Thursday, March 2, 2017

Teaching Theatre is my Happiness: TIME!


"Lion King" Jr. is over!  And it was a fabulous!

The cast party is done, the DVD's, pictures, and cast photos are all distributed, and for the most part, it is over.

I was so tired it seems for weeks after we closed.  Striking is so much faster than set up.  But it is a lot of work to put things away, wash costumes, clean up, etc.  I usually strike mostly by myself.

Throughout the production, I have around 70 parent volunteers that help set up, sew costumes, handle concessions, etc.  But, I like to get strike over with as soon as possible, so I tend to take it down myself rather than wait for a day when parents can come and help.

As I take the set down, I contemplate how the production went. This year, I have determined (a personal epiphany?) that TIME matters.

Giving people your TIME is quite a sacrifice.  Time is such a precious commodity.  To give someone your time, really means that person matters to you.  To sacrifice time with my family to be with the "Lion King" kids, meant that those kids were valuable in my eyes.  I don't know if they always knew that, or if they always appreciated what I was doing for them.  But I know it mattered, and it made a difference in their lives.

Rehearsals were not always extremely productive, and sometimes that's ok.  Once in a while you just gotta have fun together, chill and relax together!  But, the performances were still awesome.  And the kids still gained confidence in themselves.

As I thought about the TIME it took to put together the production of "Lion King", I couldn't help but compare that experience with raising children and my marriage.

Often I would like to spend more TIME with my husband.  There were many, many TIMES I don't feel like I gave (give) my children valuable "rehearsal" time on their journey to becoming adults.   But, sometimes, that's ok.  It is important to have fun together, chill and relax together.  "It took a lot of TIME and effort to raise my (children)."  (quote from a classroom play)  It took a lot of time and effort to grow my marriage.  A sacrifice for sure.  And it is not done, I am still giving them my time.  It's the least I can do to show them I love them and they are worth something to me.

TIME MATTERS.  Recent studies contradict the idea that quality time is more important than quantity time.   The original premise was that it didn't matter how much time you spent with your kids, it only mattered that the time was highly productive.

More recent research shows that :kids need both with their parents. In fact, the more involved parents are with their children - and the word "more" here is used with direct reference to the concept of quantity - the less likely they are to have social, emotional, or academic problems, use drugs or alcohol, become involved in crime, or engage in premarital sex."  (


This makes sense to me.  TIME spent with your family--any TIME, shows them that you love them, that you want to be with them, that they are worth your time.  As human beings, we are social beings. We NEED to be with other people.  We need to know that we are valuable.  TIME is the best way to show someone that you care.

A few things from the above article to consider:
"Is your employment outside the home a matter of providing for basic needs, or are you driven by materialistic desires or a longing for personal significance? Are there any aspects of "maintaining a household" that you can afford to sacrifice? Do you attach a greater value to status or appearance than to the well-being of the people with whom you share your life? After all, a spotless home isn't nearly as important as a close relationship with your spouse and children.

Another suggestion: one of the easiest ways to make more time for loved ones is to turn off the TV. In the average American home, the television is on 49 hours a week. By way of contrast, the average amount of time that both parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children is 39 minutes a week. If you need more time with your spouse and your kids, make the obvious choice. Instead of watching TV, read together, play board games together, take a walk to a local park, or sit and talk.

If you have children, it's also important to avoid the temptation to get them overly involved in activities outside the home. Some parents feel pressure to sign their children up for numerous sports teams, music and dance lessons, social clubs, and all kinds of community organizations. Don't fall prey to this mindset. Kids don't need a dozen different weekly activities. They need quality and quantity time with loving, involved, and committed parents."

Aging has taught me what it teaches most people:  TIME flies!  It is gone quicker than you could imagine, and then your children are grown and have babies of their own!  I try to still give them time but with us all spread out, it is difficult.  TAKE TIME!  Use it wisely! Enjoy it, cherish it, value it!  If I could have one wish, it would be to spend just a little bit more TIME with my own mommy, who died 10 years ago this month.  TIME to just sit and chat with her and tell her once more how much I love her.  TIME to hug her and learn from her, and most of all...just to be with her. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Theatre Is my Happiness

Hakuna Matata
So...this dress rehearsal happened last night!  And these kids are rock stars!!  Psyched for our upcoming 6 performances!

