Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Really-Real-for-Real Grad Student is Taught a Lesson By a Pack of Cracked-Out Teddy Bears.

Today is my first class as a really-real-for-real Graduate Student. I feel cool. And smart. I'm a Graduate Student. Now, thats not the highest degree ever earned in my family... I come from a long and distinguished line of doctors, lawyers, and teachers. But I never ever imagined I would go for a higher level degree- I honestly wasn't sure I wanted to even graduate from college! So this new scholarly pursuit is fulfilling on numerous levels.


I have been teaching theater classes to children ages 5-9 for the past half a year and the reality of teaching does not match up with my glorious and glowing image of classroom life. When I daydream about teaching, I see precious faces, eagerly shining up at me, hanging on my every brilliant word. My classroom resonates with music and laughter, or is blanketed in sweet silence as little minds diligently work to bring peace to the world, feed starving nations, and resolve the conflict over the Gaza Strip. I love my students and they LOVE me.

Reality check.

Have you ever been scared of a 5-year-old? You think to yourself, "shes just a baby! How hard can it be to make her sit and listen?" But then you find yourself not 10 minutes later standing in the middle of a room full of screaming maniacs and all you can do is breathe and try to keep from crying. Thats obviously an exaggeration.... sort of.....

Example: I had a parent observation class one week in December and it was a disaster of epic proportions. The previous week we began preparing a little play to show the parents called "Big Box of Bears". All the little girls had learned their lines and were exploring their motivations, digging deep into the psyche of the Teddy Bear, what it means to be fuzzy and filled with fluff...that kind of thing. So on the day of the performance, which as it turns out was also the last day of school before the Christmas Holiday, I headed to class expecting to see my little Shakespearean Teddys ready and raring to go........ oh no....... what i found were 9 over-sugared, over-stimulated, Santa-Claus-is-coming-to-town Christmas Monstors. Seriously. One little girl refused to participate at all and sat in the corner eating candy canes for an hour. Another had such a bad headache (from all the SUGAR) she spent the hour with her head buried inside her coat. The ones that actually wanted to play were so hopped up on candy that, bless their hearts, they could barely control their own bodies! "Big Box of Bears" turned into "Big Box of Bears on Crack"!

And then the parents arrived. And the class totally fell apart. Because 5-year-olds can only hold it together for so long. What goes up, must come down and after a long day of Christmas parties and cupcakes, there will inevitably be much crashing, crying and gnashing of teeth..... except for the little girl who sat in the corner and ate candy canes for an hour- she was still going strong. We ended up doing to play with only 3 participants. It was the worst thing I have ever seen. I was humiliated, I was in shock, I just knew I was fired. I went home and tried to regain my composure.

A few days later I got a call from my boss saying that 2 parents called and emailed and wanted to WITHDRAW THEIR CHILDREN FROM MY CLASS!!!!! Humiliation. I quickly shot off emails of apology and promise, and stressed that this class was an exception, not a rule. Which is true.....sort of. We ended up convincing the parents to leave their children in our class, and I am getting massive support from my boss and the other teachers. They keep telling me that this is normal, and these things happen from time to time, but I can't help feeling like a failure. Remember, I had a VISION! And it didn't include teddy bears on crack!

However, strange though it may sound, underneath that feeling of failing is an even bigger and more boisterous feeling threatening to burst through...... I thinks its called strength,

or maybe exhilaration,

or maybe even inspiration.

You see, the BIG TRUTH, the thing that I bet most teachers can say about their classes, is that these INSANE CHILDREN can teach us more about ourselves and our skills as teachers, parents, friends, and humans than any text book or graduate class. So while I am overjoyed to be a graduate student, I am so very thankful to have found Drama Kids. I treasure every exhausting and exhilarating moment with my cracked-out teddy bears.


  1. Hey Helen. Great blog, love reading it. Hope all is well. Awesome that you are teaching theatre classes to children.... is does sound very glamorous in my mind as well haha.
    Also we seem to like a lot of the same style design etc... check out these blogs you might like them as well.


  2. Yes Helen I love the idea of crafting a week. And I really really like the idea of doing a craft fair!! Actually I have been looking into Renegade Craft Fair because they are doing one in the South this year in Texas. Also TN has a pretty good fair each year. Would should look into it.