Tip #145: How I First Became a Trainer

People often ask me how I got into training. Well, it certainly wasn’t planned. While I was working on my masters degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1972, a friend of mine (Sharon Sotsky) and I sat in on auditions for a spoken poetry night. There were a number of male students reading poetry, but almost no women. I had been writing poetry for years and had a number of poems about my experience of marriage, childbirth, separation and single motherhood. ( I was married at 20 and had my daughter, Jennifer, when I was a 22 year old junior in college. Within less than six months, I had separated from her father and by the time she was two I had moved halfway across the country to attend school and raise her alone). Sharon also had poems about her experience as a woman. So we signed up to read our poems.

The night of the poetry reading, Ed Kamarck, who was the Director of Outreach for Theatre Arts at University Extension, was in the audience. He approached us after the reading and told us if we would create a play about the woman’s experience, he would provide a venue for the performance. So Sharon and I began The Apple Corps, Ltd., which was the first feminist theatre in the Midwest. Our poem play, titled –Empty Space Blues,” dealt with the way that the feminist movement affected the lives of five different women: a divorcee, a Catholic mother, a student, a model, and a feminist. During the course of the play, which is humorous on many levels, each woman experiences her own soul wrenching epiphany. We found a director and auditioned women for the roles, attracting a number of women who were willing to work on stage, sets, and publicity simply because they loved the characters and the message of the play.

True to his word, Ed arranged for us to perform on campus for several nights. After the play, the actors, director, and playwrights came out on stage to discuss their characters with the audience. The night of one of the performances, there were two professors from Family Services at the University of Wisconsin-Extension in attendance. Connie Threinen and Marian Thompson drew me aside and told me they would like to see me teach an –Assertiveness” class for Extension. I asked them what assertiveness was. They responded that was the focus of our conversation with the audience and that I should read the book The New Assertive Woman by Lynn Bloom, Karen Coburn and Joan Pearlman.

So, I read the book and created an agenda for a two session class on –Assertiveness” for Extension, based on the content of the book. They publicized the course and before I knew it, I was teaching an evening course for UW-Madison Extension. That course went well, so we expanded the next course to eight weeks- and the participants requested that we extend that further to sixteen weeks. I was officially an ad hoc instructor for UW-Extension.

That was how I first got into training! I owe it all to the creative gifts of Sharon and the first cast and director of –Empty Space Blues,” and the incredible encouragement and support of Ed Kamarck, Connie Threinen and Marian Thompson. Talk about getting by with a little help from your friends and being in the right place at the right time!

I would love to hear your story, if you are willing to share it. How did YOU first become a trainer?

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