To Paul Fiehler
From your Students
Luc Groshens, 1ère S3:
It was an honour to know Mr Fiehler, and a privilege to have him as a teacher. I had the chance to talk to him personally and to some extent intimately. He shared a piece of life with me, from his life in Korea, to his favorite hockey team: the Pittsburgh Penguins. That was the honour. He was also a caring and passionate teacher, always going out of his way to help us. That was the privilege.
Julie Vesval, 1ère L:
I most sincerely think that Mr Fiehler is one of those teachers I will never forget. Fun, creative and caring, he taught the one class I really loved going to just because I knew I wouldn’t ever get bored of it. He will be dearly missed.
Marguerite Metral, 1ère ES
I never had the chance to have Mr Fiehler as a teacher. As a student in FIS I walk by him in the corridors every day. He was a handsome and young teacher, he always had a smile on his face. Hence this tragedy was not predictable.
Anna de Courcy-Ireland, 1ère S
Dear "Plethora-of-Requirements-Burdened Students", Dear "Prolific Pupils", Dear "Potent Pupils"... Dear Passionate Mr Fiehler, your smile, your knowledge, and your care will be missed. Mr Fiehler, we will miss you, and forever cherish you.
Marie Chum, Terminale L
I had Mr Fiehler as a teacher for a year, and he was one of my favorites. After that, whenever I came across him in the halls, I would wave and say hi with the biggest smile, and he would answer with a sweet and slightly embarrassed manner. After a while, he began to wave first because he knew I would act like a puppy the moment I saw him. It made me so happy !
Elliot Subtil, Terminale ES
The only teacher on earth to find amazingly suitable and various names to qualify his Pupils. Mr. Fiehler wasn’t a great teacher at all, he was an amazing teacher with a kind personality and an open smile that invited his students to participate and progress in his classes. No man could teach “The Scarlet Letter” better than him. He will be more than missed for we have lost a precious member of our OIB family. My condolences to his family. Stay strong.
Logan de Raspide-Ross, Première S
The first time I met Mr. Fiehler was during my Brevet OIB Oral Exam. I’d come up with a problematique that read as follows “How is love presented in dystopian visions of the future?” I recall him looking eager as I told him my problematique, and his excitement over the topic was obviously abundant. Towards the end of my presentation, he was completing my sentences at the same time as I was. From his half shy, half wide and sincere smile, I could tell he’d enjoyed my presentation. We then talked for over 15 minutes about these dystopian concepts and books until he checked the time, and, alarmed, told me the next student was supposed to be passing. He then hurriedly finished the conversation by giving me a book he loved that he thought I should read. He smiled and told me it’d been a pleasure to meet me. That was 2 years ago.
Lucy Cotillon, Terminale ES
Mr Fiehler had one of those rare and kind faces that immediately filled you with a sense of reassurance and trust. He would never pass you in the corridor without sending a friendly smile or greeting your way. I had always noticed the tenderness in his optimistic, hopeful eyes, as if they searched for the best in you as you spoke to him. I now realise that they had also been tinted with a trace of sadness.
Mr Fiehler was always immaculately dressed, with that little grey rucksack he wore on both shoulders, and a water bottle in his hand. I imagine him walking through the corridors looking a bit lost and confused, as if he knew he was supposed to be somewhere but didn’t know where exactly. As curious and possibly intrusive students we had jokingly speculated at his private life - we imagined that he was in a relationship with a Russian model with high cheekbones called Svetlana, or that he went to see his personal trainer in Sheung Wan on Thursdays. As a class who’s crazy about our OIB teachers, we had always tried to find out as much as we could about them. But Mr Fiehler was always so discreet, so private, and he had almost become something of a mystery to us. I remember one time on a rooftop in Happy Valley some time last year, Zoe and I were peering at the people in their living rooms in the tall buildings that surrounded us. We watched them as they lived their personal, individual lives, unaware of the fact that they were being contemplated by two pairs of invasive eyes. We were the artful voyeurs. And we had imagined our teacher Paul Fiehler, watching television in his clean, orderly apartment on that Saturday night. I had thought that he had a perfect life, since I knew so little about it. I now realise that I could not have been more wrong.
I’m sorry for all the signs we missed. I’m sorry for misjudging you. I’m sorry for never thanking you for everything you had taught me. I hope you know how grateful I am.
You will be missed.
Rest in peace.
To His Pained Pupils
I know that this is a difficult time, but I wanted to write to you all after what has happened to our Patient Professor. I hope that this reaches out to you in the best way it possibly can.
In the midst of our complicated, confusing teenage years, we tend to be too wrapped up in our personal lives and the seemingly never-ending, time consuming happenings that fill it to take a step back and breathe. People, myself included, sometimes forget how fragile life really is and how it can be taken away from us in a second. I have realised that I sometimes take my own life and existence for granted - and I take the wonderful people in it for granted too.
The incredible occurrences of 13.8 billion years ago that have been hypothesised as the Big Bang and explain the cosmological creation of the universe, and the evolution of our own species for millions of years thereafter have ultimately led to your existence and mine, and whether there be a reason for this or if it is by virtue of pure coincidence is irrelevant in my opinion. We have been given this incredible gift that is life, and we need to cherish it. What makes the undeniable beauty of a sky bathed in the pink and orange rays of the setting sun, or the sight of a powerful lightning bolt hitting the sea in the vast darkness of the night is that these moments are rare and ephemeral. They remind us of the beauty of life and of the chance we have to be here.
Amidst the alarm clocks, the coffee breaks, the bus rides, the meaningless chatter, the torn pages of our textbooks, the untied shoelaces, the rumble of the air conditioning, and everything else, we must remember that our life is a little bit of a miracle, and we - each one of us - matter.