I won't lie, I will be glad when this show ends.  I am always glad when any show ends.  I mean, I am tired!  I need a rest!  I have been with these kids a lot, and I mean A LOT since September.  It takes me over 200 hours to do a production from start to finish (and I still have to teach my regular students.)  It takes the cast at least 150 hours of rehearsals.  In the past month I have had at least two 60 hour work weeks, and the rest were more than 50.  So...I am tired.  Tired physically?  Yes...I don't sleep well during the last few weeks of the production (my brain won't shut down), and yesterday I walked 23,000 steps on my pedometer!  (and was down a pound this morning!)

But mentally?  Mentally it's exhausting to manage 100 kids, 70 parents (one especially great costumer who will leave me this year...sadness) ticket sales, technical difficulties, 150 students a day, and a family (which I am sorry to say I have neglected this month). My friend and co-director (the choir teacher)  makes it possible for me stay sane, and not go ballistic!  She is a fantastic!  However, by the close of this show, I will be glad to get some rest, and so will she.

This is no ordinary 6th/7th grade musical!  These kids are amazing!  Their talent astounds me, their ideas amaze me, their dedication and desire inspire me, and their energy exhausts me. They run the show!  And I mean totally...6 student directors helped with auditions, managed rehearsals, give performance cues, and fill in wherever needed.  Just last night the two mic techs forgot to show up, and the student directors took over.  They are amazing girls! Truly amazing!

Kids run the lights, the sound, the mics, the scene changes, the makeup, they usher, they clean up...They do EVERYTHING!  And I stand back stage and shush them...because after all they are still kids.  Four of them got lunch detention for climbing on top of the bleachers...they have a seating chart in the green room, so they don't get distracted and miss their cues, they get yelled at for talking, and leaving messes in the dressing rooms.  Rehearsals were tedious sometimes because kids will be kids.

But...after all that...I will be sad when it is over.  I love them!  They are important to me.  I will miss seeing them after school everyday. They will grow up, move on, do great things with their lives, and probably forget about me...but I won't forget about them.  I never do!  I still think about my high school kids, and the shows they did. They shaped my life, touched my soul, and generally made me a better person.

That's why Theatre is my happiness!  I am tired, but my soul is full.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Teaching Theatre is my Happiness

The Importance of Feeling Important

I have 160 (260 if you can't after-school rehearsals) different students each day.  Each of them needing, in their own way, to feel important.  The girl who incessantly asks me if I need her to do anything.  The boy who is constantly speaking (out of turn) his opinion about all things under the sun.  The girl who plays "scorpion" with her friend so she can get a bandaid from me and tell me how bad it hurts...and her friend in another class that does the same thing.  Boys that like to be class clowns; girls who want to be in charge.  Kids who go over the top in trying to please me with their acting and behavior; kids who just want me to notice them.

Actually, I get it.  I want to feel important too!  I work my tail off doing a production because, yes, I do love the kids, but also because I know my name is at the top of the program and that makes me feel important!  I serve on committees and hold church callings (in part) because I want to be somebody.

We all need to feel important, we all need to be somebody.  We all need to know that we are worthwhile and necessary. do I make 260 kids feel important?  It's impossible to talk to each one of them everyday.  Sometimes (sad but true) I am so busy thinking about "things" that I forget what or who is more important.

Isn't that what teaching is all about!  Helping your students to see that they are important, that they are worthwhile, that they do make a difference!  Helping them to understand that what they do matters!  And hopefully, along the way, helping them to understand that PEOPLE matter.  ALL PEOPLE MATTER!!

So, here is my feeble attempt to show my students they are important to me:

I smile at them
I hold the door for them
I talk to them as much as possible
I plan meaningful lessons for them
I provide them with props, costumes, scenery, etc
I buy them treats
I stay after school for them

I do care about the fact that they play scorpion, that they are sick or lonely, that they feel like they have to get attention anyway possible.  I care!  I really do care!  And I hope that someday they will see that what I do...I do for them...because they are important to me! return, I hope that someday...they will do things for other people, because they will know that feeling important is necessary!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Teaching Theatre is my Happiness!

What I LOVE about teaching THEATRE!

"The Students" (from High School to Intermediate School):  My high school kids loved me!  They did (and I know sometimes I wasn't very lovable!)  How do I know they loved me?  They hung out in my room, they brought me chocolate, they brought me Coke Zero (which I gave up a year ago---sadness), they wrote me thank you cards, they hugged me, they got after me when I swore (thank you guys, I don't swear no more!) they wanted to be my friends on Facebook (which I only accepted after they graduated.) They send me wedding invitations and baby announcements! They still send me messages years later, and they even come to visit me!

