When I saw the posting on the CCNY Program for Educational Theatre Listserv looking for a drama instructor to teach high school theatre in a charter school system in Canarsie, Brooklyn, I knew there was no way I would get the job. After all, I was in my first semester of graduate school. Sure…I’d taught as a teaching artist in public schools, and I had directed/choreographed some camp shows in upstate New York, but I was nowhere near qualified for the job. But after reading the post, I figured…what the heck! Why not go for it? I wanted to see if I would at least be granted an interview. So, I applied.About two weeks later, I got asked to do a phone interview. In my head I thought this is exactly what I expected. I’ll get an initial interview, but they’ll never put me through to the next round. However, a week after my phone interview, I got an email asking me to come do a demo-lesson for a classroom of students and three observers. So I prepared a lesson based on Uta Hagen’s Nine Questions For The Actor and shot for the stars. A few weeks later, I got the call that I had gotten the job. What started as a whim, actually happened. In only one semester, the program in Educational Theatre helped give me the confidence in my abilities and the language and terminology to impress the people that interviewed me.
To say that this job teaching theatre at Uncommon Prep Charter High School has been a piece of cake would be an absolute lie. It’s been hard. Incredibly hard! Harder than anything I could have ever imagined. Planning a year’s worth of curriculum = hard. Managing a classroom of thirty students = hard. Finding a balance between work, grad school, and life = hard. This job has pushed me, challenged me, made me cry, and been so overwhelming that I almost quite after 6 months.
However, the tools that I have learned in the program in Educational Theatre have empowered me to meet the challenges head on. If I need help coming up with ideas for lessons, navigating the Blueprint Standards for the Arts, or finding creative ways to approach a lesson, I need only turn to my peers and the amazing faculty. Each person in the program has helped me SO much! In all of our classes, we talk about what how theatre is such a collaborative art form. Teaching is exactly the same. Without the help of my peers, our in-depth class discussions, the activities and facilitations we see on a weekly basis, and the guidance of instructors like Sobha and Jennifer, I simply would not be able to navigate this job.
What I have really noticed in my time at Uncommon Prep Charter High School is that our work is important. Young scholars need to be free to explore creative outlets. They needed a moment or two in their day that isn’t filled with quadratic equations, lab experiments, Cornell notes, and essay writing. They need a place where there is no right or wrong answer. When they can challenge themselves creatively and find their artistic voices. Kids need us. Kids need theatre. That is what I have learned.