One of the pluses of my trip to Ft.Walton Beach recently was that I got to spend lunch with my former drama teacher Jo Yeager (seen here with her husband Marvin). Which my birthday reflections put me in mind of because her classes made me a big part of who I am today.
At the time I took my first class from Jo, in 11th grade (oral communications—I took two or three more classes senior year) I was very, very, very, very shy and kind of repressed. Emotionally withdrawn. Not shy about performing or speaking public—I did my first school play when I was 11—but around people.
Jo’s classes were tailor-made for me. The nature of the work made them freewheeling and fun compared to, say, math or chemistry (though my math teacher, Mrs. Almond, was also awesome). There were lots of chance to work with other students, collaborate, practice, joke around and just talk. Which is not to say we didn’t work or that Jo didn’t exercise control—the classes weren’t anarchy. But they were, by the standards of the time, pretty unconventional. I was talking and joking with people and finding it surprisingly easy.
And performing and public speaking are things that I’m good at. Which meant I had people applauding me and laughing when I did something funny, and that was cool too. And because of Jo’s training, I got better at it.
And there were school plays and forensic (public speaking, not police science) competitions, which gave me someplace to go and be outside of school that I enjoyed (prior efforts to find something had been unsuccessful). Part of the credit goes to my classmates who were really an awesome lot.
Being in Jo’s classes was my first step into a wider emotional, personal world. It took a lot more steps, but that first leap took me a long way.