My intermediate students love me too!  They knock constantly on my door before school and at lunch!  (Can I get anything done?!) They want to show me this, or ask me that, or can we please clean your room, etc.  They also bring me chocolate sometimes, or sweaty little Swedish fish out of their pockets, and gifts cards for teacher appreciation week!  They give me high-fives in the hall, and forgive me if I make them cry (I try not to do that very often.)  They work hard for me with a minimum of complaining.

"The Students"...MY kids!  (and they will always be my kids!)  That's why teaching Theatre is my happiness!  I want them to succeed! I want them to love themselves, to develop confidence, and coping skills.  I want them to be strong, and take responsibility!  I want them to have fun, to grow, to create, to live.

So,  I make them participate in the games we play in class.  And I push them on stage to try harder, work smarter, and be better.  I love when they get applause and feel good about themselves.

And guess what?  I love them.  I show up to work each day...usually with a smile on my face.  I talk to them in the hall and give them high-fives.  I let them into my room before school; I make lesson plans so they can learn.  I bring them candy and think of excuses to give it to them.  I listen to their sad stories, and their corny jokes.  I love when I see them at the mall!  I stay after school and work for hours so they can succeed.  They make me happy!

And that's why I teach!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Teaching Theatre is my Happiness!

Puppets in Class

So...I thought it would be a great idea to have my students do a puppet show!  I used to love puppets when I was a kid.  This ought'ta be great!

I spent a little fortune on puppets (or rather my principal came up with the $) at the end of last year, so I could start a puppet unit this year.  Puppets are not cheap (well, some least cheaply made) and to buy enough for 30-35 students to each have one was costly.  (A note:  Do not buy puppets from Oriental Trading if you plan to use them!)

At any students have been working hard (or hardly) for a week and a day now to get their puppet shows ready for performance.  I can't wait to see them!  I do have some super fun, imaginative students!

The groups were assigned (yes, I know...mean teacher), and the sacks of puppets were handed out!  The crowd went wild!  And I do mean wild!  Good thing I have a microphone.

It became apparent we needed some rules for safe puppet handling (and these rules are not just mere guidelines):

No hitting each other with the puppets, do not put them in your mouth, you can not play football with them, no, you must use the puppets in your sack trading.  I do not want to see one more puppet flying through the air!

So, they brainstormed, completed a storyboard (or were supposed to) and then wrote a script for their puppets.  Meanwhile, I made two puppet Theatres out of donated washer and dryer boxes.  A parent also brought in some faux (fake) corrugated cardboard that looks like wood and bricks!  Fantastic!  I put that on the outside of the boxes, cut a big hole, used lots and lots of duct tape (some also donated, yea!) and found some old black fabric for the curtains.  (Originally, the students were going to make scenery, but we found out it takes longer to write a script as a group than expected, if you are in 6th and 7th grade.)

Then, I watched, and provided paperclips, staples, erasers, paper, tape, opinions, and more paper and tape.  I refereed, threatened, cajoled, and praised!  (A couple of kids opted for time out.)

We learned about projecting, (why can they when I don't want them to, and can't when I want them to?) enunciation, and characterization in voice.  They understand how not to turn their puppets to the floor (because your audience is not laying on the floor) and that you need to be careful not to knock over the puppet Theatre while you are performing.

Now, tomorrow!  The performances!  We are anticipating, aliens, weddings, Willy Wonka, murder mysteries, kidnappings, evil villains, super heroes, romances, sword fights, and hungry people-eating T-Rexes!

I can't wait!

Caveat!  My students ROCK!  I WILL do this assignment again!  Performances were so much fun!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Teaching Theatre is my Happiness!

50 Word Short Story:  A storytelling assignment for my 6th and 7th graders.

Mine:   School
Incessant whining... "I really gotta go to the bathroom?"  "I can't find my pencil?"  "Now, what are we doing?"  "I need a drink, I feel sick."  "Is it time to go home yet?"  The morning bell comes the kids.  Shush up's time for you to teach!

My favorites!

Conners:  Ready or Not
She has been looking for him, but he was hiding.  She was getting closer, and closer, and closer.  It was very dark where he was hiding. She couldn't find him.  Finally she found him in the closet.  She dragged him to it...but he didn't want to take a bath.

Spencer's:  Run
It's here!  I grabbed my things and I started to run out the door.  I was running and running down the street.  I could hear him.  "He's getting away!"  I ran even faster.  I could feel the adrenaline rushing through my body.  "I can see IT!" But, the ice cream truck was gone.