Thursday, March 13, 2008
by Elodia Strain
I don’t know exactly when it happened, but sometime around age 12 or 13 I developed an extreme fear of speaking in front of people. In school I would avoid reading aloud in class by feigning a sore throat, pretending I needed to use the bathroom, or simply shaking my head and shooting my teacher a silent please-take-pity-on-me look. Usually they got it.
Until I had Miss Scheele for Freshman English.
The first time she called on me to read a passage aloud and listened to my shaky, panicky voice and saw my red, down-turned face, I thought she’d never call on me again. But after that, she called on me to read aloud nearly every day. I still remember some of my classmates chiding me, calling me “teacher’s pet.” I would just look at them and think, “She doesn’t like me. She hates me. She’s torturing me for some twisted reason!”
But after a few weeks of torture, I noticed something: Reading aloud was beginning to be less awful. My fear was slowly melting away.
When I was in college, I somehow tracked down Miss Scheele’s phone number and called to thank her. I got her answering machine and was pleased to find that my voice wasn’t shaky at all as I left a message, telling her what an impact she had had on me.
Fast forward a few years: I was at home writing when I received a phone call from a mother who had read my book and had shared it with her daughter who suffers from cerebral palsy. The woman expressed her very kind opinion of the book and asked if I would be willing to speak to a group of women in her town on the subject of talents. My answer was a big fat, “I’d love to!”
As I stood up there and addressed this amazing group, I have to admit my voice was shaky for the first few minutes. But after that, I spoke fairly easily and even managed to make a bit of sense! I am so immensely grateful to have had that experience.
And as I drove home, tears of gratitude falling down my cheeks, I couldn’t help but think, “Thanks again, Miss Scheele.”