I grew up in a house with parents who were teachers for the NYC Board of Education. They both worked hard. Yes, they had summers off so they could write, but the rest of the year I watched them struggle with thankless jobs. My Dad was out of the house by 6:00am and on the subway to his job as Assistant Principal at a city high school. He tried his best, dealing with substandard teachers during the day and grading papers at night. My mother was a second grade teacher and put in her time until she was able to log enough years to collect a pension. She earned a PhD at 50 and is now a psychotherapist, which is work she loves!
As a child I often felt like I was in a classroom. We read poetry aloud at the dinner table. Every point mattered on an exam. (My mother still edits this blog!) My grandmother, a public school teacher herself, also knew German so I went out of my way to learn it in college. No one told me to do any of these extras, I just felt that it was expected. If your parents are teachers you just internalize being a good student. I never once thought of being a teacher myself.
But guess what? As I stood at the Kimmel Center last semester to greet my students for the Spring semester of the Showstoppers! program, I realized I can’t pretend that I’m not a teacher anymore. I am a “teaching artist,” (just like the other amazing staff: Reggie Pindell, Jaquetta Colson, Manisha Modi and Carol Frazier) but guess what? That means I AM A TEACHER. In fact I am always teaching in coaching sessions, and I’ve had to teach during all the years I taught theatre in elementary schools, prisons and colleges. As a mother I am explaining and teaching countless times every single day.
There’s something about the current group of SHOWSTOPPERS! students that is really rare. They are so talented, keen to learn, and have the best spirits. I adore working with them. They watch us set the bar very high for them. They freak out. Then they surpass the goals we set for them. They have made me so proud that I want to shout from the rooftops “I teach these kids!”
I never realized that I could be a teacher on my own terms, where I enjoy every moment of the experience. I love learning, engaging in ideas and debate, but I always called it other things. Now I realize it is a bigger part of me than I ever acknowledged before — and I love it! This is both shocking and exciting to me.
Is there something in your life you have rejected as part of your identity? What if you could take just the good parts of it and leave the rest? If you could integrate that into your life now, what would it be?