Inhale. Saw, Drill, Hammer. Exhale.
So, as many of you know, I disappeared for the first semester of junior year. I went on a trip with a group of Canadian students and teachers to take classes and earn credits while traveling. It was nothing like regular high school and I feared that coming back to Terra Linda to sit in classrooms would (figuratively and literally) be the death of me. On the first day of school after winter break, the wave of anxiety and fear that washed over me was nauseating. I was freaking out, thinking about having to sit in a desk for 95 minutes, blinds closed, filling in worksheets. By the time I got to Ms. Oropallo’s class at the end of the day, a separate building off of campus, my nerves were still on edge and my motivation dwindling. But her class welcomed me with busyness and activity, where our bottoms are in our seats for as little time as possible each period. It was the anxiety relief my uneasy mind needed, a place where the POINT was to be active, to be moving and to be focused, but in a different way than in a traditional classroom. Immediately, on that first day, my spirits were lifted, my mind sharpened and my excitement sparked. I didn’t have the intro spoon project or the chance to make a toolbox, so on that first day in class I learned in a few minutes how to use the chop saw, a power drill and a variety of other tools. It was empowering to see my classmates and friends already so comfortable in that room. I saw how much they had grown and developed into more confident and alert individuals.
Being able to use power tools, to laugh with my team mates over our mistakes and to have the trust of my teacher gave me the strength to struggle through the first few weeks back. And I think this class does the same for many of my classmates, it’s a place where we can shed the stress of academics and fully immerse ourselves in construction. Very few words can describe the happiness and relief I feel in Ms. Oropallo’s class, it’s the 95 minutes every other day that seem to say “you can do it!”. Her class reminds me to stay present, to stay accounted for and to pay attention to my surroundings. Around me are spinning blades and dangerous tools that snap me to my senses. We aren’t babied, in fact it’s quite the opposite. The stability of our projects (both physically and emotionally) is our responsibility. It is up to us to make decisions and act like adults when we are struggling.
I am being honest when I say that engineering is the highlight of my week, it is a source of joy and inspiration well beyond my other classes. Working with Michaela, Rene and Devon to build our chicken coop is a hilarious adventure, we are very rarely not laughing or smiling. On Friday we reached the stage in our construction where we assembled our chicken run and attached our coop on top of that. The sense of achievement from that event is unlike that of any other school project I have worked on. Before our eyes, our labor and hours of measuring and cutting (and re-cutting) had turned into a real coop, with four walls paneled in rustic pallet wood. This feeling of accomplishment is coupled with the ability to quantify our transformation as people. In a matter of weeks, we had grown to be skilled enough to drill walls together in minutes, handle nail guns and grinders, and the chop saw had become our best friend. As we learn, we mature into independent, fearless individuals. And in today’s world, that is exactly what a girls should be. I never thought that the remedy to my anxious heart, suffocated by the four walls of an institution, would be the active class where constructing my own four walls is a breath of fresh air.