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I am a high school English teacher, and mother of two charming little ones of my own. I teach in a high poverty urban charter school, while I live in a typical American suburb that has frequently been rated one of the safest cities in the country. It is a paradox I struggle with constantly, but it is my life.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Day 1 of Drama Trip to New York City

So, we left for the airport Tuesday night. A couple of students ran late to the airport, and our music teacher and her guests took the flyaway, which also ran late, so we started off the trip with much waiting and I was getting very anxious about getting through security with all these teenagers, many of whom have never traveled before. Fortunately, everything went swimmingly. Everyone followed my instructions for security and getting through it all was a breeze. I'd been worried for nothing.

Since it was a red eye, I had planned on sleeping and had encouraged everyone to do the same, recommending that they not get any caffeinated beverages at the airport and such. Sleeping on this flight was next to impossible though. About 20 minutes into the flight, the turbulence was so bad the flight attendants had to return to their seats. I was gasping out of fear each time it dropped and fearfully watching the wings bounce up and down through the window. The woman next to me (a stranger, not part of our group), was even more anxious and kept grabbing my arm or leg each time we dropped. This did not help. I think after this point, no one was able to sleep much, since the rest of the flight was still pretty bumpy. Every time I would start to drift off, the turbulence would start again and I'd be wide awake. Sigh.

This made for a very tired group that first day. We dropped our luggage off at the airport and spent the morning in South Manhattan, where it was FREEZING. This was by far the coldest day of our trip. It was 18 degrees, but felt much colder, particularly by the water. Yikes. We did some wandering and sightseeing and then visited the 9/11 Memorial.

The memorial is beautiful and, well, perfect for what they represent. When I visited New York in 2005, I remember wondering what they could possibly "build" in that spot in memory. It seemed like nothing would be quite right, especially since what I remember of the towers from visiting in 2000 was just how remarkably huge and magnificent they were. I remember looking up at them from the street in awe, unable to see the top. It seemed like the buildings went on and on forever, straight into the sky, as if they had no end. I remember seeing them from the water, and how distinctly they stood out from the rest of the cityscape. Looking at them sort of made you proud to be part of this generation.

But what they did with the memorial was perfect. Two... giant.... holes.  Because what 9/11 really represents now is the emptiness it left in so many ways. Yet, I am glad that they are rebuilding. As you visit the memorial today, you gaze into the beauty of the fountains while standing in the shadow of towers that will someday be even more magnificent than their predecessors. When I first heard they were rebuilding, I thought... Is that really necessary? But now I understand that it is. Without the new towers, the memorial is just a sad tribute to lives lost. But with the new towers, it seems a statement of, "Terrorism may have hurt us and left permanent scars on our country... but terrorism didn't win."

By the time we wrapped up our visit to the memorial, everyone was just completely spent and ready for some rest. We checked into the hotel and most of us napped for several hours, waking up feeling refreshed and ready for an exciting evening out. We got a casual dinner near the hotel. A handful of students and I checked out this little chicken place across the street from the hotel. It was authentic Southern comfort food, but the best part was the downstairs dining room, which was tricked out like an early 1960s rec room, complete with pop art, mod furniture, and rock 'em sock 'em robots on every table. With the delicious chicken, the ambiance, and the cane sugar Boylan soda fountain drinks, this cheap meal was actually one of my favorites.

Our first show of the week was Mary Poppins. This show really highlighted the element of theater that is spectacle. The elaborate sets and costumes and effects made the show just magical. Honestly, I didn't care for some of the new songs, and this Mary Poppins had an accent that was almost Bostonian (odd) and made me miss Julie Andrews, but the show overall was a real treat.

The people seated behind us actually provided an excellent lesson in theater etiquette. You can teach students about theater etiquette up and down, which I do each and every year, but this experience really reinforced everything I have taught through her lack of etiquette. They walked in late, which was an annoying distraction from the beginning of the show. They took their time noisily getting comfortable. A few minutes into the show, she starts digging into her paper shopping bag, which- being in the balcony, was right in my ear. They talked through the whole show. After intermission, they were noisily opening and rustling candy wrappers. Grrrr.....

My students, on the other hand, were dressed well, seated on time, and were polite, quiet, and attentive throughout at every show, all week long. They made me very proud.

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