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My worst nightmare

Rick Ryckeley's picture

Think of the one thing you fear the most. Now think of what you’d do if your greatest fear were about to come true. Would you meet the challenge head on or simply pull the covers over your head and hide, hoping it would pass you by? This will be my world in less than a month.
So what has me wanting to cower behind the keyboard? No, Down the Street Bully Brad hasn’t been sighted lurking around our fair town. At least, I don’t think he has. And The Boy isn’t in trouble.

What I’m afraid of, oddly enough, are retired teachers — about 125 of them to be exact.
Yours truly has been asked to speak to a group of educators. Okay, stop laughing. This is an entire room full of teachers and — retired or not — some were, are, and forever will be, English teachers.
For 45 minutes I’m supposed to talk to them about writing and the art of storytelling. Yep, this is one story that may not have a happy ending. But I won’t go down without a fight. Thanks to some teachers from long ago, and advice from The Wife, I have a plan that just might help me survive the encounter.

First to help me out: Mr. Hood, my tenth-grade political science teacher at Briarwood High School, home of the Mighty Buccaneers. He taught us how to assemble a résumé and stressed that any qualifications we cite should indeed be factual.
I looked up the words “writer” and “storyteller” and found them to mean “one who writes” and “one who tells stories.” Since I write and tell stories all the time, guess I’ll check out.

Next up: My eleventh-grade English teacher, Mrs. Newsome. For an entire year she taught us the rules of the English language. By the end of the year with the final grade on my report card, it was official. I was a rule-breaker.
Guess if I couldn’t follow the rules of English back then, I don’t have to next month while giving my speech.

Molding us into men for three hours after school was Coach Reeves, head coach for the Mighty Buccaneers. In the locker room before any big game, he’d say, “Remember, men, you don’t have to wait until fourth down to punt the ball.”
How that advice will help me while standing in front of 125 former teachers I really don’t have a clue. But I’m bringing a football, just in case.

Someone who never tired of telling us what to do was Old Mrs. Crabtree, my third-grade teacher at Mt. Olive Elementary School. There wasn’t a week that went by she didn’t tell someone, “If you bring something to class, make sure you have enough for everyone or don’t bring anything at all.”
Thank you, Mrs. Crabtree. Because of you, I’ll bring gifts to my speech — a box of red pens for all those English teachers, just for old time’s sake.

Finally, as always, the best advice came from The Wife. She told me just to be myself. That advice should be fairly easy to follow. I’m myself most every day.
[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, served as a firefighter for more than two decades and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His books are available at]

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