bunch on this experiment, I gotta tell ya. But it’s not your fault.”
Well, that’s good to know. Because, really, he had been bumming me out big time!
“Let’s try something.” He snaps his fingers. The glasses disappear and his eyes return to normal. He calls a few of us onstage: Hope, Irreverent Student, Clever Clyde, and, of course, me. He points to the stool in the middle of the classroom, “That’s Home.” Then he blindfolds us and gives us each a cane.
He skips away. I know this because his voice disappears as he says “Make it back Home on your own.”
The stage becomes an arena of bumps and grunts as we try to follow his order. Canes click against canes and tap on the tile of the stage. Bump. Excuse me. Crash — something falls off Teacher’s desk.
Then Teacher calls out: “Follow the sound of my voice without doubt.”
I focus on his voice as he calls to us because he’s never let me down before. I stop briefly to better orient myself while my classmates continue fumbling.
This doesn’t make sense, I think as I step toward him, I should have fallen off the stage by now, but I continue heading toward him. Gingerly, I tap my cane before stepping toward the unknown, expecting each step to trip me and send me tumbling but knowing I trust him.
“Stop.” Teacher calls. “Now remove your blindfold.”
When I look, I’m a good five feet from the stage where my classmates stand, mouth agape. I’m on a bridge that wasn’t there before. As for the stool that was Home? It’s at my fingertips.
“My lessons are a bridge for you,” He explains. “Trust. Live. Breathe and Believe. I will not let you fall. You are my students, my beloved family.”
A ghost of a memory slips across his face before disappearing. “When you doubt yourselves, you are losing faith in the lessons you have learned with me. You have lost faith in me. Believe. The lie that says you are not able to remember is simply that, A Lie. It is the crutch you use to keep you from fully accepting this new reality.
“Sometimes you just have to trust that you have learned something with me.”
The Dragonfly’s Student