my_window_seat: (Default)
It looks like I'm going to start giving my Uber Boss's kid private acting lessons.

This will involve a lot of pondering. 

My focus has been on directing and teaching, and working with actors one-on-one as needed.   I've only given one professional private coaching session, outside the context of a specific show, to one of my previous class students for her film audition for "True Grit".  Yeah, that movie.  Her parents "are friends with the Cohen's" so I think there was a little bit of an assumption that she was a shoe-in - which she was, most certainly, not.  Nice kid, but not suited for dramatic roles, also, way overly pretty-girly for the character.  But you never know what a director's 'vision' is, it's always worth taking the chance - and $100 is $100 bucks.   They got their audition tape, I got my check, and everything is a learning experience.

But I'm used to working on the principal that one of the core elements of theatre is community.  You're only as good as what you contribute to the show, not what you grab for yourself.  An especially 'talented' actor can actually ruin a show if he stands out so much that everything else suffers by comparison.  Not that some ships aren't destined to sink, no matter what - but the ultimate goal shouldn't be to steal the scene, but be a part of the whole, and put as much effort into the show and your fellow actors as you do your own performance.

I'm used to teaching globally, not locally.  Ha. ha.

So this is going to be an adventure.

As a director I give all of my actor's individual coaching on their part of a full performance - I guess this is now my opportunity to expand on that.  Uh, except the part where it's part of, you know - a whole show. 

So.

Hum.

Things to think about.

First thing that comes to mind tonight:

One of the most important things about acting is no different from 'real life' - it's all about choices.  It's about commitment, and it's about follow-through.  In acting, you get a distinct advantage in that you get do-overs, and you have the opportunity to take enormous risks and follow as many paths as you want, and experience as many different 'the ends' as time (and patience) allow for, but -

It's not about 'pretending'. It's not just about 'reacting'.  When an actor walks across a stage, the mediocre performer does it because it says so in the stage directions or the director tells them to.  The real actor has a reason for their cross, and that horribly abused phrase, "But what's my motivation?" is a valid one - don't just follow directions - make decisions - make choices - make a commitment to what you're about to do - and follow through

The boss's daughter is a mayfly, as in she has the attention span of.  She's used to being in the chorus, where the goal is to look as much like everyone else as possible.  'Making choices' in this context is the job of the director/musical director/choreographer and the performer's role is to follow directions.  Your 'motivation' better be to be in synch, in line and on time - and yeah, you'd better follow-through, because you seriously do not want to get a gaggle of dancers pissed at you. 

This is her current comfort zone.  Does she want to move forward as an individual, or is it really her mom that wants it for her?  Some from Column A, some from Column B?

I think she's still waffling about what she wants as a performer.  This will be a good opportunity for her to find out.

Hum.

This is going to be an interesting experience.

Also, I have to decide on what to charge.  My going rate for individual coaching is $50 an hour, which was minimum market value a few years ago, and may actually be slightly below now.  Then again, my class rate was $25 per class.  Talking money with my boss is going to be really, really weird.  Also, because we're looking at an extended series of sessions, it seems like there should be a 'bulk rate' discount - or maybe not.  Hum.  I think the first thing will be to determine whether we should do a 6, 8 or 12 week series.  6 would be the bare minimum, and I personally don't like to cram things in that tight - 8 would be okay - 12 would be decent.  12 weeks at one hour each would be $600 - I'd have to be damn sure I'd be giving value for money for that amount.  Actually, that's not asking too much when I think about it, because lesson planning for a group takes less prep, because working with more people at once means less time to get through "x" amount of material.  One-on-one means more material, which means more prep, so - I guess $50 a pop really is fair considering that, knowing me, by the time I get through outlining the course and each individual session, I'll probably only be making some dumb-ass thing like $2.50 an hour. 

Would be a damn sight more satisfying $2.50 than what I make each hour at my day job, though.

Choices.  Commitment.  Follow-through.

Hum.

So now to give my boss a choice - how much do you want to commit to your kid's ability to learn follow-through?

...

Onward.

my_window_seat: (Average Day)
I am... tired of this week.

I've just been informed that I won't be teaching the summer program for the mountain theatre company.  That they're moving from the schedule that we had previously agreed on - and which was exactly the same schedule as last year - to a time that they are clearly aware that I am not available.  Because I told them that I was not available.

I am told that one reason is because they feel that it would fit in better with the vacation schedules of families in their community.
That seems valid and logical.

I am also told that it is because they want to "rotate their teachers" and get in some "fresh new faces".
Despite the fact that this is exactly the opposite approach taken by, oh, every other educational theatre company I've ever worked with.
Because retention of instructors, and building a solid reputation based on experience and familiarity is, in other places, the way things are generally done.

Okay then.
You go, mavericks.
Tally ho, and godspeed.

Personal feelings aside -

This. 
Is for the best.

It feels like shit, but really - it is for the best.

I have had it with these people, and they have had it with me.
I am tired of the lack of support and communication and constant mixed signals -
And my frustration with them, that at times I have allowed to affect my professional interactions, has left them unsatisfied with me.

Not that they have the balls to say so, but there it is.

