It was near the end my first year of high school. I get a note: Marc Helgesen, report to Principal Stephens’ office. Actually, Mr. Stephens was the assistant principal. Those of you who know American schools know “assistant principal” means the person in charge of discipline.
Many years ago, I was playing music in a small Irish pub called The Shamrock, in Shinjuku. It was a rather strange structure with a wall going right down the middle of the room, dividing it into a bar and a lounge area. The stage where I sat and played was the only place in the room where it was possible to see both sides of The Shamrock.
I was starting to warm to my subject as I scanned the sea of student faces before me, when I was suddenly arrested at the sight of Jun-ichi. Jun-ichi was my most enthusiastic student.
“Thank you so much for your interest in us and your respect for all.”
Of all the sweet, heartfelt messages my students had written me on our final day of class together, this one, written by Lila and her phone translation app, really took my breath away.
There was this boy in France, whose paternal upbringing was so crushing and humiliating that by his early teens he had lost every ounce of self-esteem and self-respect. He was ceaselessly reminded of his incapacity, stupidity, and no-goodness for anything.
They’d cheated again. Can you believe it? Homework was just a simple written exercise to reinforce a conversation lesson, and yet, most of the class had cheated. Again.
I was doing graduate work in my academic field when a certain fact stopped me cold in my tracks.