First Day Teaching

11 09 2015

Today I began teaching theatre class (after school) at my kid’s school in New Orleans.  It is a curriculum I am designing, and they will be doing an adaptation of several of Shel Silverstein’s poems from WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS.

The last time I taught elementary level drama classes was right after I got my MFA, and I taught Kindergarten – 5th grade drama once a week at a Catholic school in Queens.

I can remember, in a very visceral way, exactly how overwhelmed I felt about that teaching job.  I had never taught such little kids.  I was fresh out of grad school, having done some wild and esoteric theatre over the summer at THE BERKSHIRE THEATRE FESTIVAL, and having completed an internship with LONG WHARF THEATRE – where I got to act alongside some theatre greats – JEFFERSON MAYS (who won the Tony for I AM MY OWN WIFE) and FRANK WOODS (who won the Tony for SIDEMAN).

But I felt majorly out of my league teaching these little ones.

And I felt that again today.  BUT, the difference was, I didn’t feel AFRAID.  I felt like I would figure it out.  I have kids of my own now, and so know better how to negotiate and redirect.  I am so much less afraid to make things a work in progress at this stage of my life – whereas back then, I felt I had to know everything.  I was afraid to not know everything.

I want to try and blog about this teaching experience, along with other aspects of my career over the next several months – as I think it is time to take stock again.

SO – to sum up – here is what I learned today:

  1.  You must run little children like horses first, if you expect them to focus on theatre after a long day at school.  Next week – we shall run them ragged!
  2.  As much as it hurts to do so, you have to be pretty strict on the first day of class, to establish your role as the authority figure.  I definitely utilized time-outs, and talks, and as much as I hated to make a couple kids sad, I think it was necessary for a good start to the semester.
  3. Although the world would have you believe that all our kids are TV and video game zombies, this is not the case.  The sense of wonder I encountered, as I helped my littlest ones read through SARAH STOUT by Shel Silverstein, was enchantment at it’s best.
  4. I don’t care if the play is “good”.

Let me clarify that last one – of course we will practice, and do our best.  But it is lovely to not care about product as much as I used to, and care more about the experience.  I have so much to learn!  Talk soon!DreamPlay


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