The Author

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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.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Goodbye to my amazing students... hello summer!

Wow, I am shocked yet not at all surprised that I haven't blogged since graduation in May. June FLEW by as I wrapped up things with drama and all of my classes.  My students worked on a speech project for 6 weeks, which concluded in the last couple of weeks of school with formal speeches on stage, with a podium, under the stage lights, with a real audience.  Incredible things happened really. While a few students did not take it seriously, most students took it quite seriously, learned their speeches well, actually made eye contact, and spoke passionately about topics they sincerely cared about. I've been doing this unit (in different ways) for three years, and this was the most successful I have ever felt.  Not only did students really truly learn how to give a speech, they also spoke about meaningful topics that were also quite personal. They planted seeds of thought in the minds of their classmates, parents, and other invited guests. They bravely shared the consequences of bullying and racial profiling. They encouraged their peers not to give up on school and shared their personal triumphs and tragedies. When one student shared about his struggles coming out of the closet, I was horrified to hear about how he was accepted by his family but rejected by peers and the church, told he was going to hell, and how this emotional abuse lead him to consider suicide several times. This teen has bravely overcome and has not given up on life or his faith in God. Best of all, his speech resulted in compassion and support from his peers, which gives me hope that this world is changing for the better.  You know, that's an awesome benefit of working with teenagers -- you get glimpses of what the future holds. Let me tell you... the future will be a more tolerant place.

A pretty large group of my dedicated drama students graduated this week.  This is the first group I have had since freshman year (well, I've had three of them since freshman year). This group was particularly sweet. They were all so humble and hardworking, which really is unique among theatre people. It is sort of an odd thing about actors -- being a successful actor in many ways means having a lot of confidence and resilience and believing in your own talent and abilities (more on this late).  I know this and accept this and am quite good at working with actors with big egos.  When they are super talented and know that they are, it just results in great dedication to theatre, so that's a good thing in a lot of ways. The drama class of 2013 however students often did not really see how incredibly unique and talented they were. They worked very hard to improve and were excellent role models for younger students. I am going to miss them very much.

There was something interesting I noticed this year, particularly through working with Janelle. One of the realities of teaching high school theatre is that you are not blessed with ensembles of 100% dedicated students who "get" what it takes to be successful in theatre.  They often come into drama thinking that putting on a play is all about "play." In reality, it is the exact opposite. Putting on a play is actually a lot of work.  Students think that they can just get up there and "do it" and many think that those who are good at acting just have natural talent, but really, its a little bit about talent and a lot about putting the work into memorizing the lines, analyzing the lines, thinking about the character, and most of all, FOCUSING on stage, which is also a lot of work. Janelle would comment about the ones who were really good, and it was pretty much all of my seniors.  They were good because they KNOW, from experience, that hard work = awesome acting.

The exciting thing is that I have a huge group of juniors who grew a lot this year and started to realize how much hard work it takes, and many of them are coming back next year.  It's going to be a good year.

Returning to my comment about prior comment about resiliency... one would think that by now I would be quite resilient, particularly when it comes to theatre.  I am an overall gregarious individual, so one would think that I could go into an audition exuding confidence and maintaining the ability to demonstrate my talent. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know that a month ago I bombed an audition and took it really hard, just because I want so badly to get back on stage (it is #103 on my buried list).  I just got really nervous and didn't do very well. Today, I went to another audition. It seems like a really fun show that I would really like to get a part in, but honestly... today's audition was about more than getting a part; it was about getting back on the horse.

I feel good about how I did in the audition today, which is the most important part. I also realized that Los Angeles has a more vibrant theatre community than I ever realized (and I consider myself fairly involved in the L.A. theatre scene) and I have found a TON of local companies doing auditions for shows. If I pushed hard enough, I could find an audition to go to every single week.  But I am going to try to choose carefully and realistically. There are at least 2 or 3 more audition opportunities I am interested in coming up in July, both of which would wrap before I would need to do tech week with my high school students. I am starting to realize that I am bound to find something here soon... and even if I don't, I will probably find something next winter. This week, I even learned a brand new song from the show for the audition, and I really didn't think I had the ability to learn music that fast, but apparently I do.

While auditioning is hard and facing rejection is even harder, I am hoping that all of this just helps me to better prepare my students for what's really out there, so that some day I can cross of #95 from my buried list (seeing a show on Broadway with one of my former drama students in the cast).  Someday. :-)

Now... time to focus on vacation. Woo hoo.  Last weekend we went to Sacramento for Marc's cousin's wedding, and it was a very nice taste of what it is like to be free and on vacation.  I actually really love summer and road trips and traveling.

 We don't have anything terribly exciting planned, but I am REALLY looking forward to our upcoming vacation to Arizona. While most people think we are crazy to head to Phoenix in the heat of the summer, I think there is nothing better than going when it is so hot that floating in the pool at night is beautifully enjoyable.

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