Every once in a while I will hear from one of my former students and happily, most of the comments are about how much they enjoyed my class. My best guess is that the comedian was infused in my teaching style and I always thought that learning should be fun.
The truth is the performer within me continually beckoned to me all during those teaching years. My first year of teaching was spent at Menomonie Junior High School (my home town, So (Welcome Back, your dreams were your ticket out ..)
I worked for Ed Phelan - an Irishman as full of Blarney as I am. In addition to being a hell of a principal, Ed could tell jokes, one after the other, for at least an hour. He, did, in fact, establish himself as a much sought after dinner speaker, which he continued to excel in after retirement.
Somehow for my sixth hour class they had assembled every delinquent, miscreant, in that class year and plopped them down (when I could get them to sit) in my class room.
How bad was it?
Once a week Ed would stop by to see how I was doing. It was probably the noise that attracted him. He'd say: "you surviving these delinquents? What you should do is get yourself a big stick of piss elm ..."
Instead I dealt with the worst of my students with "the sweat box".
Ed really was a mentor to me and once he called me aside and said: "I think you are a great performer and that you should not let that opportunity slip away like I did."
Then that next summer I auditioned for the Wagon Wheel Playhouse in Warsaw, Indiana and was accepted for roles. Trouble was, the shows ran through Labor Day and my teaching contract required me to be back in Menomonie - so I went to my superintendent, Bill Terrill, and asked to be excused from inservice.
As I expected, that got a resounding NO!
So I sent in my resignation papers and took my chances.
To those of my students who have contacted me, thanks, and bless you!
There, I said it.