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.