Valid.
Sucks, but valid.
They are tap-dancing around that issue, but come on, people - don't bullshit me.
I've been honest with them - and unfortunately, sometimes to the point of being abrasively honest, which is unprofessional and is something that I have to stop just taking retroactive responsibility for, but actively CHANGE, pre-emptively, goddamnit -

It would be nice if I could get the same from them.
Honesty.
A lot to ask for, apparently.

Even if it isn't pleasant to hear negative feedback, I'd rather have it, delivered HONESTLY, than get sandbagged with evasions and underhanded double-dealings.

I am also told that part of this decision is being made so that their 'new' summer program will allow for a production that can be mounted on an actual stage (instead of the elementary school cafeteria platform that I was given to work with last year), with lights, sound, yadda yadda - a much more 'authentic' theatre experience.

That is cool.
Seriously.
That is awesome.

And I wish them luck with that, if they're only planning to have one teacher and two high school kids as staff, which is what I was working with last year.  I'm not saying it can't be done, but I'll take my hat off to the person who can do it - hell, I'll give them my hat, and then ask for their autograph, because anyone who can pull that off will be a goddamn superhero.  I believe there's probably someone who exists who can do it - I personally don't happen to know them, but you know, theatre is magic.  Anything's possible.

I am also told that part of the reason for doing this is specifically because some of the parents who had had their children in my classes before were not cast in the Christmas production.  They are unhappy.  This would allow them to get their kids on stage and appease all the hurt feelings over their disappointment.

This is also a decision that I agree with.

Not the bullshit about whiny parents whose speshul snowflakes didn't make it into the professional-level show that they flat-out weren't ready to be in - that I had over 40 kids audition for, and from whom I chose the best people for the parts available, based on the idea that if we are having an audience paying $15 for a fucking ticket, they deserve to get the best fucking value for their dollar that I can provide  -

Dear Parents -

Not getting into every show that you audition for is PART OF THE THEATRE EXPERIENCE.  It is, in fact the MAJORITY of the theatre experience.  Deal with it or GTFO.

Love,
Me

That being said -
If you want to get your kid on stage, regardless of their current level of experience and readiness - a summer camp production, where they are given the training they need, in a fun atmosphere and without the pressures involved in I say again a professional-level show -

Then this is exactly the way to do it.

Good thinking, carry on.
I wish them all the best.

In the final analysis, again, this is all for the best.  Again, feels like shit, but hey - THAT'S PART OF THE THEATRE EXPERIENCE.
Deal with it or GTFO.

I allowed myself to get talked back into teaching this session's classes, even though I didn't want to do it, after the fall-out from the Christmas show experience.  This will conclude my interaction with this company, and that's exactly as it should be. 

They made noises about wanting to "rotate me back in in a few years!" (?!?!) - but
Um, yeah. 
Thanks folks. 
We're done here.

I'll feel better about it later.

One of these days.




Right?

my_window_seat: (Default)
One of the reasons I still think I want to be a teacher is because of people like this guy.  As to whether it will ever happen, other than my after school drama gigs, is still up in the air.  And I am somewhere down below, dealing with the daily bullshit and occasionally looking up at that dream.

But this is the kind of thing that makes me look up.





What about you?

my_window_seat: (Frances Farmer)
A truism not limited to but particularly relevant in theatre is, "it's not what you know, it's who you know."

Today is one of those bizarre and lovely days in which the truism worked for me, rather than against me.

I just got picked up by a private academy for their summer drama program, based specifically on the recommendation of someone I've worked with several times over the last few years.  His recommendation was so strong (and my resume is apparently finally decently stocked enough) that I was hired on the spot, rather than going through the standard lengthy hiring process.

This program also happens to dovetail perfectly with my summer program up in the mountains.
So that I am now completely covered for the summer.
And it isn't even Christmas yet.

I celebrated with a theatre buddy by going out to sushi and praising the pseudo-gods of good reputation and borderline nepotism.

Fuck yeah, bitches.
Fuck YEAH.

my_window_seat: (Default)
Small bright spot in the gloom today.

Something I realized recently is that much of my dissatisfaction with life - in particular with art, something that should satisfy me when nothing else does - is that, since school, I've been doing nearly everything all on my own.

Writing is a solitary art.  I personally have little to no use for writer's groups, and have generally found them to be artistic circle jerks, more often than not populated mainly by talentless malcontents who don't want honest critical assessment, but hand-holding and unearned praise.  A sweeping generalization, but there it is.  Writing classes can be better, but only when they're moderated with a talented, and at least somewhat ruthless, instructor.

I'm only a 'writer' inasmuch as I write.  I don't finish much of anything except journal entries, and I have no ambition to publish.  So that's not my real art.

One of the fundamental underpinnings of my philosophy of teaching drama is that it fosters and really depends on community.  Unless you're doing performance art, you're working with other people.  The strength of the work depends, not wholly on the talent of individuals, but on their ability to successfully combine their gifts to the success of the venture as a whole, and prima donna behavior detracts from that.

