THE NEW SCHOOL YEAR
I have one student who is not at ALL looking forward to this upcoming school year, because they are desperately trying to reinvent themselves, and the thought of potential social pressures is overwhelming. I have another who cannot wait to redeem themselves after closing the book on last year in that they affectionately refer to as an “epic fail.” There’s one more who sent me a Facebook message recently that simply read “I caaaaannnnn’ttttt wwwwaaaaaaiiiiittttttt!”
Me? I’m working on changing up my curriculum (a yearly ritual) while surfing for funny graphics to accompany my syllabi while I munch on Alka-Seltzer tablets.
*Sigh* School. School has always been one of two things to people. The best of times…or the worst of times. I have colleagues who rush to the photocopiers hours prior to the first day of school so that the new classroom rules handed to the masses are warm. (Present company included.) Then there are those who drag their feet, dust off the lesson plans and look forward to their pre-packaged cinnamon apple sauce at exactly 11:35.
I suppose there is a sense of stability in any ritual. We have lots to look forward to…but if history repeats itself, I’m sure the students will tote grumbles and disapproving looks around in their new bookbags. Seniors will walk tall for about 3 weeks and then set into the same groove as everyone else. We have paper stars and crosses lining the halls with students names on them, welcoming them back. No doubt, in the brew-haha of things, those warm hand-outs will turn cool, tote bags will be burdened with heavy textbooks giving students a different reason to grumble and those paper stars will fall to the ground and become part of the nighttime clean-up ritual. But, I still have hope regarding the spirit behind this year.
But, all in all, despite all of the worry and wonder, I’m rather looking forward to the future. You see, drama class can be very predictable. I tend to always have a handful of bright-eyed and bushy tailed hopefuls who legitimately look forward to specific instruction, the thrill of anticipation and a possible onstage leading role this time around. I tend to look forward to those students who have yet to find their talents, and throughout the course of the school year, watch them as they unfold into skilled performers. Then there are those that perhaps didn’t want Choir class, Art or Band. Those that find comfort in the fact that at least with Drama you don’t have to carry a saxophone or mess with clay. All of them are welcome and bring to the drama classroom a dynamic that always seems to surprise me.
I told my students once in the heat of conversation, that the second my job becomes boring to me, “I’m outta here!” I reflect on that often. My job isn’t boring, mind you…quite the opposite. I’ve yet to find a job that brings daily surprises like this one. (The other day I had a philosophical discussion with maintenance staff worker Mario, and I found a baby doll in my microwave with a sign that said “Goodbye Cruel World!” Ah…drama students.) But, all in all, I stand by my comment. Those that know me will tell you that I can tend to get a smidge enthusiastic when sparked, but this time I think my words rang true.
I think God has blessed each of us with a gift. Some of us have no idea what this is, but I will always encourage students to do what they love. Find something you’re good it, something that separates you and make you unique…something that brings you joy….and work hard on making that “what you do.” If you are working hard toward something you love, then you take pride in that work. There is nothing money can buy that brings you the true joy you find in the fulfillment of work you love to do. I recall the look on my parents’ faces when I said I wanted to be an actor. While they supported my efforts, I could tell that they had perhaps higher hopes. We cannot predict what is in store for each other, and I think journeys like “another year in high school” helps to reveal the plans God has for us. It wasn’t until I got a part time job directing a high school play that I realized what I wanted to do with my life. Never saw that coming.
I’m kinda watching PLANET EARTH with my wife while I write this. I love the show because I love animals…but I get sick to my stomach when I watch a mother elephant get lost in a sand storm, away from the pack. The narrator (and I suppose it doesn’t help that it’s Sigourney Weaver….I never like her, and I hated Ghostbusters II) informs us the certain outcome that will take place if she doesn’t find water, or safety in the pack soon. I wonder how many of our students are like that lone elephant: lost, only because there is sand in there eyes. My wife assures me that the follwoing segments will make me happy. (She’ Tivo’d the show.) The elephant quenches her thirst and finds her way back to the herd as rivers form from the rains months earlier and turn the parched Africa into a water world. (I suppose there were some good parts in Alien.)
I wonder if there is anyway I can find “water” from classes and experiences in the past that will ease the transition for some of those lost elephants. I’m sure I’ll meet the good, the bad…and the lost when I come up for air between “first day speeches.” It’ll be an adventure, and I look forward to it. I wouldn’t go as far as saying “I caaaaaaaaannnnn’tttt wwwaaaaaaaiiiiiittttttt!” But I will say that there is a certain satisfaction of looking forward to something. God has big plans for us all this year and I look forward to those surprises…even if that something comes at 11:35….is pre-packaged…and tastes like cinnamon.