A Little Happier: How Teachers Changed the Lives of Steve Carrell and Adrienne Kennedy

I’m a huge fan of the TV show The Office, and I also love the podcast Office Ladies, where Jenna Fischer, who played Pam, and Angela Kinsey, who played Angela, recap the show.

On a recent episode, they interviewed Steve Carrell, who played Michael Scott.

I was very struck by one story he told.

In the episode, they took some questions from listeners, and one listener asked Steve Carrell if he remembered a favorite teacher.

He answered that he particularly remembered his terrific second-grade teacher, Mr. Blackman. Steve Carrell credits him as the person who got him interested in acting.

In their own classroom, the students were performing a little play, and as part of it, they sat in chairs and mimed that they were paddling canoes. Steve started paddling, and then at some point, he changed the position of his hands to pretend to be paddling on the other side.

Steve Carrell says, “I’ll never forget it. He singled me out—it was the first time I’d ever been singled out in any way—and he gave me a pat on the back. He said, ‘Notice how Steve rowed on both sides of the canoe, so he wouldn’t go in a circle.’”

Steve Carrell said that something clicked.

Along the same lines, recently I read the brilliant, thought-provoking memoir People Who Led to My Plays by acclaimed playwright Adrienne Kennedy. In this unconventional book, Kennedy lists many people who inspired her plays, with a few sentences of explanation about each.

One of the entries is for “Mrs. Filetti.” Kennedy writes, “My fifth-grade teacher gave me the role of the Virgin Mary in our Christmas play, where I learned the thrill of the attention and interest that came from wearing a costume and standing onstage pretending.” In another entry, Kennedy explains that she’d told Mrs. Filetti that she didn’t want to be in the school play, but her teacher had insisted, and, Kennedy writes, “how glad I was she had insisted.”

These two teachers helped to change the course of these two students’ lives.




Like what you see? Explore more about this topic.

Subscribe to Gretchen’s newsletter.

Every Friday, Gretchen Rubin shares 5 things that are making her happier, asks readers and listeners questions, and includes exclusive updates and behind-the-scenes material.