Theatre shouldn't be done in a vacuum.  And that's what I feel like I've been working in, and that, I truly believe, is a large part of why I've been so unhappy in the last few months, with teaching, and with the idea of directing the upcoming show. 

At the mountain company, I've been solo teaching, although at least over the summer I had two teenage assistants, and that was a real help, as far as it went.  They helped a lot with the daily activities, but all the planning and conceptualizing were my responsibility.  And the teaching since then, I haven't even had them to work with - it's just been me and the kids, and I've felt like I was really just recycling the same ideas over and over, with far less success than I expected and far more frustration than I ever anticipated.

Substitute teaching, drama aside, is the same way.  Every day is a different school, a different set of kids and curriculum, and there's no one to work with and it just turns into a hellish kind of babysitting.

I'm sick to goddamn death of being completely without community.   I hate feeling like I'm so much on my own.

This week I finally received contact information for my stage manager and set designer for the Christmas show.  I called and talked with each of them, and our first production meeting is this weekend.  I don't know yet if I'll get a costume designer; need to rattle the bushes and see what falls out for that because we really need one.

In talking with the set designer tonight, I finally felt a spark - a real sense of joy again in the process that I've been missing so very much.  I haven't yet put a lot of thought into the concept (and auditions are only two weeks away - jesus...). but in talking with her, I had that familiar feeling of satisfaction that comes from my ideas synching up with another person, and new ideas forming from the infusion of creative impulses from a source outside my own brain.

It was the first real feeling of engagement with what I'm supposed to be doing that I've had in months.
I finally felt like like there was something to really look forward to again.

I needed that.  I needed - and need - that so much.  I'm so tired of having every waking minute taken up with either scrambling unsuccessfully to generate money or escapist activity to keep me from thinking about how dire everything seems.

I need to be a part of something that feels like it's worth doing.  And I need to be doing it with other people.

I finally feel like there's some hope of having that again.





my_window_seat: (Frances Farmer)
I've had some stuff on my mind quite a bit lately that I still haven't been able to sort all the way, and as I'm not feeling 100% at the moment, I'm probably not going to be able to puzzle through much of it just yet, either.

But I had my DVR appointment with Nadine today, and it brought to a head a lot of what I've been muddling with.

DVR, just to give catch-up here, is the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation.  I got on board with them back in 2003, after my brief but colorful visit to the Funny Farm.  DVR's purpose is to get people who are disabled in one way or another back into shape to be able to be self-sufficient and self-supporting - something I definitely needed.

Unlike most social service agencies, DVR is funded through the Department of Education, which makes them a more flexible agency and one that can provide a number of services not available elsewhere.  They also have a particular interest, naturally, in education, so a large portion of their clients are assisted in - you guessed it - getting back to school.

That's how I ended up on the path that's brought me where I am now.

I'm a 4.07 student.  I'm a member of several honor societies, and have been on the Dean's List at my junior college, the four-year school I'm at now, and the National Dean's List.  Hoorah, bells and whistles, yadda yadda.

I'm scheduled to graduate May of next year.

And honestly - I'm still not sure What I'm Going to Be When I Grow Up.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a teacher.  I remember that one of my favorite possessions was an old school desk that was left behind in the garage of the house that I lived in briefly with my mom and stepdad.  I used to make lesson plans from my favorite books and television shows.  Two of my favorite book series' were Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables - both of which feature main characters who eventually become school teachers.

The problem with this childhood goal - being a teacher - is that it's been based on a model of education that hasn't existed in this or any other country in almost a century.  It used to be that all one had to do was go to a teaching college for a few years, and then they'd turn you loose with a classroom full of children - and you were pretty much on your own after that.  Aside from the few times a School Superintendent might come for a visit, assuming you performed adequately enough to get kids in and out of your classroom with a dose of Reading, Writing and 'Rithmetic, you were assumed to be competent and let to do as you would.

It's not like that anymore. 

I probably would have been a good teacher in those days.  Given a few tools and a minimum of supervision, I've been able to accomplish a fair few miraculous things in my time with kids.

I originally dropped out of college eons ago because I knew that my stubborn inability to mesh with 'systems' and fit into 'models' was incompatible with the way education is run now.  When I went back to school with DVR's help, I didn't originally go back with the intent to teach, either.  At that point, just getting enough education to get me out of dead-end retail and office environments was my only real goal.  I didn't have sufficient belief in my own abilities to aim for anything other than that.  I thought, hey, I'll get a certificate for Graphic Design and get some simple job doing layout somewhere.  Play with some shiny toys and call that good.

I went back to school.  I did surprisingly well - but realized I wasn't as creative in the design kind of way as I'd thought I might be.  I saw kids half my age pulling stuff out of their ears that I wouldn't have been able to do myself, and I knew that wasn't the right direction.

I rediscovered my love of words again, and thought, okay, maybe Journalism then.  I changed my education plan at DVR - but within just a few months, I started to have that nagging idea come back to me.  Teaching.  Realizing that the difference between how good one class was compared to another class was not in the subject as often as it was in the person teaching it.  Coming back again to that idea that, while I'm not as gifted as many of my friends, I've been able to help other people refine their own abilities and grow stronger in them.  The old adage, "Those who can, do:  those who can't, teach" isn't really the derogative that it's meant to be when looked at in the right kind of light.  I may not have the same kind of talent as I see in those around me - but I can see it - and I've been able to help other people be able to see that for themselves.

