Ten Lessons Taught by My High School Drama Coach

Drama coachTwo days ago, a dear high school friend sent a Facebook private message. “I ran across this tonight,” the message said.

“This” was an obituary for Roger Hallum, our high school speech and drama coach. According to the obituary Mr. Hallum–who will always be Mr. Hallum and never Roger to me–died on July 1, 2009.

He’s been gone five years and we, the students he touched in profound ways, never knew. We never had a chance to say thank you. We never had a chance to tell him how he shaped and bolstered the confidence of a bunch of squirrely teens as he tapped into our talents.

So five years late, this top ten list says thank you for the lessons he taught so well more than 4 decades ago.

10.  Never judge a book by its cover. None of us believed a dumpy man who wore his sandy hair shaggy and unkempt, whose teeth that never saw braces, and who wore saggy plaid suit jackets and polyester pants could motivate high schoolers to spend months of each year rehearsing and performing in plays and speech contests.

9.  When your director says, “Jump,” you say, “How high?”

8.  Good writing isn’t enough to make a good speech. Neither is good delivery. But good writing + good delivery = magic.

7.  Never, ever start smoking. Because trying to quit is hell and requires copious amounts of Live Savers candies.

6.  Teenagers, given a vision of what they can do if they work far harder than they believe they can and tasked with far more responsibility than school administrators believe is wise, can accomplish tasks beyond what most adults think they can do.

5.  Timing is everything.

4.  An army jeep, a goat, and 30 tie-dyed bedsheets sewn into kimonos, make for an exciting, unexpected, and visually pleasing rendition of Tea House of the August Moon.

3.  Character parts are much more fun to play than romantic leads.

2.  A pregnant pause speaks louder than words.

1. One unassuming person…one dumpy, shaggy-haired man with crooked teeth, saggy plaid suit jackets and polyester trousers…who says “You can do this because you have talent,” can change the course of an insecure teenager’s life.

In memory of Mr. Roger Hallum, Feb. 8, 1939–July 1, 2009. Your former students are still jumping, higher than they ever thought they could.

8 thoughts on “Ten Lessons Taught by My High School Drama Coach

  1. So nice to remember my father and hear about the positive influence he was in your life. Teaching was his great love.

  2. Randy,
    His love showed, and all these years later he is still impacting our lives. You can be very proud of him, as I’m sure you are.

  3. Love this so much. You are speaking about my dad and even though I knew him decades later than you did, you have perfectly captured the witty, optimistic, demanding and endearing man I knew. I was with him in his last days and he spoke so fondly of his time as a teacher. Truly, you made as much of an impact on him as he did on you. Much love.

  4. Oh, Kourtney, you are making me cry. I called him once about 20 years ago to thank him for what he poured into me and so many other students. He sounded just the same…but a little embarrassed to receive the praise. Just like he ordered us never to call him on stage during the curtain call after a show. Writing this post was an opportunity to give him the standing ovation he so richly deserved. I feel very rich indeed to have connected with you and your brother.

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