Thursday, September 9, 2010

School Memories

My pre-college school experiences were generally quite good, but a couple that stand out are those that made me feel the worst at the time!

First, I couldn’t recall the correct vocabulary word on a French test in junior high and made one up. My teacher, with whom I later made friends when we both ushered at high school football games, made fun of my made-up word when he gave the next vocabulary test. He didn’t mention me by name, but I knew who he was talking about. I was extremely shy back then, and felt mortified. So mortified that I started studying harder, intending to show him I was not the kind of student he should made fun of. I began getting much better grades after that. I wonder now which of us showed whom...

That shyness, though, was the reason for my other most bittersweet memory. I took Advanced English in high school, and as I was about to graduate my senior class teacher called me into her room and told me I would never succeed in college or in life. After all, I never participated in class. Why didn’t I? Because I was so afraid I’d say the wrong thing and embarrass myself even more.

Did I do all right in college? Yes, although I admit my grades could have been better. I improved in law school, even making law review. But I also tried not to volunteer answers in law classes since my shyness was still controlling--and the classroom experiences I remember best were those in which I did embarrass myself. I had no choice about participating in moot court, and that was, I admit, a disaster. However, it led to my joining Toastmasters. That was the first step in getting more comfortable in front of crowds.

Even more helpful was getting published and realizing that it isn’t all about writing. Promoting one’s work is important, too--and that involves public speaking.

Now, I give talks in front of groups all the time. In fact, I’m giving one this Saturday at the Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America.

I’ll also dare to suggest here that I haven’t been a total failure in life. So there, Advanced English teacher!!

Going along with my fellow Killer Hobbyists this week, I’ll hold a contest. My “hobby” is pets, not handiwork, so I’ll provide the winner with a copy of HOWL DEADLY, the eighth Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mystery that introduces the protagonist of my new spin-off series, Pet Rescuer Lauren Vancouver. Just comment here briefly about your most distressing or embarrassing thing from your school days and how you overcame it. If people dare to enter, I’ll randomly pick a winner and let you know who it is!

Postscript and winner: I appreciate everyone's responses! I let my dogs choose the winner after writing down everyone's names. Drum roll, please... And the winner is N.L. Gassert! Nadja, if you'll e-mail me at lindaojohnston@rocketmail.com with your address, I'll send your copy of HOWL DEADLY.

18 comments:

Bookwoman said...

I too was extremely shy and just terrified about getting up in front of people and talking (now I'm an elementary school librarian and spend my days talking in front of kids and teachers all day long). But back in high school in order to combat my shyness (because I thought I was going to go to law school and be the next female Perry Mason) I forced myself into all sorts of situations designed to get me over my fear of public speaking. I joined the debate team. I was so nervous and talked so fast it was hard for the other team to refute what I said because it wasn't clear what I said. I joined the drama club (I even won a few awards), but you know what it's many years later and I still get a sick feeling in my stomach when I have to stand up and talk in front of a group of adults (kids are not problem), but throw in anyone over the age of 16 and I'm a mess.

Norma Huss said...

One terminally embarrassing incident was, while going up the stairs to my second floor classroom, I told the girl next to me how much I hated my teacher and what I hoped happened to her, which was something about the way she should die. (Mystery writer-third grade?) Then I looked up and saw her standing above me on the landing. Evidently the stairway was so cluttered with other noisy third graders she didn't hear me (or chose not to?).

What did I do about it? Quaked in my shoes. Waited for the axe to fall. Or maybe, that's why I can't remember any other such foot-in-the-mouth moments as I grew up.

Dru said...

I'm an introvert but it was worse growing up. I was so shy, I kept my head in books and was called names such as geek girl, nerd, and variations of my name.

I had a similar experience as you Linda. When I went to college, my shyness continued and I remember my professor saying my grades would be higher (I was an A/B student) if I would only speak in class. I told the professors, my grades speak for me.

NL Gassert said...

I had not one but two important teachers tell me I’d never amount to much and, worse, my dream of becoming a writer was nothing but a young girl having her head in the clouds. I changed schools eventually, graduated second in my class and went on to be the first member of my family to go to college and graduate school (in a foreign country no less). I did well for myself, but I never forgot those two teachers who thought writing was a waste of time and a sure sign of me not having a handle on reality. Pft.

Nadja

Linda O. Johnston said...

I loved to act and play the role of someone else on stage in high school, Bookwoman. I just couldn't be myself!

Linda O. Johnston said...

I can just imagine how you felt when you first noticed your teacher standing there, Norma. I'm shuddering at the thought!

Linda O. Johnston said...

Isn't it fun being able to tell them how wrong they were, Nadja--if only in your mind?

By the way, thanks to all of you who've posted something so far. I'm delighted and surprised! You're all entered in my contest. There's room for more entries, too, so don't be shy--although that's kind of the point of some of this, isn't it?

Camille Minichino said...

"Quiet and studious" reads my high school yearbook entry! (In other words no one wanted to have lunch with me!)

If only high schoolers could realize what changes will take place over the course of their lives.

Thanks for reminding us, Linda.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Dru, I definitely identify with your story. Glad you were able to stand up to your professors.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Oh, dear, Camille. It's even worse when other kids don't know how to treat you. Isn't it nice to be older and wiser?

Ann H. said...

I also was shy as a child and it continued throughout my college years. I remember in my freshman english class - We had to pick a topic to write our term paper on. I chose Rasputin and Russian History which I adored. To my surprise (horror), my english professor tells me that he, too, has a major in Russian History. Lucky me. Well, the day came when we had to present a 4 minute (seemed like an eternity) presentation to the class about our topic. When it was over, our classmates could ask questions. I guess I was proud of myself for making it through my presentation (my facts had to be extremely accurate since my professor was sitting there and knew everything there was to know about history) - but when it was over, I was the only presenter who gets one of the students AND the professor asking me questions about my topic! I'll just never forget that. I made it - and received an A- for the paper/presentation. That may have started helping me come out of my shell a bit. I'm just glad I didn't pass out:)

Betty Hechtman said...

Although I feel like I'm terminally shy, I took an improv comedy class at a community college extension program.

It was fun and scary to get up in front of the group and do an improv bit. I did like getting laughs.

Julie said...

Omg, moot court! I have the distinction of being the only person I know of who ever had to sit down mid-argument because she was about to faint. There's embarrassing, and then there's embarrassing that leaves your partner in a terrible spot, too. Later found out I had undiagnosed, but severe, anemia. I was the talk of the law school over that one!

Monica Ferris said...

I had to give a presentation in high school that was a report on the city's juvenile detention center. I don't remember how it came about that a group of us took a field trip to the center, but we were all shocked at the conditions in the old, shabby building. I managed to do it despite the weak knees and dry mouth, but I don't remember anyone praising the presentation. I was satisfied not to faint.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Great job, Ann! That's quite a triumphant memory to treasure.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Wow, Betty. Improv comedy? That sounds even harder than giving a speech.

Linda O. Johnston said...

My moot court experience was terrifying, Julie, but yours was obviously worse!

Linda O. Johnston said...

A report on a juvenile detention center while you were still a juvenile must have made the experience even harder, Monica. I'd imagine you decided not to do anything to land you there... although speaking and writing about it are a different story!