But I'll never have a one room school house out in the middle of a chunk of frontier.  They don't exist anymore.  I was born about a hundred years too late for that.

Now I'm graduating in a year, and I don't know what I'm going to do with my fairly useless degree.

In the last couple years, I've made forays into researching how to get into teaching.  Every time I have, the shape of the system makes my head hurt.  The educational field has its own language and codes of conduct and - and - and -

I swear to god, sometimes I feel like a smart person - and then I stare that stuff in the face and it makes my head swim.
And I look at the kids that I work with, and I can't see that the system is helping them.
And I look at what it would take to get into that system, and I can't see any way that I can jam myself into it.
I can't even understand it well enough to climb the walls - and what I see on the other side -
It makes me sick.

When I ran into my teacher on campus the other day, Brian, I was talking to him about how I'd been looking into getting into a program overseas that would end in teaching certification in another country.  His first reaction was an interesting one - he referred to me as "an educator with a particular interest in Social Justice" - something that took me aback for a moment.  I guess I hadn't thought of my goals in those terms before, but it made a kind of sense.  He then pointed out the fact that by going to another country, I'd have to learn the challenges of a completely different society - that at least here, I knew what was wrong and had some idea of what I had in myself to work towards making things better.  I came back with, but I'm so fucking tired of the ways things are here - I feel like I really need to see the way things are somewhere else, even if it only results in my coming back here with a new appreciation for a country that I really don't feel like I belong in right now.  We eventually compromised in our cross-purposed talk, and Brian told me to make an appointment with him after school starts again so that we can start looking into different programs, both here and overseas, and look for something with the best fit.

I like that idea.  I'm going to definitely make that appointment.

But when I was talking to Nadine today, she pretty much rejected that idea out of hand.  She wants me to start talking to a Job Development counselor and look at what I'll be able to do just with the degree that I'll be getting.  I'm going to do this - but I know that there's going to be a much greater challenge in this than there is with most of her clients, who are getting much more straightforward degrees in things like Engineering or Business or what have you.  There's not a specific industry geared for a person with a Theatre Education degree - especially one that doesn't give one license to teach in a standard school system.

The one bright spot in the appointment - not that it was a bad appointment, just challenging - is that Nadine's going to get me started seeing my old counselor/therapist/life coach again.  If nothing else, it will be good to get that going again.  Mark's a very clarifying person, and being able to reestablish that relationship will be very helpful.

::sigh::

Betwixt, bothered and bewildered* - that's me.

This is a shapeless sort of entry, but that's how I'm feeling at the moment.  Formless around the edges.  Certain, really, of  nothing - other than my uncertainty.

"And there it is - too many notes."

Tired now.

Night, all.




* Apologies to George Gershwin for the mangled paraphrasing.
my_window_seat: (Yuskavage's Girl)
Just had  - one of those moments I live for.  Really.

Went to the store, was on my way to the check-out - heard a voice behind me call my name -

Was two of the boys I worked with last summer, Ismael and - oh, great.  I'm drawing a blank.  They're brothers, can't remember the older boy's name....  Argh!

But Ismael was the one who called out and ran up - not quite a full-on open-arms thing (he's right at that age where it's not quite cool to do that anymore - but he still has the old impulses) - but almost.  Like, he wanted to give a hug but wasn't quite sure if he should.  So I gave him a hug anyway - just not a big smothery one.  And the older brother came over, too, said hi - in that I'm-almost-a-teenager-so-what's-the-protocol? kind of way.

It just - made my night.  Seriously.

Working on that show last summer - I learned a lot.  About working with kids as an artist, and the things I want to do better when doing so.  I know I didn't give the kids last summer as good of an experience as they really deserved, working on that show.  I was too focused on the show, and not focused enough on them.

I can learn.  I can do things differently.

It's just so good to know that it wasn't as bad as all that.  That two of my kids are still happy to see me.

Damn. 

Damn that feels good to know.
my_window_seat: (Default)
Being back in school - and more specifically, now finally being in a position to be in classes that have to do with what really interests me, namely art - well, it's reminding me of the contradictory feelings I've always have about the purpose of education in art, namely that it can be both instrumental and detrimental - it can be either or both necessary and dangerous.

For example: I've been assigned to read both Aristotle's and Castelvetro's theories on poetics - the term then used to refer to theatre, go fig - and both of them, though they differ on many points, agree that there are supposed to be very specific rules for how comedy and tragedy should be constructed.

The thing is this - part of me feels that, in order to most effectively create, it's beneficial to know what the 'rules' are in order to better break them. On the other hand, some of the most amazing leaps forward in the arts have come from 'outsiders', i.e., people who have no knowledge at all of the 'rules' - or even that there are any. While it's impossible to know for sure, some theorists say that Shakespeare can't possibly have known the theories of poetics - and yet other theorists use his work to illustrate their own points about the necessities put forward by those same constructions.

