One of the many learning lessons, gifts, of teaching secondary and middle school is the opportunity to practice patience. During a course of a day I will be triggered to raise my voice more often than I care to experience, or care to admit. The cause of my desire to yell and the effect of feeling powerless is a dance taking president over what could be seen as an amazing job. I understand children want to have fun and they are not behaving badly but behaving authentically. A flare up of anger can erupt after a classroom management technique fails or I’ve repeated myself one too many times….which means I am more frustrated with myself than the students. I can hear teachers yelling out of exasperation or desperation daily. Yelling has zero benefit in the long run. So, why do we do it? Frustration. Was I yelled at by my teachers? Yes. I am sure it inhibited my voice and caused shame, however I can’t speak to a specific experience nor do I hold any of my past teachers in contempt. I have forgiven all the good ones and learned more from the bad ones as I hope my students will do the same.
What do I remember from elementary and middle school? I remember middle school being a lonely time for me. I remember making friends in elementary school and competing for their attention. I bring those two thoughts with me to school every day. I also remember the song "Have you seen the ghost of John" from Ms. Roger's music class in second grade. I do not remember her ever yelling. I also remember taking a nap on my friend Adam’s stomach and being told that laying my head on a boys tummy was not considered appropriate. What do I remember from Middle School? I remember Mrs. Lawson’s speech class. It was an open opportunity to make students laugh. I remember feeling unattractive because my peers had started puberty and my playmates were beginning to date and I was not. So to be the catalyst to a positive experience in school is the goal and yet, I fail weekly. I am not beating myself up, I am stating the obvious. I still feel more like a behavior manager than a Drama Teacher. My graduate teachers would say, “it’s not about your feelings it’s about the other person’s feelings.” I am still negotiating opinions about classroom management and assessments, but the more I learn about both my day flows better. I am trying to use the skills provided to me, colleagues wisdom and their advice to learn, but it is a challenge. I wonder if I am making the challenge into a bad thing. What else would I want from a job or vocation? For it to be easy? Does the challenge outweigh the rewards? It is too early to tell, there are rewards and there are lots of challenges. I can not see the forest through the trees. I can only make out a few colors.
I am talking with other drama teachers and appreciate the community support. I had a couple of auditions last week and when I came back to the classroom students were openly interested in my experience and curious about the acting profession. Continuing my professional experience is a successful action. Professional Development days included or allowed in the sick/personal day package might make the teaching artist feel confident and encourage transparency about asking for time off. The school is supportive about my work as an actor and director, however, I have skipped a lot of auditions because the audition slot does not fit in with the school's schedule. Regardless I can bring my professional experience into the room at any time. We are going to bring the students outside the classroom more as well. We have a few field trips lined up for this and next trimester. I would hate to be the only resource integrating Dramatics and theatre for these kids. They could possibly hate or love the subject based on their feelings towards me and I desire them to learn more from this branch of the humanities outside the realm of my exercises or personality.
At the end of the school day, 2:50pm, I sit and sometimes think, "I feel like a babysitter, and not a drama teacher." But I also feel the pain of change as an instrument of tremendous value as I continue to show up and do what I am doing. The culture and atmosphere at the school is supportive. The students are young, endearing, and need guidance. If it was an easy job then anybody could do it. If we do it well, we can be a positive influence in how students learn. That is a pretty high calling. Moving forward if I have to "babysit" with these young students because they are crying out for attention, can I see this as a place where my attention is needed most? Can I notice where their attention flows is a clear indicator where their energy goes? What I do in that moment is the solution.