25 April 2012

Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms. ________

You'll have to forgive me for how long it has taken me to write this.  But as a girl who has always been a little bit too "smart" for her own good, it wasn't until the last few years that I've realized something. 

Teachers are . . . people.

Prone to being sick and frustrated and tired and overworked and annoyed just like the rest of us. And the truth is, most teachers would actually like to be, you know, liked.  At least enough to be the kind of teacher students want to take classes from.  That high school popularity contest is a pain in the butt.

And, remember those times when I thought you were stupid or annoying?  Sometimes when I wasn't even in your class?  You told off a friend of mine or treated me like I didn't know anything and I assumed in return that you didn't know anything?  Or you said something curt to me and I thought you didn't like me but it was probably a problem with school bureaucracy or lack of sleep or something completely unrelated to anything I had done, but I still took it personally and didn't like you any more?  I think I was probably wrong.  In fact, I think most of you were probably smarter than I realized.  Maybe you didn't present the information in the way I connected with.  Or maybe you weren't as good at presenting as you could have been.  But that didn't mean you weren't smarter than me.  Even when I thought otherwise.

See, here's the thing.  When I think back on most of my teachers, I remember them as being perpetually kind and healthy and helpful.  I'm sure that wasn't always the case.  But now that I'm a teacher myself I pray that will be the case for me.  Especially after weeks of stress and frustration and tight schedules in which I constantly feel like my lessons are just thrown together and my emotions are running on the edge of sanity and all I can do is pray that my students leave feeling good about themselves and like I still believe in them and love them and want them to succeed.  And hope that as I get better at this whole "inspiring" thing and "being a person" thing I'll learn to not feel so rattled when things are hard and schedules are tight and my nose is raw from an abundance of kleenex and I'm out of Diet Coke. 

So, teachers that I probably didn't respect as much as I should have because this job is hard - thank you for putting up with my occasionally arrogant too-big-for-my-britches attitude.  Karma is paying me back a little bit now, and I hope that I can handle it with the grace you seemed to use.


12 April 2012

Living the Dream

Theater dreams are never good.

They always involve dropped lines and missed props and mistakes that can't be covered and an audience full of people laughing at you, or worse, silence.

And then, of course, there's the dream where you are called to fill in a part at the last minute. For me, that part is always, always Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Not sure why. I haven't played the part (yet!) but I should legitimately have it memorized. I've known the movie since I was about four and the Broadway show for at least the last fifteen years. But no matter how well I know the words, in my dreams I always forget them. "Little town it's a . . . " . . . blank. Nothing.

Every actor I've ever talked to has dreams like this. No one is immune. Some people dream about forgetting locker combinations and getting late to class, I dream about costume malfunctions and missing broomsticks or eyelashes falling off.

I can now safely say with complete honesty that filling in for a part you haven't rehearsed for is just as terrifying as it is in dreams and twice as awkward.

Last week I had the opportunity to fill in for a part in the musical at the school where I teach. By virtue of the fact that I assistant directed the show and can still pass for fifteen, when an actress fell sick I was called upon called upon approximately four hours before showtime to learn the lines, choreography and music. Good thing I'd been to most of the rehearsals, right?

Oh, and did I mention that one of the costumes I had to wear involved a corset and bloomers (and, consequently, students wanting to take pictures of me in said costume?) And slapping another character?

Good thing I still have my job!

Several of the cast members asked me after the performance if I had fun. I think they were surprised (and a little confused) when I said that I hadn't. Filling in for a part you haven't rehearsed is stressful! It's why you rehearse to begin with - so when the performance comes you've memorized the lines and blocking so that you can think about character instead of where you need to be and when. It's easier to have fun when you aren't worried about the semantics of performance. The second night I performed it was much less stressful and more fun.

I can honestly say, though, that I hope never to have to do that again. I'd infinitely rather prepare.