The short form - I wonder how much my education is going to help or hinder me. Is it the mind 'unshadowed by thought' that has the greatest chance of reaching the heights, or are we meant to 'stand on the shoulders of giants' - necessitating knowing enough about them to scale them?

Meh.

I think it's probably six of one, half dozen of the other.

About the only thing I know for sure is that I have a deep-seated streak of resentment towards anyone or anything that puts any kind of restrictions or limitations on me. Which makes me wonder what kind of a teacher I'm going to be - about the only thing I can think is that I'm going to want to encourage that same kind of rebelliousness to codified thought in my students.

Why do I think that this is going to make for a whole lot of challenges in my future career....?

Yeah - that's a purely rhetorical question. ;)
my_window_seat: (Default)
Teaching is not a science; it is an art. If teaching were a science there would be a best way of teaching and everyone would have to teach like that. Since teaching is not a science, there is great latitude and much possibility for personal differences...
- George Polya, Mathematician and Teacher -

Frank Hararry said of Polya: "As a mathematician, his depth, speed, brilliance, versatility, power and universality are all inspiring. Would that there were a way of teaching and learning these traits."


Would that he were still with us. Would that his attitudes toward teaching were still true...
my_window_seat: (Frances)
After one long ass day of going hither and yon for this thing and that, ending in a mentally crippling load of homework that is *still* unfinished, I really don't have it in me to do real justice to an entry right now.

But I can't help it. I just want to - I don't know - plug everyone I know into the pure glowing JOY of being involved in something I've been looking forward to for so long.

Just one two-hour session in the program today, and I walked out feeling like I'd been hit with a ray of some kind of wacky energy that if I could find a way to harness and sell, I'd never go hungry the rest of my life - people would be begging to feel this good, if I could only find a way to give it directly to them.

Theatre Crack - It's What's For Dinner.

Heh.

Not that it's all sunshine and lollipops all the time. Bitching lies in wait, we all know that.

But tonight, just those couple hours of being right where I wanted to be, doing what I wanted more than anything to be doing -

That's what it's all about.

That's it.

And that's all really vague, I know.

Specifically:

Being in a room with a handful of young people, led by a very skillful teacher, doing basic physical exercises and silly explorations, and then sitting down to brainstorm ideas for a project to work on as a collective. Watching these kids in their bizarre recipe of complete self-absorption tempered by that enviable ability to lose themselves in what they're doing and who their with -

And the feeling of synapses firing in my own brain, feeling creative connections come alive in a way that just plain school doesn't even do for me - as passionate as I am about learning, I'm even more passionate about creating - and even more importantly, being in a position to facilitate the process of creation in someone else, an even more exciting form of creation -

Extra-cool-neato thing - when we all sat around the table to go over the ideas we were putting together individually in a particular exercise, when it was my turn Paul at first noted that where I went with it wasn't exactly what he was asking us to go for - meh - but when he heard the idea out, he said, 'okay, so can you put that together for the group on Thursday?'

Meaning - um, I'm not exactly sure what - but I basically got the idea that he wants me to do some kind of group exercise on Thursday based on the idea.

Which would totally rock, because that's what my idea was supposed to be a basis for - an ensemble piece that would grow out of suggestions parceled out to the performers, then herded back in and worked so that it would be a piece woven together out of all the individual parts into a cohesive whole.

::blink blink::

Which means absolutely nothing at all in the abstract. My bad.

The idea for the piece - based on the concept of 'anatomy' - is to have the participants each pick either a part of the body - hand, foot, internal/external organ - or maybe a system of the body - circulatory, respiratory - oh, whatever they feel like doing - and to scamper off and come up with their own ideas for the 'voice' of that particular part/system/thingie.

Next, each 'part' is introduced through a section of monologue - just a minute or so. The actor is the voice of their part of the body.

The next part is where it starts to get tricky - as each part is brought on stage, the beginning of their monologue needs to tie into and start from the end of the part that came just before them - and the new participant ends their monologue by physically connecting themselves to the persons/parts that came before them.

The goal of the first part of the idea being to build a 'body' on stage for the audience, and bring them into the experience of being a part of a whole created of individual parts. Each with their own thoughts, feelings, goals - and each connected to the others in a way that facilitates the entire 'being'.

Um, yeah.

Failing all grand expectations, it could just be a wacky exercise in Anatomical Twister. And that would be just fine, too. :)

I actually have the concept of this piece plotted out a lot farther than this simple (?!) exercise - I'd actually like to go on from there to weave single words and phrases from each of the monologues into a kind of aural tapestry, and use contact improvisation to build a visual sense of the ebb and flow of the 'body's' structure - again to show how the parts make up the whole, both in terms of unison and in dissonance. I'd like to also go on from there to introduce an element of discord - something that causes all or some of the parts to - um, fall apart. And then examine the reactions of the participants to see if there's something that makes them want to find a way to come back together again. The other way it could go would be if some parts want to remain separate - what does the rest of the 'body' do then; how does it cope? Does it collapse, or does it reunite with what remains and move on? Does the new structure find a compensatory strength, or does it just limp along? Does it create something altogether new or does it try to regenerate what it lost?

