Two 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.