Theatre is knowledge. Each day as I enter the theater, I shed the skin of an English teacher and suddenly I teach history, music, science, art, math, and even PE (push-ups and sit-ups are required if you don’t know your lines!) Lessons of teamwork, selflessness, and cooperation are not just ideas, but a reality. For us to succeed, these must be our guiding principles, and commitment to these ideals is not a request but a requirement. I challenge my students to think about things they've never considered before, to look at the world through the eyes of another, to imagine things they never thought possible. And then work to make them a reality. In the process, not only are they learning, I’m learning, too. This is what excites me about my job.
Saturday, December 7, 2013
Waiting for the Bell to Ring
Post by Katie Howard: Katie has been an English teacher & theatre director for 12 years, serving in both capacities the last 6 years at Bettendorf High School. You can follow Katie on twitter @Katie_Howard1
What would my boss say if he knew that every day when I walk into work, I’m already thinking about the moment at the end of the day when that final bell rings and the students are out the door? (I’ll probably find out since he’s sure to be reading this). That’s right, I admit it. I am as excited for the end of the school day as are the kids. Now, it’s not that I don’t love the work I do in my classroom, I do, and I take great pride in my work and the success of my students, but when that bell rings at 3:10, I get to do something that I first fell in love with in high school. I get to go to the theater. And the most beautiful part is that within those walls are a group of people who have been staring at the clock all day waiting for 3:10, too. This place is my home, and it’s where my passion lies.
As teachers, we are most effective when we’re passionate about something, and my passion lies in the theatre – in creating relationships and telling people’s stories. So lately, I've asked myself what it is about the theatre that inspires me. Here’s what I've discovered so far.
Theatre is magic. Within the walls of the theater you can be anything you want to be. The self-conscious girl who spends the majority of her days worrying about what others think, can instantly transform herself into a confident woman who can captivate an entire audience for hours. That kid who doesn't seem to fit in anywhere else suddenly becomes the one person that everyone relies on when it comes to making things work backstage. It's a place where, for a few hours, you can set your own reality aside and see the world as you wish it were (in my perfect world, people would randomly break into song.) The possibilities within these walls are endless; there is no limit to what can be achieved. These are the things that ignite my passion.
Theatre is acceptance. When you walk into the theatre you will find no two students that are the same. Here are students that represent different races, religions, socioeconomic groups, sexual orientations, political affiliations; the list goes on and on. Here you will find athletes, artists, musicians, and scholars. You will find those that will go on to pursue doctoral degrees and those whose will complete their education with a high school diploma. None of it matters. Here it doesn't matter who you are or what you've done before, students aren't less because they’re different, they’re appreciated for their individuality. The safety within these walls allows students to look honestly at themselves, to acknowledge not just their strengths but weaknesses as well. In this way they not only accept one another, but learn to accept and appreciate themselves. This is what gives me hope for the future.
Most importantly, theatre is family. I have my children, two beautiful girls, and “my kids,” more than one hundred creative, inspired, caring young people who will, I have no doubt, change the world. This family we create isn't perfect, no family is, but we love and support one another. What is unique to these relationships as opposed to most other student-teacher relationships is that they last far beyond graduation. Fifteen years after graduating from high school, I myself maintain a strong relationship with my teacher and director, who I am honored to now call my colleague and friend. I have had the privilege of watching my former students walk down the aisle, I have held their babies, and have stood in the audience and tearfully cheered with pride as they achieve their dreams. This is without a doubt the greatest reward of my job. This brings me joy.
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