...

Or, again, it could just be a giggle fest.

Dunno. Don't know exactly what Paul's wanting me to do with this, but I guess I'll just go in with an arsenal of ideas and see how far he wants us to try to run with them. Could be I just get ten minutes to try some goofy stuff out - could be something else entirely. Dunno.

See - that's what's exciting about it.

This is the one area in which uncertainty doesn't feel like a fearful thing.

This is the place I go to where I am not afraid of not knowing exactly what's going to come next.

When I'm in a space where I can create, when I'm in an atmosphere and in a communal setting where the flow of ideas is just - I don't know - I don't know how to say it -

I just feel free.

It's the only place where it feels safe - to just - let go.

...

How to fit schoolwork and work and everything else into the picture - well, I think it's time to fasten seat belts and -

Actually, that's exactly what it's not.

It's going to be a bitch of a ride -

But this is the only road I've ever, really, wanted to be on.

And Christ I'm tired right now...

[EDIT: And an incidental P.S. - I have a phone again. Go, me. :) ]
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You know, today I answered the question of yesterday's maundering musings.

Today I was reminded of why I'm doing all this.

By 'all this' I mean going through all the headache of getting through school to one day be a teacher.

Today was another one of those small validations. One of those few and far between but essential moments that make me go - well yeah - this is what I'm supposed to be doing.

In my Communication for Teachers class we were all assigned the task of preparing a short teaching session. Each of us has to make up 'homework' for our 'class' and then orchestrate a discussion period based on the material that our 'students' have completed. We each had five classmates assigned to us as our students for this exercise, and we 'teach' them in a sort of performance mode in front of the rest of the communications class as they take notes on how we do. Our teaching session is supposed to be run as a discussion period with our 'students, and has to follow a lot of mumbo-jumbo communications matrices and and a bunch of other touchy-feely shit, and we have to script it out to include praise and certain modeling questions designed to promote different aspects of cognitive thought, blah blah blah -

So anyway, I put together a packet of homework based on the different types of stages used in theatre throughout history. I created an activity at the end designed to allow them to use what they'd learned to think up a simple idea for a show and choose what they felt would be the appropriate staging for it.

Bearing in mind that these are adults in a communications class, not theatre students, there were a few understandably weak smiles of polite compliance when I slapped down the 12-page packet for them to read and complete for my teaching session two days later (today).

See, the reason I think I'm doing the right thing -

These guys really got into this.


The future science teacher - designed a children's show of 'Little Red Riding Hood' with flexible staging so that his performers could interact with the audience.

One girl came up to me after class to show me her 'homework' because 'I had fun doing this. I was hoping you'd call on me so I could show it to you.' This from the young lady who hardly ever says a word in class unless called on to do so. She designed an Arena staging of Psyche and Cupid 'to illustrate the conflict of desire and hope' - and I wish I could remember how else she phrased it. It was fucking beautiful.

The guy who's going to be a history teacher - wrote a synposis of a fairy tale with a little boy who's best friends are a donkey and a turnip - yes, that would be another children's show. He designed it for a Proscenium stage so that he could incorporate an intricate set and pyrotechnics. When I asked him what Russian folk tale he'd gotten his story from, he said 'It's just something I made up. I want to make a few calls and get my facts straight on the technical stuff, but I think I need to really write it up now, you know, finish it. This was really neat.'

With just a few bits of historical reference and diagramed illustrations and an exercise in creativity, I got a handful of disinterested adults to really enjoy the idea of being their own producers.

And I didn't do anything magical. I just let them learn how to create their own magic.

This is it. This is why I want to do what I want to do.

Because goddamn it - I'm good at it.

...

There, I said it.

That's why I want to do the impossible, or so it seems most days.

Because it's the only thing really worth doing to me.

And so then.

Onward.
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Wow. Just - wow.


Date: Mon, 27 Jun 2005 19:33:21 -0700
Subject: THANK YOU
From: "JZ" <******@comcast.net>
To: *****@yahoo.com

DEAR DEBRA,

YOUR KIND WORDS WERE ALMOST OVERWHELMING. I WOULD
NEVER HAVE DESCRIBED MYSELF OR MY CLASSROOM IN THE
GLOWING TERMS YOU USED. HOWEVER, I'M GLAD THAT WHAT
I DID WAS SUCH A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE FOR YOU.

AS YOU MAY KNOW, MY WIFE PASSED AWAY SEVERAL YEARS
AGO FROM LEUKEMIA. SHORTLY THEREAFTER I RETIRED, BUT
I STILL SPEND A FAIR AMOUNT OF TIME IN THE CLASSROOM.
IN FACT, FROM LAST SEPTEMBER TO JANUARY I WAS TEACHING
ENGLISH IN TAIWAN. THIS COMING WEEKEND I WILL RETURN
THERE FOR A ONE-MONTH SUMMER ENGLISH PROGRAM. I
MIGHT BE THERE SOMEWHAT LONGER IF ONE OF THE REGULAR
TEACHERS CAN'T RETURN IN TIME TO BEGIN THE NEW SCHOOL-
YEAR DUE TO HER MOTHER'S ILLNESS.

