Not That Kind of Teacher

The fall play is this week.  It’s a class production, an hour-long cutting of Much Ado, but classes are only 48 minutes long so we scheduled a dress rehearsal for tomorrow to run through it top to bottom once before the actual show.  I’ve done my usual reminders about this – multiple emails home to parents, posting it on the online calendar, daily reminders for the students, etc.

So naturally a student runs up to me at the end of class today.  “Miss Waterhouse!  I wasn’t here the day you brought in all the costumes for us to try on.”

“Uh-huh?” I say as I gather up my papers, prompting for an actual question from her.

“So, I don’t have a costume.”

“Okay,” I say simply.  She looks confused.

“So, I don’t have a costume,” she repeats, but slower as if I didn’t understand her the first time.

“Well, you still need one for tomorrow.”

“But I wasn’t here that day!” she protests.

“You were here the second day we spent on costumes, though.  And those days were over a month ago.”

“Yeah, well, I forgot,” she says.

“Okay,” I say.

“But I need a costume!” she says.

“You’re right,” I say.  “And if you had asked me about this three weeks ago I could have helped you.  I hope you figure something out.”

And then I walked away.

I’m guessing she’ll have something for tomorrow’s dress rehearsal.  And if she doesn’t, well, she can wear jeans and a t-shirt.

About two weeks before a show I tell the kids that it’s their show.  It’s a gradual handoff, but I step back and they take the reins.  I tell them that they are the ones on stage, that the show belongs to them, and that it will be what they make it.  I don’t think they ever actually believe it, though, until they do it and find that I truly do sit in the audience and watch.  If they forget a line, I won’t be there to prompt them.  If they skip a page, I won’t be there to tell them how to get back on track.  If they forget to get a costume, I won’t spend my evening making one for them.

I know that the blame might land on me.  I’m very aware that this is my first show in this school and that it’s a judgey population.  I want the kids to look good and sound good and I want them to make me look good.

But I also want them to own their actions, to learn responsibility, and to realize that sometimes they have to rescue themselves.

So I walked away.


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