Epic Teacher Fails #5 Never Say No Too Early

A long time ago, in a northern state far, far away….

An extremely confident young man enters an audition on the south side of Chicago. He has just moved to the windy city to pursue his dream of becoming an actor. His first professional audition does not land him the part but a phone call.  A call that would alter the course of his life and the lives of the 786+children that have sat in his classroom. What follows next is dialogue from that fateful phone call:

(Scene: Interior studio apartment. A phone rings.)

RedPen: Hello.

GoodWitch: Hello, yes, I am needing to speak with Red Pen.

RedPen: Speaking.

Goodwitch: Mr. Pen, I am so excited to talk to you. I was one of the casting directors you auditioned for on Thursday. Glenda. Glenda Goodwitch.

RedPen: Was this the scene I read where I was the Gay Tuba?

Goodwitch: What? No, we saw you for the production of”Pretentious Chicago Bullshit.”

RedPen: Oh, okay. How are you? Sorry, I had three auditions that day.

Goodwitch: No trouble. I would like to let you know that we have already cast that show. However, I really liked your audition! I am also working with a colleague in Los Angeles who is casting for a television pilot. And I sent him your audition footage. He would like to meet you and wants you to read for a reoccuring roll every second or third episode.

RedPen: Can you tell me more about what the show is?

Goodwitch: It’s about a group of young people living in Orange County, California and their adventures in life. They are calling it, “The O.C.”

RedPen: (Eye roll) Sounds a lot like 90210.

Goodwitch: It may sound that way but he would really like you to come and audition. He literally called me on the phone and said he wanted to see you.

RedPen: When would you need me to fly out?

Goodwitch: The day after tomorrow.

RedPen: Will they be paying for the ticket? I just moved to Chicago and am in between jobs. I cannot afford a plane ticket right now.

Goodwitch: No, that is not something they can do. But he REALLY wants you come and read for this roll. Have you had any film or television training?

RedPen: No, I have not.

Goodwitch: No…I see, not a problem. Red, he REALLY wants to see you for this part.

RedPen: Look, if I can’t get the flight paid for, then I can’t really go now can I? Listen, I appreciate it, but it doesn’t sound like something I would be interested in. Beverly Hills 90210 is over and it sounds way to similar too to that.

Goodwitch: Red, I would ask you to reconsider. This is an amazing opportunity for you. He specifically asked for your information.

RedPen: I understand that but I cannot afford the flight right now, especially for just a pilot that is not going to go anywhere. No is final answer. Thank you for calling.

Goodwitch: Good luck. Bye.

RedPen: (Hangs up phone) The O.C? What a stupid name for a show. Nobody is going to watch that crap….a casting director from L.A. Ha, more like a unemployed!


The O.C. aired for four seasons 2003-2007 and launched the careers of Rachel Bilson, Mischa Barton, and Ben McKenzie. Ben McKenzie currently plays Jim Gordon on the series Gotham. What does any of this have to do with teaching? How does your sorry career as an actor relate to the world of education? It doesn’t at face value. However, if you look close enough, everything is connected. I was talking to my students the other day about how we are often unwilling to sacrifice for the causes we espouse to believe in. This was in relation to Washington’s winter at Valley Forge and the question of would they quit because of the conditions? I asked them how many were planning to going to college? Almost every one of them raised their hands. I then showed them the realities of making that decision. How much debt they will have after college. I showed them the painful reality of trying to improve their lives. Thankfully none of them were swayed by the statistics of how many drop out, flunk out, or never finish, as well as the small amount of money their first job post college will bring them. It really got them thinking.

This story came to mind while I was teaching and I shared with them my unwillingness to sacrifice for what I wanted. Many of us are so frightened by the possibilities of what could be, that we never act.  I was unwilling to reach out of my comfort zone. I was afraid to take the big risk of flying to LA and auditioning for a part that could have changed my life. I consider it an epic failure because I never got a decent call back like that again. Sometimes saying no too early is more expensive than an airline ticket. The unknown consequences are often times more costly than the actual decision we make.

I regret nothing. I am not a fatalist. I do not believe that we only serve one purpose on this earth. I do believe that actions have consequences. Unfortunately, sometimes learning those consequences is necessary to inform future decisions. Therefore, when I got my first teaching job, I said yes to almost everything. Maybe it wasn’t such a failure after all. By the way, I have never watched a single episode of the O.C. Why would I want to “shoulda, coulda, woulda,” myself to death? I got papers to grade.

As always thank you for reading Tales From The Red Pen. Until next week, I bid you Adieu.