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One of My Favorite Lessons From School

Do you remember your favorite teacher?

I do.

His name is Mr. SoupJoy (name changed for privacy) and he taught Biology at my high school.

Mr. SoupJoy was a strange man.

At first glance, he looked like a walrus wearing glasses. Mr. SoupJoy never bothered to remember nor use anyone's name. He simply called every student "ugly". To be fair, we were allowed to call him "ugly" as well. Senior year, I knew I'd graduated into a deeper connection with him because he started calling me "wannabe".

I wore that badge proudly.

On the first day of class, Mr. SoupJoy proclaimed his two rules in the classroom:

No Eating. No Putting On Makeup.

I still remember the specific moments those rules were tested by some of my classmates.

For the starving soul who was caught sneaking cheese Doritos during a lecture, Mr. SoupJoy quietly walked behind the student. He then hopped onto the counter and danced a mad jig ON the bag of chips, gleefully shouting "NO EATING IN MY ROOM!".

Another day, Mr. SoupJoy caught a young sophomore who was calmly putting blush on her face while gazing into a compact. Mr. SoupJoy interrupted his lesson, pointed at the unwitting student and snarled "COME UGLY! STAY UGLY!". She must have turned 15 shades of red in her embarrassment. She never did put on makeup in his class again.

But his most memorable moment came when Mr. SoupJoy walked into class carrying an ordinary cardboard box.

He calmly walked to the front of the room and set the box on top of the lab desk, whistling quietly to himself.

My classmates and I grew restless since he had not said a word in the last two minutes after he'd entered the room. Catcalls began spreading throughout the room: "Hey SoupJoy, what's in the box?"

In response, Mr. SoupJoy pulled out a yellow tennis ball from the box and juggled it for several seconds in one hand, still whistling.

Then he threw the tennis ball, full speed, towards someone's head in the back corner.

Before any of us could respond, Mr. SoupJoy had grabbed more tennis balls and threw them at other students in the room.

A melee ensued, with 30 angry students throwing tennis balls at one Mr. Soupjoy. We broke beakers, tore posters off the walls and knocked his glasses off his face. There must have been over 100 balls in the box.

Mr. SoupJoy eventually (had to) ran out of the room since we were pelting him mercilessly. He would return waving a white flag and begged us to calm down.

"SoupJoy, have you lost your mind?! Why did you do this?!"

Naturally, we were invigorated by the unexpected physical play but we were also unbelievably curious why he would do such a thing.

Mr. SoupJoy explained: "Ok, there's actually a lesson behind this. Do you guys remember when the tennis balls were inside the cardboard box, packed in tightly next to each other?"

We nodded in unison.

"Do you see where they all are now? Scattered all over the room, separated with so much space between them? That's called DIFFUSION, the movement of particles from areas of high concentration to low concentration".

I was floored.

At that exact moment, I knew that I would never forget this lesson. I also knew that I found myself in the presence of what some might call an endangered species: an amazing teacher.

I still tell this story whenever I need to make a point about the magic of teaching and how teachers can make permanent impressions on their students.

Mr. SoupJoy, wherever you may be, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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