You Never Know The Impact
Before I left Facebook, one of my former students, who I had not seen or spoken to (other than through social media) in probably 15 years was having some issues that I could tell through his posts were causing him distress. I was genuinely worried about him, as his posts concerned me.
I sent him a comment expressing my concern and asking if everything was okay or if he needed to talk. He sent me a private message back asking me if my leaving Facebook meant I would be inaccessible through Messenger, and I told him no, that I could still be contacted through Facebook messenger. He was pleased by that and thanked me for reaching out to see how he was doing.
He asked me if I might give him a call some time or if he could call me just because sometimes it was good for him to hear another person's voice. I told him that would be fine.
In January, he sent me a text asking me if I was available. I was, but when I called him, he didn't answer. I tried calling him again and left messages of support both times. He later sent me a text saying he was sorry he had missed my calls and we chatted by text.
It was clear he's been going through a tough time.
Two nights ago, he sent me a text asking if I was available. I was and immediately called him. We talked for nearly 40 minutes—well, he mostly talked and I mostly listened. We had a good chat, I feel.
I won't go into his issues here, of course, but he's going through some pretty difficult stuff right now. I think most of all he just needs a listening ear and someone who cares enough to listen.
I had asked him to let me know if he wanted advice or if he just wanted me to listen to him vent. I got the impression he just wanted to talk out his feelings, so I just listened, offering words of encouragement or advice only when I felt it appropriate.
He said some very complimentary things about how I had been one of his favorite teachers and mentioned something I vaguely remember saying to him all those years ago that left a lasting and positive impression on him. He was genuinely appreciative that I had taken the time to listen to him.
I genuinely care about him and what he is going through. I want nothing more than his happiness, and I was glad I could be a listening ear and a support to him as he goes through these trials. He's coming here in a couple of months, and we set a time to meet for lunch.
I tell you all of this because it reminds me that we never really realize the impact we may have on someone. I remember him as a student, better than I remember others, unfortunately—I wish I remembered all my students as well—and he left a positive impression on me. But I, of course, did not necessarily recognize how much of an impact I had had on him.
I am reminded of the time Isaias happened to become acquainted in another setting with another former student of mine. He did not know I had taught her, and she did not know he and I were married. When the connection was made, she told him how much of an impact I had made on her when she was taking my class. She was going through some very terrible things that I was only vaguely aware of at the time, and my acting class was something that really helped her with both her self-esteem and the issues she was going through in a way that I never comprehended at the time. It meant a lot to me that I had had that kind of impact.
In my conversation with my former student the other night, I told him that as a teacher, I always tried to be kind, affirming, and attempted to teach in such a way that built my students up. I have had the misfortune of seeing teachers or directors use harsh criticism or debase or demean their students or actors in order to teach them acting skills or get them to give a better performance. That has never been my style.
Certainly constructive criticism is necessary for improvement, and if anything, I am probably kind to a fault when it comes to criticism, but I am not of the school that it's necessary to break someone down or abuse them to teach them.
I remember writing in my old blog about a very famous acting coach who came to my grad school to do a workshop. He's very successful, renowned, and has worked on some very high-profile projects with top-tier celebrities, but I found his methods and attitude reprehensible and irresponsible. To each his own, I guess, but that's just not the way I want to work.
Anyway, I really try to be a source of light to people rather than a source of darkness and toxicity. I'm glad that I've had a positive effect on people. I hope I always continue to do so.
I don't know what lies in the future for my former student, but I'm grateful he looked to me as a source of support and comfort. I hope I helped, and I hope he gets through his current challenges unscathed.