The incredible thing about Paul Fiehler was that he always had this constant and unwavering kindness towards us all, and he always saw the best in people. I cannot express how honoured I am to have had the chance to have known a man brave enough to walk into school every morning to teach and to share his passion for literature with us, all while secretly bearing the torture of his addiction. His unforgetful smile and the glimmer in his optimistic eyes will forever stay imprinted in my mind and I will try my very best to be as caring and thoughtful as he was, even with everything he was going through. Despite some of our differences, we are all human and have shared the same feelings of pain, loss, fear, sadness, and anger in this world. I implore you all to take this as an opportunity to learn that people go through difficult times that none of us can really understand, so please, just be kind to others, just like Mr Fiehler was kind to all of us. Let us not “measure out our lives in coffee spoons”, but make something of our underestimated strength as human beings and bring goodness to ourselves and the people around us.
The importance of kindness in our lives is immeasurable and the little acts of genuine tenderness and affection are what constantly restore my faith in human beings. Remind yourselves every day that we are all struggling - some of us more than others - and would all appreciate a little bit of help. Please don’t be afraid to reach out to people when you’re in need, you mean so much to so many people and it pains me to think that some people don’t even realise this. Mr Fiehler did not die in vain; we can take away from this devastating incident the realisation that we matter, and that nothing and no one should tell us otherwise. He would have wanted us to remember that.
I am such a Proud Pupil to have known Paul Fiehler. I hope that we can honour his life by living our own to the fullest and by reminding ourselves of the importance of kindness - it is one of the most beautiful things in this world and we must hold onto it as best we can.
Best, Mr Fiehler
“Dear Prodigious, Pertinent, Plethora-of-Requirements-Burdened Pupils”, this is how it would always start, the timely, organised, clear, succinct, step-by-step instructions of the work we were to complete before next class, that many of us blew off because Mr Fiehler was a stranger to laziness, to slacking off. Whether he completely trusted us in our completion of our work or whether he had decided a long time ago that it actually wasn’t his problem if we did it or not remains a mystery. He was reserved in the way he expressed thoughts or emotion (the peak of his outbursts having been a dry, and ever-so-professional “Grow up, Luc”). Yet despite his reserved ways he had something hidden in him, a glint in his eye, as if he couldn’t contain his excitement as he delved into Hawthorne, Baldwin, or T.S. Elliot. A shining smile, almost contrary to the timid personage, that would deem itself to be contagious when it hit you in the bustling corridors of school. Perhaps he had more in common with Prufrock than we thought. His love for literature has deemed itself to be inspiring, heartwarming, in the same way that his record patience and genuine kindness were remarkable. He touched students with generous smiles and profound commitment and consideration.
Travelling to Singapore with him allowed us to discover him under a new light of timid enthusiasm and excitement. For some unknown reason, he started distributing winks, which never failed to make us giddy with appreciation for him. Discovering Mr Fiehler in such a setting was surprisingly enlightening as we were exposed to him outside the classroom and I remember being so encouraged by his sincerity. He guarded a painful secret, but he remained honest in emotion, perhaps despite himself. Or perhaps that is what kept him looking so young, he was sincere, blunt sometimes, almost child-like and innocent in a way, but his natural disposition to project kindness made his sincerity touching, something to look up to.
A general feeling of regret has emerged from his students at the realisation that we spent too little time letting him know how warmly we felt towards him as a person, but I firmly believe that Mr Fiehler's discreet nature would have prioritised and encouraged constructive outcomes, that would allow us to learn and grow as individuals, rather than to wallow in regret. I find it more healing to focus on such thoughts.
I remember the first day we walked into class and as distinguished and collected as ever he nonchalantly spun words into the air like “caveat”. To this day I struggle to understand what that word even means. He had mastered sarcasm like I’d never seen before. Subtle and somehow refined, it took us a few months to grasp but was glorious when we did. He was selective with praise which made it that much more rewarding. He was considerate of our workload and, I realise, would work doubly in order to make sure we weren’t weighed down ourselves. He was understanding of struggle and found no interest in criticism or punishment. At no time did his condition interfere with his work or professionalism.
His immaculate outfits and intentional stride will be sorely missed, as well as his genuine ability to see the best in people. I realise that he taught us more as a person than as a teacher, and for that I am so grateful.
We think the
The Demons, they will come a ‘roving,
Soft at first, hard to see
They creep in slowly, like the timid knock on the
Or the humid breath, hovering onto the fibers of a mask
Some aren’t welcome to stay, some don’t want to intrude
But all have difficulty leaving the room.
Like the ardent ambers of a dying fire, they consume your innards
Leaving your soul raw and
Sensitive to the touch
Poignant, as they may be,
Light over darkness, or night over say
They are here to stay.
Whispers that give you chills
Your heart drums against the hollow of your chest.
But like an inside wound, seemingly unharmful,
The sigh that leaves your lips,
May finally be the last.
So do what you can, to keep them out,
Those strange creatures are experienced with fright
They are not welcome, make that clear,
And if you’d like to keep them out,
Let the light in
Hope is near.
You may see some cry, shriveled like dry prunes
Under the harsh, blinding light.
You may see some keep them in, not seeing the damage inside
For sadness cannot be measured by the quantity or weight of tears
A human emotion nonetheless, as we cry and whimper, scream and shout
Try to express the silence that now is inside the well of our stomachs
The black fabric that shrouds the people in darkness
Or for some, the radiant light
The importance of not forgetting
In the span of seconds, they are gone, removed from this life, removed from the vast space that is the Earth
It is as abundant as it strikes rarely, the Staff of the Messenger
Insignificant, thousands leaving but one stays on your mind
Guilt comes anew, like a cloud ready to burst with rain
But you must not let it consume you
The importance of grieving should be intertwined
With the celebration of living.