Sunday, February 28, 2010

My Greatest Teacher

A little while back I joined Facebook. I did so for the same reason that millions of other people signed up for an account. I wanted to try and get in touch with long lost friends from high school, from my Navy days, and to find friends I had made and carelessly lost track of as I uprooted my family multiple times by moving them all across our country while following a career.

Well, today I noticed that one of my old high school acquaintances with which I am befriended on Facebook had sent a message to a teacher of mine that I had way back in junior high school. This teacher was someone that I have thought about from time to time over the decades since I last saw him. He was someone that truly inspired me and helped change my life for the better.

I know that is supposedly what all teacher are theoretically supposed to do, but few seldom seem to measure up to that goal. Truthfully, I cannot even remember most of my high school teachers' names, let alone my junior high teachers'. But this man was different in many ways.
Ironically he taught a class that many people would consider fun but not necessarily life-changing. He taught drama class.

I don't even really recall how I ended up in drama class in my 7th grade year. I was painfully shy and while I was a good student, this class was going to be difficult for me. I had just lost my father after a long fight with cancer, and if anything I was becoming more withdrawn and closing into my protective shell.

Then came "the class". I don't recall all of the particular assignments but I do remember the process as taught by this fantastic teacher was to build confidence in acting through the process of becoming in touch with your own emotions and then being secure enough in your person to be able to draw upon those emotions as required for whatever part you were currently playing.

This teacher began to draw me out of my sorrow, out of my shell that first year. Much to my surprise, I signed up for his other drama courses the next year and then the next. As I grew in my self confidence and inner strength, Benson came to me and suggested that I actually try out for the school play. It was entitled "Up the Down Staircase" and to my horror and happiness, Benson cast me in a lead part as a young rebellious trouble making kid that basically was good inside.

The part was fun because the character was so different than the good kid I was at the time. I did well, and went out for future plays. Each part I played, I got a little bit better, a little bit less self-conscious, a little bit more confident in myself.

It even got to the point where I became an assistant to Benson for one of his beginning classes when I was a freshman. The class was small so he cast me as the fairy godmother in a version of Cinderella that the kids were doing in class. I was horrified at first, then decided to have fun with it. It was hard to believe in those three years how far I had come from the painfully shy and withdrawn kid I was.

Fast forward thirty years, and I look at the ease with which I can now communicate with others with my career, within my church, ... within my life! I have no qualms getting up and giving a talk to a group of people whom I do not know. I have that confidence in myself now, and when looking back where that came from, it is easy to point to the teacher of my junior high drama classes.

Its hard to believe that as an engineer, when I look back at my junior high schooling I find that indeed the most important life-altering class I took was taught by this inspirational man that had the wherewithal to either see some potential within me or perhaps just thought that he could possibly help some sad frightened boy discover the tools within to become a much more confident man someday.

Although I have not seen or spoken to Benson in so many decades, I have always considered the man one of the best teachers I ever had and more importantly a friend. I anxiously await his "confirming" my Facebook friendship request so that I can thank him for being the kind of person that he was, and evidently still is judging by his own blog, so many years ago.

I do not know, but I suspect that God knew the misery I was falling deeper into with my withdrawing from people. I further suspect He somehow steered me to that first drama class. He knew that a TEACHER and a good man was there to guide me at that point. My thanks to God and to Benson for that!


Annie said...

Beautiful, heartfelt post :)

Cynicbritt said...

I remember you telling me stories about this man. I'm glad you were able to find him again. That was very beautifully written.

Benson Medina said...

Mike, thank you so much for the wonderful tribute on your blog. It was so sincere and heartfelt that it brought tears to my eyes. I have seen so many times in my life, that when I was ready to be taught, God sent a "teacher" to me to give me the lessons I needed to go on. I've been fortunate to be the "teacher" in some cases, but I'm always humbled at the fact that I'm the one who gets the greatest lesson/benefit. I love your blog and the way you convey the ideas you so strongly believe. Good luck Mike and I hope our paths will cross again. Aloha, Benson

T. Paine said...

My sincere and heartfelt thanks to you, Benson, and I indeed hope our paths do cross again, Benson!

By the way folks, I would strongly suggest checking out the wisdom and wit of this wonderful man in his blog entitled "any moment". See the link at my "blogs about life" toolbar.