In 1986, my sophomore year of high school, I was assigned to a 4th period state- mandated speech course. I wasn’t that nervous about it- either because it hadn’t occurred to me to be nervous or (more likely) because I already realized that talking in public wasn’t really that much of a problem for me. I figured this for an easy A. Then I walked into the classroom. First- it was in the home ec kitchen. (I know- it’s Family & Consumer Sciences now. Then? It was Home Ec.) Second- the room was loaded with “popular” kids. Girls and boys who were the sharks to my sea plankton in the social ecosystem of high school. I was suddenly terrified- and I turned around and left the room without even dropping my books- instead, I dropped the class. The only other speech class available was forensics- which I assumed to have something to do with dead bodies. Didn’t matter, though. If it would get me out of that speech class, I’d dissect anything they wanted me to. I signed up. That moment was the moment that changed my life. In that class, I discovered not only a new peer group but also a teacher