The Question Just May Be the Answer: From Teaching Artist to Grad School
I started my journey as a Teaching Artist about 8 years ago. At that time, I had been mostly acting in regional theater and started feeling like my work as an actor was mostly me in a bubble. It was not connecting to and inspiring others the way I had hoped. It was mostly auditioning and waiting for calls from my agent to let me know if I had a job or not and wondering Is this all there is? How can I use what I love to inspire other people to use their voice and validate their emotions? What else can I do with my artistry?
After sharing these questions with my agent, she recommended I meet with a non-profit arts organization that was looking for teaching artists to work with their community of young people who stutter. I had only dabbled in teaching theater to children, but I went on the interview and got the job. After my first minute there, I was hooked. The next thing I knew, I was a teaching artist for 5 amazing organizations and part of a life changing community. Being a teaching artist was the answer I was searching for. It was this magical profession where I was using my talents and passion for acting as a way to connect with communities and individuals in deeper ways than I could as an actor. Each time I taught an arts integration residency, directed an after school play or devised theater with teens on the weekends, I felt a deep sense of purpose and was finally able to trust that I was innately a creative person.
The work itself was a perfect fit for me, but eventually the lifestyle started to wear on me. I counted up the amount of hours spent on a train, a bus, a car, walking, and I realized it was much more than the time I spent actually teaching. Except for 2 jobs, I was not getting paid to travel and I was having to put my daily schedule together like it was a game of tetris each week. I was coming home exhausted from juggling so many jobs and wondered...How can I use all I love about this work and do something similar in one place? How can I use my experience as a teaching artist to help new teaching artists? Are there other communities and settings (besides a school) where I can explore this work? The questions kept poking at me, but no answers and I am someone who likes answers. It is hard for me to sit in the unknown. But I could not avoid it... so I marinated in the questions.
I decided to try out arts administration and was hired as the Performing Arts Coordinator at a non-profit organization that provides free after school arts programs to underserved NYC public schools. Now, I am using my experience as a teaching artist to hire and train other teaching artists who are just starting out, as well as writing all of the performing arts curriculum. Overall I love this work and especially love getting to connect with, support and encourage a new teaching artist community. This change inspired me to want to learn a lot more about how I could add more tools to my teaching artist bag, as well as about various career paths in arts administration and teaching. After digging deeper, a new answer revealed itself to me: the Educational Theater program at CCNY.
I’ve only been in the program for one month and I’ve already learned new games and tools which I have been excited to try out in my work. I’ve started finding new ways to be more intentional in how I connect to the teaching artists I meet, as well as scaffold lessons I write in a more thoughtful way. I have the beginnings of a teaching artist philosophy which I am excited to continue molding as I grow and learn more in the program. The biggest takeaway so far though is that I am asking more questions than ever about what I really want to do and why. Everytime I log off a class, I add a new question. Currently I wonder: Am I in the right stream or should I get certified? Do I want to go back to being a full time teaching artist? Can I be an arts administrator and still teach? How will I make a living, get health insurance and still do this work? What is my why? What is my specific niche in this work? How can I use my skills and talents to best serve others? Questions without answers sometimes make me feel like I am behind, but I am starting to realize that asking questions of myself is what has led to the most growth and change in my life so far...it is what led me to this amazing program. The answers will come in time and right now I am excited to remain open and see where this path of questions leads me next.