Saturday, February 12, 2011


I was a student of Chong Wei Lin (Charles Lin) at the Chinese Culture Center and Lin's Martial Arts Academy for over twelve years. During that time, I learned to push my body and mind over and over again, relentlessly, far beyond what I ever thought was possible. I learned that the supposed ancient "secrets" contained in the Chinese martial arts system really exist. I am thankful to Mr. Lin for pushing me as hard as he did and passing on to me that call for excellence through hard work in every endeavor. However, I was not quite prepared for the harsh and cruel world of middle school.

I am beginning to believe that after teaching seventh grade math at a middle school, I am now truly, formidably tough. I am now ready for anything. It will be a grueling year, and most people could not last that long. It takes a thick and tough skin. I thought my skin was thick and tough before, but I have been toughened by the best......... seventh grade math students. After dealing with them for half a year and realizing that I am going to make it and am succeeding, I am now one tough dude.

My skin is now so thick and tough it can be blow torched. Welders can now weld my arms together without it burning. I stare at hypodermic needles while they are being shoved into my body and I laugh.

I can be mocked by professional mockers and not shed a tear. I can have Don Rickles ridicule me in front of a world wide audience and laugh along with everyone. Snicker behind my back? That's so ineffective it's humorous.

I can handle verbal and psychological abuse while keeping a smile on my face. I can laugh while being disdained and keep a straight face while a babe-in-the-woods pre-teen mocks me. I can discover cruel notes about me being secretly passed from one person in the room to another and not even raise an eyebrow. I can look Evil in the eye and give it a lunch detention.

I can eat's tasty! I can eat toasters for breakfast and iron skillets for supper. I can discover the Grim Reaper standing on the hood of my car in fast, rush hour traffic and just yank the wheel hoping to shake him off while turning up the car stereo.

I can dismantle human time bombs, warm cold shoulders and ignore frozen ones. I can keep my mouth shut when one word could destroy some one's buoyant spirits, and I can open my mouth and make some one's day. I can dodge tripping feet, trip up liars, and trip the Light Fantastic.

I could mop the floor with a cruel child or simply make them know that I disapprove, and I always choose the latter. I could destroy a child's reputation and spirit or try to lift them up on wings, and I always choose the latter. I can teach a child with their mind shut, I can make them hear when they don't want to listen, and I can teach them to say what's in their heart with no words.

I can go home each day with my head held high and a jaunty step despite all the depression, anxiety, fear, loneliness, and anger around me.

I am a middle school teacher. I can be knocked on my back by a virus and unable to work, rushed to a hospital by a car crash, and killed by too many cancer cells, but I can enjoy a day with kids that would wreck some people's spirits for an unreasonably long time.

Tough skin looks soft and old. Outside I look like glass. Inside I am iron.

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