BETWEEN SHORT-TERM TEACHING ASSIGNMENTS AND QUITE
A BIT OF TRAVEL, I'M GONE ALMOST AS MUCH AS I'M AT HOME.

I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU AGAIN. WHAT LEVEL OF
TEACHING ARE YOU CONSIDERING, WHERE ARE YOU ATTENDING
SCHOOL? ETC., ETC.

AGAIN THANK YOU FOR YOUR MESSAGE. IT MEANT A GREAT
DEAL TO ME.

MY VERY BEST WISHES FOR YOUR FUTURE,

JZ
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If I'd finished this thing even one day ahead of schedule I'd be pleading for offers to proof it. But I didn't, and I can't. This is the way it goes in. So it is printed, so mote it be.

I submit for your approval, rejection, or ignoring enjoyment:

Climbing Up the Down Staircase: How effective communication can reverse the effects of student downward mobility )


Maybe I'm wrong, but I think I totally rock the titles when I write papers. Why is it then that I suck so hard at writing titles for poems? And that I tend to end my papers with an overly gushy (and sometimes downright scary) kind of optimism that I rarely visibly display In Real Life?

Ponder, ponder, ponder...


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[EDITED - text of article now behind the clicky. No more evil passwords.]

If you are planning on one day being an educator, you should make sure your ass is acquainted with the sociology and politics of the world you are going to be teaching in. Regardless of what age or grade you are going to teach, you should be EDUCATED IN THIS SHIT, damn it. )

If you 'can't be bothered' or find it 'too difficult to think about' -

Please do everyone a favor and go into another fucking line of work.

Kthnxbuhbye

[EDIT: In all honesty, I should note for the record that I used to be in the "can't be bothered/too difficult to think about" camp.

And I fully acknowledge that these kinds of things are hard to think about, and frequently are frustrating beyond belief.

I sometimes feel soiled by the things that I read and see, and want to do nothing more than preserve what little spark of faith in humanity I have left by sticking my head so far down a hole that I smother in my own carbon monoxide exhalations.

And then there's someone like this guy - who lays the ugly picture out and eviscerates it completely, lays open the rotten, festering guts in all their technicolor splendor - and then proposes to do something about it.

That's the thing - it's not enough to bemoan the state of things being bad and in need of some serious fucking Marshall Planning - you have to then get in there and think and talk and then act on how you think it can be changed for the better.

So, yeah.

If you're used to being an ostrich, as I certainly was, it's possible to change that.

Don't be a pussy - your students deserve better.]

The above comments are directed at no one in particular, and definately not at anyone on my Friends List. The management however reserves the right to fling monkey poo in the general direction of the rest of the universe as and when warranted.

The management also reserves the right to delete and repost this entry with corrections, thereby bumping it back up on your Friends Page once again, in case you missed it the first time or just didn't want to deal with the evil clicky-password-thingie, which has been fixord. Nyah.
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Because of [livejournal.com profile] feralnerd, I did something I've wanted to do for a long time, but just never seemed to get around to.

Thank you, Mr. Z.

===============================================

Date: Thu, 9 Jun 2005 01:13:57 -0700 (PDT)
From: "~D~" <******@yahoo.com>
Subject: Thank you from a grateful student
To: ******@comcast.net

Dear Mr. Z :

I was a student of yours at the Kirkland Seventh Day
Adventist school years ago. You were actually my
teacher for several grades, though I'm not certain
exactly which they were, though I believe they were
4th and 7th.

I'm writing because I'm in college now (for the second
time, but who's counting?), with the eventual goal of
becoming a teacher - and you are one of the people I
count as the ideal of what I will strive for in my
future career.

You made your classroom a safe and welcoming place to
be. You were creative, kind, and used so many unique,
creative and even entertaining ways of capturing our
attention that it rarely felt like work to learn.

You kept animals in the classroom. You read to us
during lunch. You kept a basketful of magazine
articles that any of us could rummage through and
write about for extra credit. You teamed us up for
College Bowl trivia games.

You let me turn in math homework over the summer so
that I wouldn't be held back a grade. You and your
wife used to give me rides to church, even when I
called at the last minute.

You never said an unkind word, never raised your
voice. You made me, and I believe each of us, feel
like we were unique and special to you as individuals.

You did so many things, more than would fit in an
e-mail of reasonable length.

You gave in the classroom and out of it, and it is
because of you that I realize that this is what being
a teacher is really all about.

I wish I'd said this sooner, but I want you to know
now sir how very thankful I am to have had you for a
teacher. If I can make a difference in even the
smallest of ways in this world, it will be you that I
have to thank for it.

Thank you, Mr. Z .

Your Student,
~D~
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1) Multiple-guess tests should only be used when specific facts, terminology, or information need to be memorized. If it's subjective or open to interpretation, why the fuck would you want answers confined to a Scantron bubble?

2) Being willing to meet with a student outside of class, on your own time, is the hallmark of an exceptional teacher. It says, "yes, I really do give a damn." It's also very likely to improve a student's performance.

