Destinations Magazine

All It Takes is One

By Jugglingtam

I had a teaching moment today. For my Environment class, I offered an extra credit assignment: join me after school for a Makuhari beach clean-up. The assignment was to go along with our current unit, disposable waste. It was only fitting to something of the sort, especially after visiting that sorry excuse of a beach a few weeks back… a beach rampant with stray cats, heaps of orphaned trash, and suspiciously preserved dead fish. The day the assignment was originally scheduled was cancelled due to rain, though 8 students had been ready to go. After another vote, the big event was rescheduled for today: a sunny Monday.

Much to my dismay, yet jaded cynicism, one student showed up. A small, serious-looking student who had remained one of the nameless students I had yet to place. She is quite possibly my shyest student in the class, and I was pretty sure she had secretly hated me… perhaps due to my pro-shark rallying for all I knew. We waited 10 minutes for any stragglers to show but nary a student did. Sigh. I wasn’t about to go down to the beach with one student, and I secretly envisioned the big pot of curry simmering on my stove for an early dinner. So I called the cancel, and she denied it. The girl wanted to go. There are moments when you just gotta roll with the educational punches, and this was one of them. So we went.

Three hours later I was back in my apartment after planning to be back two hours earlier. Tangents my friend, tangents. The walk there took 25 minutes. The walk back, loaded with 20 pounds of garbage strapped to each of our backs, took 30. We had scoured the beach for an hour, pulling up plastic bags, firework casings, bottle caps, and abandoned sandals. It was disgusting… and we had only semi-cleared 1/100 of that tiny beach (I’d like to think that that little patch of heaven is a bit happier). My student could have gone along with my veto. She could have ended early. She could have caught her train on the walk back as we had passed it with our loot. She could have peaced out as soon as we got back to school. But instead, she insisted we meticulously weed through the garbage and separate it into plastics, paper, cans, nonburnable, and burnable, like a good Japanese couple. The whole time, we talked. I found out why she is so quiet (she just transfered to our school). I found out about her work ethic… the commute 2.5 hours each way to school and her late night hours working part-time to save for travel. And I found out about her love for the environment. That she went abroad last year on an eco-tourism trip, that she has a voracious appetite for all issues environmental, and that my class is the only class where she feels like she has a voice.

I have to roll in tomorrow to my Environment class and face the other 28 students who didn’t come. But that’s okay. I am so grateful for the chance to have spent an evening with one person who feels so passionate about something, that they’ll sit on the dirty concrete, picking through sandy trash, backs aching, sweating profusely, with an equally passionate teacher


All it takes is one

All it takes is one

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