It is finally time to announce the winners of The Monthly PAW: February 2021!
I know I'm waaay too late but then again it didn't feel like anyone missed it so it should be fine.
Photography - Healthy Food
Winner: sweetjacky and WeebyWitch (10 paws)
2nd Place: Christina Choi (9 paws)
3rd Place Amaya (8 paws)
Art - Year of the Ox
Winner: sweetjacky (13 paws)
2nd Place: riofriz and MegaHobbit (8 paws)
3rd Place: Christina Choi (4 paws)
Writing - Meet a character you love
Winner: negatibuhige (22 paws)
Great Teacher Sugawara
I realized that I was being called, and quickly tried to stand up while yelling "hai" but what came out of my mouth was "hiiiinngg". My classmates burst out laughing around me. I slowly slid back into my chair and tried to make myself as small as possible. Sensei was obviously trying not to laugh. I'm glad it was Sugawara-sensei. Anyone else might have already started scolding me for not paying attention to homeroom.
"Hmmm.. Should I mark you present, or absent?" Sensei made a show of pondering the issue as if the fate of the world depended on it.
"Mark him absent, sensei!" Kazu yelled from the front desk.
"No!" Kyoko, the class monitor, said. "He is present!"
Sensei swung his pen towards Kyoko. "The class monitor has spoken. Takeda is present. Now, next is Aizawa." Sensei continued the roll call.
I stared at my knees. This has been happening for the past 4 years, ever since I started elementary school. Every time the day of the exam results came close, I became so nervous, I couldn't concentrate on anything. I clearly remember marking one of the math answers wrong. Who knew how many other mistakes there were in every other test. How would I tell mom and dad?
And so, I kept messing up in the classes as well. I was too busy calculating how much score I might lose if I made 5 mistakes in the math test, and Mirai-sensei bonked me on the head with the fat English textbook. In social science class, I remembered that I mistook one of the dates in history exam. By the time lunch break came, I was seeing stars in the daytime. I took my bentou and shuffled off downstairs to the quietest part of the school. The backyard behind the teacher's room. No students went there because they couldn't be loud there.
I slumped down with my bentou under a tree and started counting my marks again. Mom kept telling me that I didn't have to worry about my results too much but I know how happy they feel when I bring home perfect scores. I should do my best in exams to make them smile. That's the only thing I could do, after all. There was no other way I could be a good kid. I couldn't talk nicely like big brother or make wonderful art that mom would put up on the wall happily. Studying was the only thing I was good at. There was no way I would-
"What are you doing over there?"
I gasped and turned. Sugawara-sensei was peeking from the window of the staff room, munching on a nikuman. My hands shook and I stuttered. Would sensei scold me for being there? Would he call home and tell mom and dad that I was being a bad boy? Dad would be so disappointed...
Then I realized sensei was no longer at the window. Was he already making the call? I jumped up, closing the lid of my bentou box, ready to make a run for it. Just then, sensei reappeared, not at the window but outside, in front of me.
Sensei sat down, smiled at me, and said, "What happened?"
Sugawara-sensei's gentle voice somehow made me feel that he hadn't called my parents about my bad behavior. So maybe I was safe. Mom says that when in trouble, I should always speak the truth. That way, I could save myself. So I did just that. I told him what was bothering me. Sensei listened quietly, never looking away from me. When I finished, he sighed.
"Aaaaah, stress, is it?"
"Nee, Kouji-kun- ah, is it okay if I call you that?" Sensei asked.
"Ok, so, Kouji-kun, what do you like to do?"
What I liked to do? "Umm... finish my homework before going to bed?" After all, I couldn't sleep well if I kept worrying about having to do it in the morning.
"No, no," sensei shook his head, "other than studying. What do you enjoy doing?"
"What is your hobby?"
"Oh," this I understood. "Reading books. My dad has looooots of books at home. I try to read them."
"Really?" Sensei looked happy. "What kind of books do you read?"
"I've read books on history, some books on oriental animals, there was a collection of essays on contemporary evolution of linguistics-"
"Eh? You read them?" Sensei looked shocked. "You like reading them?"
Oh no. He was talking about liking things again. How could I like anything when I couldn't do anything well?
Sensei waited a while. Maybe he wanted an answer. I did not know the correct answer. I was getting a zero for sure...
"Okay, got it." Sensei stood up abruptly. "You just need some venting. Wait here."
I stayed there as instructed. Sensei went away running, then he came back running, but this time he had a ball in his hand. A ball with yellow and blue stripes. A volleyball.
"A healthy boy your age should play lots to get rid of all that stress." He announced. "So let's try this."
Volleyball? I looked at him, dumbfounded. What kind of teacher told students to play around at lunchtime? And didn't only PE teachers know how to play?
Sensei must have known what I was thinking, because he said, "You know, I enjoyed playing volleyball a lot when I was little. I was a setter in my school clubs. My high school team even went to the nationals! Have you heard of Karasuno High School? No? Eeeeeh?"
Uwaaaah! Sensei was a sportsman? Didn't teachers only study and tell others to study?
Sensei held the ball with both hands, threw it in the air and hit it with his right arm while it was falling down. It hit the nearby wall and bounced back. Sensei got his arms together and caught the ball with his arms and then grabbed it. He was so cool!
"I just did a spike and a receive." Sensei looked at me. "You wanna try?"
Could I? "I...I'm not ... good.... at sports..." I looked down at my shoes.
"You don't have to be good. You can do things even if you're not good at them." Sensei crouched down in front of me. "There are lots of things you can try to divert your attention, to simply enjoy yourself. Volleyball can be fun too. Do you wanna try? If you don't like it, we can try something else."
I didn't really understand what was going on. But I nodded. And then sensei smiled widely at me. Was he smiling because of me? Was I being good?
"Okay, so look here. This is how you ..." Sensei went on explaining how to hold a ball, how to push it up and then hit it.
I couldn't do it.
Then he explained again. And again. And again. I got it the tenth time. Sensei jumped in joy, as if he were small like me. Then he showed me how to do this thing called "receive". I couldn't do it well at all. But he kept sending the ball my way. And it sort of became something like a game of catch. Sensei encouraged me whenever I couldn't get the ball. And he smiled every time I could.
Then the bell rang. Sensei ruffled my hair and said, "How was it?"
"Awesome!" The word staggered out of my mouth before I could think anything about it.
Sensei looked really happy. "Do you want to try this tomorrow too?"
And so, lunchbreak the next day became a little game time that I found myself looking forward to.
Like this, the week came to an end and it was the day of the results. But I suddenly realized that I wasn't so anxious. I was only thinking about volleyball- how I could make the ball hit right in the middle of my arms to catch it...erm... receive it nicely. Whenever I could do that, sensei smiled and said "Nice receive!"
The results came out. I missed the first place in the 4th grade again only because of my low grades in PE. But I wasn't panicking like the other time.
"Kouji-kun," Sugawara-sensei was standing by the door at the end of the class as we were heading out. "Congratulations!" He flashed me a thumbs up.
I think I smiled as well.
Congratulations to all the winners! For the people who didn't win anything, I'm still happy you participated and wish you better luck next time :
It is time to hand out the flairs and I will also transfer the VCCash directly to your vaults so it won't get stolen. The names of the participants have been added to all the submissions in the voting thread for those who are interested.