In reaction to a test I just took in Communication for Teachers. I love the teacher, I hated this test.

Back to class...
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About this time of year, every high school principal worries about what the outgoing seniors are going to be up to in the way of semi-destructive hijinks as they try to burn off energy during their last year in compulsory education.

And then, there is magic.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, a bunch of seniors broke into the Montpelier High School in Vermont - and painted a celestial mural on the entrance hall ceiling. Blue skies, stylized clouds, all centered around a radiant sun - signed in the corner with the class script.

As consequence for their actions, the principal is assigning those known perpetrators with the task of painting the lunchroom auditorium - to match.

Yes, because he likes it.

It takes a special kind of administrator to be able to enforce discipline - in the right kinds of ways, and for the right kinds of reasons. Not just because 'rules are rules', but because there are safety or other kinds of considerations - hey guys, breaking into the school and climbing around on ladders in the dark - not so safe, ya know? But wow - incredible work there. Let's have some more, through the proper channels.

Someday, I want to work under a principal like that.

And I wish I could see pictures of the ceiling...
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Brief update; very tired.

Have had two meetings at ABHS this week. A little odd, but very productive. Looks as though I could be doing all kinds of stuff there, if I only had unlimited time. Have only briefly met with the theatre-related teacher there, though as I mentioned before, they don't actually have any theatre classes - still have to find out where they've managed to edge it in elsewhere and see if I can't wrangle on in there. I'm pretty sure they have an afterschool drama club; says so on the webpage anyway. Right now she'd like my help with a thingie their students will be doing at the library for Reading Across America at the end of April.

Oh, and Vashti said she'd like to have me give a couple classes on sculpture and papermaking for her art classes. I already have some ideas in my head; was going to type them up here just to finalize it in my head and so on, but will have to wait. Tired.

I don't know if these kids know how lucky they are that they are in a school that still includes art in the curriculum. It's being systematically stripped away from the educational system to make room for the additional time needed to cram for the proficiency testing for the [swear swear swear SWEAR] NCLB [swear SWEAR swear] stuff.

Also may be sitting in as an advisor for some other stuff, but I think I already mentioned that.

Registered for my Summer Semester classes.

Just found out that TVI will be offering a Fine Arts Degree starting this Fall. I'm not sure whether to be pleased by this or extremely irritated now that I've spent three semester taking required shit for the Associates Degree - that won't necessarily be required for the Fine Arts Degree, which I'd rather have. Too tired to care right now, and what's done is done, and will actually believe the Fine Arts Degree is actually a reality once I actually see the damn thing in the catalog. Downside: I'm sure it will be much harder to get into any of the studio classes because they'll be so limited - no damn space for everyone.

NOTE: Shit, shit SHIT - not sure if I can change my major to Fine Arts without effing up ny Financial Aid, as I've already changed it once (from Graphic Design to Liberal Arts because whatthefuckelse was there at the time...). Will need to look into this.

Have to finish my paper and presentation material for Biology this weekend. Need to read a crapload of stuff to get the Expressionism paper on Hitchcock I proposed started. Need to cram a couple of chapters worth of math in as well, just to keep everything fun. Two papers and a final project for Musical Theatre - but that's going to have to bloody well wait.

Going to see Candide tomorrow night. Sniffling and hiding of tears will ensue. It will be worth it.

Tired...
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SQUEEEEE! Just saw Kimmie here on campus, and as she said, girlfriend is GOING BACK TO SCHOOL! Twin snaps in a z-formation for the girl who is going to do good things for herself - WHOO-HOO! HOORAY for [livejournal.com profile] darkwench - so proud of you!

And I only have a few minutes, but in brief -

Had my meeeting at Amy Biehl today, and Vashti, the arts teacher I'll be coordinating with, is probably one of the coolest people I've ever met, and I am TOTALLY psyched about working with her. She introduced me to various and sundry other administrative poohbahs, including the Director for the Center for College and Civic Engagement (don't ask me; I'm not sure either...), the Principal, some other honchos and such - and I ran into a student there who's also in one of my classes here at TVI - Musical Theatre, to be exact. Ma head be spinney and such right now - whoo!

Next week I'll be going in to meet with some of the senior students and listen to their presentations on - um, hard to explain, but they basically have to summarize their academic progress and its application to their future and - um, stuff. It's a school a lot like Evergreen, actually - a totally different format from standard high school, and they apparently try to integrate everything they do and teach into some klind of practical application to like, you know, real life and shit. FanfuckingTABulous.

What it looks like I'll be doing for the remainder of this semester and most of next semester is meeting with the different teachers in the other arts departments and just kinda hanging out, observing different classes, watching how they do what they do. As we go Vashti and I will figure out where the needs are and how I can help fill them, and I'm going to try to pull in more support from the Arts & Sciences Department at TVI to provide students volunteers.

Haven't even begun to figure out a theatre application in all this. Head still be all a spinney as I think I mentioned, and haven't met the theatre person there yet. NOTE: They don't have a theatre program at all right now. MUST FIX THIS.

Gack. Need to go get something to shove in my face before class or I'll go from Spinney to falling-downey.

Off to forage and then to class...

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