Monday, March 24, 2014

Never Too Late to Start Over

Nearly three years have passed since I last stood in front of a classroom as a teacher. 

A co-worker was recently bemoaning the upcoming Shakespeare unit in his college English class and I overheard his lack of enthusiasm for having to read Othello and try to understand what the heck was going on.  It was like someone had instantly hooked me up to an IV full of Red Bull because my mouth was suddenly moving a mile a minute and I chattered away about the imagery of light and dark, the use of verse and prose, the role of race, and the way Shakespeare expertly corrupts Othello's language as Iago efficiently poisons his mind.  Words like motif and soliloquy came flying out and before I knew it my hands were flapping all over the place, as they tend to do when I am talking about something I am really really excited about.

Shakespeare does that to me.

Teaching does that to me.

Never mind that this poor guy was staring back at me with his mouth agape like a guppy.  I didn't care.  I felt alive.  Without even giving him a chance to object, I announced I would go home and that very night dig through the Trove of Unknown Objects (otherwise known as my basement) until I found the box containing my teaching binders.  I would find the one containing the materials from when I taught a unit on Othello to a class of AP English Literature students and I would use it to make this guy the unofficial expert of The Moor of Venice in his freshman lit class.

I plopped that binder down on the tray with a thud and he and I started flipping the pages.  One page protector after another held notes, worksheets, quizzes, tests, and answer keys.  In hindsight, I feel kind of bad for this guy because I basically tried to cram a couple week's worth of material into about a two minute lecture being given in the server area of a restaurant.  Sure, the threat of getting ketchup on my overheads was a bit foreboding, but it was exhilarating! 

He took the binder home with the promise to take good care of it and I couldn't help but feel a little like I had just handed over my first born child to be taken care of by a babysitter for the very first time.  While that binder was gone, I dug through the rest of the box and unearthed all the material I had poured my heart into all those years ago. 

Flipping through those pages awoke something in me that had been sleeping.  I smiled as I scanned my marked-up pages of The Crucible, the student discussions about The Great Gatsby, and the study guide I wrote about Oedipus Rex and the Greek theater.  I thought about the hours I spent in rehearsal with my students, running lines, changing blocking, freaking out that the show was going to flop only to have them totally rock it just in time.

Radium Girls - Sauk Prairie High School, 2010

Oh my goodness, friends.  I had almost forgotten how much I loved it.

Theater gets inside you and takes residence.  It grabs a hold of you and refuses to let go.  It's the only way I know of to really walk in another person's shoes and explore what it is really like to be human and to FEEL it all the way in your gut.  I remembered watching my students just crush their opening night performance of the play above and I got shivers up my spine during scenes where their emotions came pouring out of them and the lines weren't just words they memorized, but became a very real and living thing.

It was one of the proudest moments in my teaching career.  And it came while I sat in a dark booth, wearing a headset, and watching my students on stage.

Somehow I just know that jumping right back into the role of public school English teacher isn't right for me anymore.  There have been significant changes in the landscape of teaching since I stepped away to stay home with the kids and the climate is completely different now.  The buzzwords are different.  Heck, I'm not even sure what "Common Core" is....let alone how to teach it.  But more than that, I have had an increasingly stronger feeling over the last year or so that the future of my career might take me back through the public school system, but it's not going to be the destination. 

There's something else out there for me.  Something that will incorporate my education, my experience, my gifts, and my passions. 

Then just a couple weeks ago a friend of mine asked me an incredible question - "What would be your dream job?"  I wasn't surprised to find that "teaching" was not what came out of my mouth, but I was a little surprised when I found myself chatting away about how I would love to work for a professional theater company in the area of education so I could research, write, teach, develop curriculum, and work with students all under the umbrella of theater, where I feel most at home.  If I hadn't been driving at the time, I'm sure I would have started flapping my hands all over the place again.

That conversation kept bugging me, nagging at me in the back of my mind.  What if?  What if a job like that actually exists?

So I found myself on the website for Milwaukee Repertory Theater.  Clicking on "Jobs at the Rep."  Reading the description for the position of "Education Department Intern" and feeling like it was more like a personals ad written just for me.

I have no idea how I would fit it in my schedule or our budget.
I have no idea who would watch the kids.
I have no idea if I'm out of my mind.

But I just sent in my resumé

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