I’ve been involved in theatre since I was about ten years old. Theatre was the first place I felt immediately connected to the people around me, the first place I felt truly seen and validated. As an awkward kid seeking connection, the theatre community was the first place that I felt a true sense of belonging.
It was no surprise to anyone when I went to college for acting. Nor did anyone seem surprised when I went back to school for theatre education–twice. No surprise I chose to use theatre to support children who were looking for their place. No surprise when I built a strong and successful program, no surprise that I had a cult following of 6th graders. It seemed no surprise despite being a required class at my school–drama became a fan favorite of the student body. This is what I’d been designed to do, surely. This is what everyone expected of me. None of it was a surprise.
But it was surprising to some my choice to leave.
This is my last year teaching…I think.
There have been reports of people leaving the teaching profession in droves. Between new technology, the pandemic, the political climate, the shootings…all while being in a notoriously overworked and underpaid profession, people want out. They need out for their health, for their well-being. Personally, I support any teacher who needs to be done, any teacher who needs to be out of education altogether. I get it.
For me, I’m moving into administration. As the teaching profession faces these challenges, I dream of effecting change in a broader way. I’m aware of my impact in the classroom with my students, but as we navigate a climate that only seems to be getting more and more difficult for educators, I want a role that supports them too. I want a role that could be a bigger player in school culture, where I can champion both the students and those who have dedicated their lives to those students.
It came as a surprise for some to see this kooky arts person moving into such a role. My reputation is one of a fun, creative, laid-back teacher that gives students space to take risks and fail. How might a theatre teacher be appropriate for administration?
Theatre directors, drama teachers–we are coaches. We are filled with empathy and with backbone. We attract all types of personalities and skill-sets. We have to be organized in the midst of chaos. We have to be comfortable with process. We have to think moment-to-moment and big picture simultaneously. We have to love our students, we have to have high expectations for them, we have to support them through their risk-taking and educate them through their failings. We have to communicate in ways they can receive, understand and appreciate. Drama teachers understand humanity and all that comes with it. We build spaces that are safe. We are trying to keep our students safe. We want everyone to be safe.
When I told my classes that I would be returning next year as Dean of Students, their responses were varied.
“You don’t like drama anymore?”
“Why don’t you want to teach us?”
“Who would ever want to be the Dean?”
“Are you going to be mean now?”
“Will you give detentions?”
“Do you think people are going to take you seriously?”
“Won’t you miss teaching drama?”
…I’m sure in many ways, I will. But theatre is who I am. It’s at my foundation. It gave me the pieces of myself that I bring into my next role. I may not be blocking a scene or inputting sound cues…but I take my art with me everywhere I go.
“Do you think you’ll ever go back?” they asked.
I guess we’ll just have to see.