i have a question...

Friday, October 9, 2009

conversations with (a) teacher, special edition

When I graduate in May, I will be receiving a Master's degree as well as a Massachusetts state teaching license. Along with the requirements of my program, I am required to take certain classes, complete a two-part standardized test (both of which I've taken and one of which I've passed--I get results for the second part at the end of this month) and student-teach for 300 hours. The leg work it is taking to find a student-teaching slot in an urban high school, which is where I'd like to work, is consuming a lot of this month.

So at 6:30 this morning (after waking up every hour on the hour starting at 2:30 AM and really just dozing from 5:30 on) I got up to visit a high school in Cambridge. The theater teacher there is notoriously elusive and admittedly reluctant about taking on a student-teacher, but I think my persistence will pay off. I spent the morning with her, observing her introductory and advanced theater classes.

She begins each class with a check-in where each kid states a word or phrase describinghow he/she is doing that morning. She also has a large packet from which she asks thought-provoking questions that each student must answer, taking time to let them air their grievances or chat about changes they would make or stories they have to tell.

The beginning class is doing a unit on pantomime, so they spend the day doing physical exercises and engaging with imaginary objects. I was incredibly impressed with these beginning students' commitment, senses of humor, and general enthusiasm. She has obviously created an incredible environment, where the kids trust her and where her care and concern for them is evident.

The advanced acting class started with a totally casual chat and ended with them presenting the two-person scenes they have been working on in a playwriting unit. These texts were nuanced, deep, thoughtfully written, and generally solidly acted. I was so impressed and enthralled.

When one of her beginning students was leaving the class, after he had convincingly pantomimed a lizard crawling into his jacket, she said, "Be safe this weekend and remember your future is in theater." It broke my heart.

It made me think of something one of my professors says, that there are people on the planet because of her. And that there are only so many professions where that can be said.

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