Not Broadway Bound…Yet

This is a response written for the Practicum course in the online teaching certification program.

Not Broadway Bound…Yet

Oddly enough, I was just this week thinking about one of my former high school teachers. I imagine on some subconscious level I thought of him because it is high school graduation season; two weeks ago, I was thinking about my college professors at my son’s college graduation. My high school teacher, who I shall cbroadway lightsall “Mister”, was a brilliant stage director who also taught art. In my brief foray into theater, I learned about how a teacher could be intolerant. As an older sister whose mom was a single parent in a time when such a label was unheard of, I became responsible for my brother, nine years my junior. Yet, I wanted to be part of the school play, a musical. Unfortunately for me, taking care of my brother interfered with my ability to become involved in extracurricular activities.

Not to be discouraged, I begged my mom for her to make other arrangements for my brother. Fortunately, she agreed. However, as circumstances unraveled and her backup plans fell through, yours truly had to miss a rehearsal. Naturally, I explained the situation to Mister before my absence. While I certainly didn’t think Mister would be pleased (although realistically, how much could one member of the chorus affect the production?), I certainly didn’t expect his ultimatum. “If you don’t show up for rehearsal, you are out of the show,” Mister told me.

As a 15 year old who had a strong sense of family obligation, and after begging all of my friends to babysit my brother for me—to no avail—I missed the rehearsal and true to Mister’s word, I was out of the show. To this day, I wonder about Mister’s lack of accommodation toward a student who faced a then uncommon dilemma and about his intolerance of a situation that should have been handled differently. His harsh response could have deterred me from seeking future involvement in school activities, yet in actuality it spurred me into finding activities in which I could be involved and still help my mom. In other words, I found a place where my interests could match my responsibilities and tolerance for it would be accepted.

More importantly, I learned the value of words. I imagine that Mister had to follow through with his edict to ward off those who thought about missing a rehearsal without a valid reason. Certainly, there were those in the cast who wanted to miss rehearsal for the sake of missing rehearsal whereas to me, watching a sibling trumps irresponsibility. For the director, Mister couldn’t be bothered to figure out realities, so it was easier to make an across the board mandate, albeit severe, to simplify matters for him. As a result, I take people’s words as truth and use the words, “I will” very carefully. When I say I will be somewhere, I will be there. When I tell my students in my English classes that their essays will be graded next week, they will be graded next week. Further, as an educator I accommodate students when possible and work with them to achieve a desired outcome, rather than closing a (stage) door on them.

As a side note, I still enjoy musical theater. While my musical stage career flashed and burned, as a native Pennsylvania who grew up 70 miles from New York City, maybe one day my name will be in lights on Broadway!

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