Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Single Snowball....

One...single...snowball...once thrown can never be taken back.  The impact of this single snowball, like the pebble tossed into a pond, will resonate outward.  The groundwork has been laid but the changes it will bring are nothing short of miraculous or are they?  This first novel by Rob Buyea speaks volumes on the difference one person can make; how one candle may light a thousand or in the case of Because of Mr. Terupt at least seven.

Month by month during a fifth grade year readers are introduced to seven students, Peter, the rabble-rouser, Jessica, the new girl at school, Luke, the braineac, Alexia, whose meanness makes students afraid not to like her, Jeffrey, who thinks school sucks, Danielle, a prayerful, farm girl a little on the heavy side, and Anna, who wishes to trust but is careful to be nearly invisible.  In their own chapters each of these students speaks to their interaction with one another but most of all how their first year teacher, Mr. Terupt, conducts his classroom.

 Peter puts him to the test immediately by misusing his bathroom privileges.

How cool was Mr. Terupt?  His reaction was better than being yelled at like the old farts would have done.  Some kids in my class would have cried, but not me.  And somehow, I think Mr. Terupt knew I wouldn't.  It was his way of letting me know he knew what was going on without making a huge stink about it.  I liked that about Mr. Terupt.  He sure could be funny.  And I'm a funny guy.  This year, for the first time in my life, I started thinking school could be fun.

Jessica was so nervous that first day of school but---I looked down at my book, A Wrinkle in Time.  I rubbed my hand over the cover.  "I really like happy endings," I said.  "Me too," Mr. Terupt said.  "I'll do my best to give you a happy ending this year."

For Luke each educational adventure presented to the class was a gift from Mr. Terupt beginning with his dollar word math exercise.  But when Luke concocts a mixture for the plant project that causes the whole school to empty this is what Luke concludes.

I wish Mr. Terupt hadn't trusted us so much.  Maybe it was because he was a first-year teacher and didn't know better.  But I don't think that was it.  I think it was a case of Mr. Terupt being a special teacher. 

After that incident when the fire marshall is walking through the hall seeking to place the blame for them being called for the false alarm, he challenges their teacher for hanging posters on the walls.  But Jeffrey overhears and...He wasn't gonna get pushed around.  Our hard work mattered to Terupt--even mine.  I owed him now.  I had to try, even if only a little.

From the beginning Anna knew her year was going to be unlike any previous year.  Mr. Terupt turned out to be different.  He noticed me on the first day.  It didn't matter that I wasn't raising my hand...He wasn't going to let me hide all year.  This made me nervous, but it turned out to be a good thing in the end.

Mr. Terupt finally chats with Alexia out in the hall about her behavior with other students. Her final thought at that time after this conversation is I hate you, Mr. Terupt. 

Danielle has always had a hard time making friends with the right people until Mr. Terupt came along.  One of his ideas, Class Meeting, is her favorite.  I really like these meetings.  The first time we had one, Mr. Terupt told us that it was a way for everyone to have a voice.  I didn't get it at first, but now I do.

When February rolls around these young adults earn a free day by making a chain from the ceiling to the floor, one link for each perfect day.  Despite the school rule about playing in the snow the principal grants them an afternoon doing just that if they are all dressed properly and of course, no snowballs.  Readers will sense the tension building chapter by chapter.  What some will call an accident was fated to happen.

From that day to the end all hangs in a delicate balance waiting for each individual character to make the correct choice due to the impact of Mr. Terupt.  This influence is his uncanny ability to see inside these seven students finding what is good and true and bringing it to the surface.

For six years author Rob Buyea taught third and fourth grade students before moving to Massachusetts where he now teaches biology and coaches wrestling at Northfield Mount Hermon School.  Clearly he knows the minds of children as individuals and collectively as students in a classroom.  This knowledge is seen through the melding of each separate character via their outspoken dialogue, deepest personal thoughts, and glimpses into their pasts.

His grasp of how their home life can be reflected in their school life is truly gifted.   These abilities mirrored in his writing are what make this story worthy of discussion and rereading.  Because of Mr. Terupt is a book that needs to be and should be read by all teachers, parents and students.  Readers will conclude, as I have, that the changes, while worthy in and of themselves, are not the miracle.  Mr. Terupt is the miracle.  Grade A+, Mr. Buyea.  100% all the way!

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