PARTS OF SPEECH- Teacher’s encouragement was powerful

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. -Henry Adams

Once upon a time, long, long ago in the ’80s, my English teacher asked me to stop by his room after school. I wasn’t particularly concerned since I liked the teacher, his class and my passing grade. He would assign family history essays and original short stories – for credit!

(Yes, I did consider that a good thing.)

I suspect he asked for original stories to get a laugh from our lack of creativity as much as to encourage us to uncover some creativity. Regardless of his motives, I was happy to give a little extra time to any male teacher who dressed up like a convincing woman substitute.

But that’s another story, entirely.

This time he wanted me to swap my grammar textbooks for a script and try out for the school musical. For some 16-year-olds, his suggestion would have been inconsequential. But for an introverted sophomore, it was unexpected.

He said I was right for the lead. I said he was crazy. But even crazier, by the time I walked out of his room, I believed him. Along with introverted, I was just gullible enough to consider it. He thought I should do it and that was good enough for me.

Everyone has defining moments in life that change us. Events that burn even the most minor details onto our memories-the music that was playing, who was standing next to us, or the color of our shirt. Like turning the dial on a combination lock, you slide across the right notch and it just fits. You can almost hear a “click” and know that you’re in the right place doing the right thing at that time.

That random afternoon was of those moments. I thought it was important then because he kept me after school. I know it was important now because I can still remember the light coming through the group of rectangular windows.

Stepping way out of my comfort zone, I got the part. I had never been a “drama” kid, hadn’t intentionally shown any interest in being one, and definitely wasn’t accustomed to singing in front of an audience. (Unless you consider a carload of friends cruising back roads an audience.)

Through three performances, I sang “Summer Nights” as a brunette Sandy next to our blonde Danny Zuko in a very questionable rendition of “Grease.”

I even (gulp) wore the black spandex and leather jacket. I seem to remember a video recorder and can only pray the tape has been lost or better yet, smashed really hard, then burned.

I want to remember that experience for what it did as opposed to what it was, because trust me, it was awful. But the point is that I had a teacher who convinced me to try. It was never going to lead to a career on Broadway, or even off-off-off-way-off Broadway, but it did lead to a few more high school plays and an open mind.

Like the good ones do, this teacher made a difference. Some people don’t think twice about jumping in and trying new things. But there are just as many who don’t realize they have that option.

Luckily we find people who give us a push. Or rather, they find us. Our clicks are there too-it’s just a matter of listening for them.

My teacher taught me that.

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