Storytelling Breakdown Blog Entry 026

Patronus Charm – By Ben Clemmer.

I promise that by the end of this blog post the picture at the top will make sense.

Also, SPOILER ALERT for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, but that feels somewhat unnecessary. 

This past spring semester, I taught a speech class. In one of our earlier blogs, I wrote with a sense of anticipation as I was about to begin my first semester as an instructor. My previous experience as a high school speech coach had prepared me well, but there was no denying that this college class would be different. 

When it comes to the length of a speech, I often think of it the same way I think of a book, essay, blog, or even a video or podcast. I don’t care how long it is as long as it doesn’t feel like its length. My first goal was to make the material and the time we spent on it interesting for the students and I think my efforts were mostly successful. Were I teaching any other subject, a comparison to the scenario I was in might not have come to me so readily. Public speaking is considered by some to be the most terrifying thing in the world, with even fear of death coming in a close second. In learning to become a better public speaker, I find it easy to reference Green Lantern and overcoming great fear. However, that’s not the comparison that came to mind for me. Instead I found myself drawn to the third year of Defense Against the Dark Arts.

Professor Remus Lupin is my favorite character from the Harry Potter series and that’s kind of always been the case. Granted after the two Defense Against the Dark Arts professors that came before him, the bar was pretty low. With dark forces continuing to grow in power, Professor Lupin’s lesson with the Boggart proves useful. The empowerment the students get from overcoming fear again relates to a speech class.

This was a fascinating year to teach. Beyond the logistics of being in a sizable classroom, all being required to wear a mask, and sanitizing the podium between speakers, I also had a classroom populated mostly by freshmen. Everyone had their senior years of high school abruptly changed by the beginning of the pandemic. I’m sure their first years of college were challenging under the circumstances too. It doesn’t feel like much of a leap to compare the presence of the Dementors at Hogwarts to what our world has felt like in some cases under COVID.

Professor Lupin is remembered more for just his lessons in Defense Against the Dark Arts class. The Dementors were able to attack Harry in ways other students didn’t have to deal with and Professor Lupin offered training one on one with a Boggart filling in for a Dementor. One on one coaching is where I felt the most comfortable. Thanks to coaching speech students for competition, the time taken to answer questions, develop ideas, and offer critique before a speaking day felt familiar. I still catch up with former students I coached and realizing how far along they are in their college journeys makes me realize just how fast three years can fly by after stepping away from my coaching role in 2018. Given this time of year is also when we see graduation festivities, I’m also reminded of teammates I competed with as a student myself, including an old sparring partner who just graduated from law school (Congratulations Kate!).

I look back on speech team experience and realize that in so many ways, it has impacted my life. I’m not an extravert. I’m an introvert who has had a lot of practice getting comfortable speaking in front of an audience. In our most recent episode, Stephen and I talked about how we met competing for different speech teams. I can look back and credit so many ongoing friendships and opportunities to speech.

Now it’s time to change the subject a bit.

My appreciation for Professor Lupin probably doesn’t come as a surprise given I’ve mentioned in previous blogs that my favorite Smash Up faction is the werewolves. With this update coming at the end of this blogpost, I’m burying the lead somewhat. Our team is creating a new podcast to run alongside Storytelling Breakdown. We’ve spent a couple episodes and more than a few blogs talking about tabletop games and RPGs. We’re creating a podcast to share our love of games with you and play different games and stories out over the course of ten episode runs.

The new podcast will be called RPG Decades.

Now the picture at the top makes sense, at least in text. As for the various avatars surrounding the words, that tells you a bit about what game we’ll be playing for our first season. We’ll be playing a round robin Smash Up tournament and each of the players is represented by one of their favorite factions in the game. I’m holding on to the logo’s upper left side midway through a werewolf transformation. Caleb Meyer will co-host this first season as well and his favorite faction in Smash Up remains the Mythic Greeks, hence the lightning bolt and Zeus look. Lucas Gerke, who has appeared on two of our past episodes and is about to appear on a third, sits in the lower right hand corner embodying the Bear Cavalry faction.

The other two avatars come from friends who perhaps unsurprisingly have speech connections as well as tabletop gaming ones. When I took COMM 121 in college, my critique partner was Nicole Rudolph, who joins us for RPG Decades with the Dragon faction as part of her army. In the lower left, you can see a Ninja inspired by Jacob Ganser. I met Jacob in the same place I met Stephen, in a discussion round at a speech tournament being hosted by his high school, only it was South Side in 2011 instead of North Side in 2010.

We’ll be providing more updates on this podcast as it develops and builds towards launch. We’ve begun production and hope to drop the show over the summer. The amazing artwork for the logo comes from Michael Ganser, Jacob’s brother.

Messrs Ganser, Gerke, Meyer, Rudolph and Clemmer are proud to present…

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