Some of you, probably most of you who know me well, may think of me as a “nerd.” And this descriptor does approach the truth, but it is not entirely accurate. To really know me, to see me as I really am, you have to catch me in my most natural environment: school. And there you will see that what I actually am is a teacher’s pet.
I have always loved school, ever since I can remember. I mean, I loved recess and lunch time and summers off as much as every other kid, but when September came around I never really moaned or complained. I put on my new shoes and walked confidently into that building where I knew that even if the other students found me annoying, at least the teachers would love me! And our love, for the most part, was mutual.
I had a first day back at school of a sort today, entering the Dana Teaching Institute at Center Theatre Group, a two-week-long training program for Theatre Teaching Artists. And in spite of my love for school I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this one for the following reasons: A: I was sent some really dry preparatory reading last week that was full of theoretical mumbo-jumbo that felt like it was using a lot of big words to say something simple (nothing I hate more than that), and B: it was a theatre training, which meant we were going to have to play theatre games (okay – maybe we’ve found something I hate more! That was fast).
Now, you may be asking: “Who is making her do these things she hates so much?” And the answer is simple: me. Knowledge that this is what the workshop would be about didn’t stop me from applying for this program. In my interview I believe I actually said these things were the two things that I was, in fact, interested in doing more of! I suppose it was one of those sick moments when you decide that the reason you hate doing something is that you’re actually scared of it, so the only remedy is to throw yourself into it even further.
Given all this, I drove the workshop this morning thinking, “this might be kind of a drag.” But the minute I walked into the room I felt this other person take over my body. This bubbly, gregarious, outwardly-confident person that I am not used to seeing every day. She happily greeted everyone in the room (although there were only the workshop leaders present because, of course, I was the first one to arrive), she took a seat front and center, and quickly began scribbling down notes and asking clarifying questions that were not necessarily even for her benefit, but for the benefit of the rest of the class. In the theatre games (which I hate!) she tried so hard to do well that she screwed up her face in a look of such intense concentration it was pointed out to the rest of the class. And she didn’t mind the attention. Are you kidding? She relished in it.
It helped, of course, that the workshop facilitators were incredibly talented teachers themselves – I was learning as much from studying them teach as from the material they were covering. And as I sat there taking my notes a familiar thought began to creep across my brain. “If I am this happy at school, why don’t I just get my teaching credential and find a full-time job teaching high school somewhere?”
But then, just as quickly, the other part of my brain replied: “No, you’re a writer. You love being a writer.”
“Not this week I don’t. This week writing sucks. Writing is the stupidest, most useless way I could ever be spending my time.”
“But when you’re really in the zone with your writing, when it’s flowing and you know that it’s good, then you love being a writer. And when you’re sitting at the back of a theatre, listening to the audience hear your words spoken from the mouths of amazing actors? That’s a feeling you love more than any other in the world.”
“But that feeling is so fleeting! If I were a teacher I could have successful moments, I could feel fulfilled in my work every day!”
“If you were a full-time teacher you would feel just as beaten down by it as you currently do as a writer. You would long for the freedom and the flexibility of your current life.”
“But what am I even accomplishing with that freedom?”
And so the debate rages on inside my head. Which side will win in the end? Only time will tell. For now, I’m just going to sit quietly and listen to my teachers.