By Hannah Tarr
Photo by Shelby Pennington
On the first day of school last year, Patrick Jump taught my class how to make paper airplanes.
Now, as he nears his last day of teaching, I realize that he has taught me so much more.
That hot July day, he gave the 25 of us two sheets of printer paper. “We’re going to make paper airplanes today!” he said. We all laughed at this silly distraction until he shouted, “YOU HAVE 10 SECONDS!” We screamed in panic.
Our tossed together planes were disasters, fluttering to the ground upon takeoff. Jump asked us to reflect upon our process.
“I don’t know how to make a paper airplane,” I muttered.
“Yeah, and there wasn’t enough time to make one!” someone else pointed out.
“Those are both the points exactly,” said Jump. He opened on the projector a simple diagram of instructions for making a paper airplane. “This time, you’ll have a minute,” he said, and we calmly began. These aircraft glided with grace, slicing through the air for yards before making a soft landing. We were all proud of our accomplishments.
Next came the teachable moment, in typical Jump fashion. He held up a mangled mess in one hand, and aerodynamic art in the other.
“Which is better?” he asked, and the class agreed upon the latter.
“But which is easier to make? Which would you make if you were under pressure?” Shamefully, we pointed at the first airplane. “Right, but this one is useless. You have to go back and make this one again. If you build a number two airplane in the first place, you’ll save time, effort, resources….”
He threw the airplane, and we watched as it soared. “Build number two airplanes. Problem solve number two airplanes. Try your best to do everything you do right the first time.”
I took that to heart. To this day, when I encounter any task or challenge, I ask myself, “What is the number two airplane approach to this?” This quick check has made my life easier, just as Jump said it would.
I am a totally different person than I was when I first joined tech, or even than who I was last year, and I have no doubt that that is in part due to the efforts of Jump. At the beginning of freshman year, I was shy and reserved. I never thought I would be able to be a leader, or even want to. I silently made it through the first nine weeks.
Until fall break, when I brought my friend to a work session for 42nd Street. She had never built anything before. Jump challenged me to teach her how to keep pace with me. He set us to building 20-foot-long flats.
I taught her as best as I could by showing her each step in the process of building a flat as we approached it. Through hard work, we completed all of our flats that day. More importantly, we had a great time. My friend found she loved building, and I found I loved being a leader. Without the gentle nudge from Jump that day to independently be a leader, I might never have found the confidence I needed to gradually become a leader in the program.
As I worked towards becoming a leader, Jump patiently challenged and assisted me to become the best that I could be. When I make a mistake, there is rarely punishment. Instead, Jump guides me to find ways to fix it, or teaches me how to do better in the future. He understands that the work that FC Theatre does is all educational, so the focus needs to be on education, not the final product. Finally, after messing up and learning from my mistakes and then messing up again, I finally understand this, too. I have learned from Jump to let mistakes go. I have learned to aim for betterment everyday rather than immediate perfection.
On the Thespian Leadership Retreat every year, Jump leads the lecture and discussion on leading by example, which is appropriate because he greatly embodies one of the lessons he teaches: “What we do is more important than what we say.” No matter how much Jump preaches any of his many morals, it is how he acts that sticks with me. I am slowly catching onto lessons that he could never teach in a classroom, and becoming a better technician by mirroring how he acts when faced with challenges. I have also learned from Jump lessons applicable to everyday life. When I see him react to a situation new to me, I unconsciously internalize it, and it’s there to call up next time I panic and ask myself, “What would Jump do?” To call him a role model feels cheesy, but that is what it is called when you think acting more like another person will bring you success in life. I honestly believe I am a better person because of what I have been able to learn from him.
I have learned about myself, too. He has opened my eyes to my many skills and weaknesses. He’s helped me realize my worth.
And Jump has been a great guy to know. He is a friend as much as a teacher.
In the spring of my freshman year, my mom was late picking me up from a matinee of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Everyone else had gone home, so I was sitting outside of the theatre hall when Jump locked the door and headed to his car. I thought he was going to leave. I checked my phone, sadly. Suddenly, a frisbee hit me in the face.
I looked up in shock. Jump was doubled over in laughter. I scrambled to my feet and chucked the disc back in his direction, but missed entirely.
“Do you know how to throw a frisbee?!” he teased.
I shook my head in shame.
So he taught me. He showed me how to put my index finger on the rim of the disc, how all of the motion was in the flick of the wrist, and all of the aim was in the follow through of your hand. To throw a frisbee was a methodical process, just like building a flat.
I found I was terrible at frisbee. I apologized, but Jump was sympathetic.
“You’ll get better. You have three more years to go!” he promised.
As it turns out, I did not have three more years to learn frisbee from Jump. He announced over fall break this year that he will not be teaching here anymore. Starting in January, the theatre will have a new technical director. There is change coming. But I am confident that because of what Jump has taught me, and the person I have become because of him, I will be able to make it in this new world.
And in the future, as I grow up and leave for college and ultimately a career, the lessons I have learned from my time working with Jump will undoubtedly assist me in the lifelong journey to become a better person.