Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kathryn the great

Today, the snow was still on the ground in the morning. I planned to take pictures--the kind where there is dustings on the branches, on the craggy shapes between farmland and highway, but by the time I left school today, everything had melted, and I no longer needed my wool coat. The weather this time of year is moody, like the teenagers I teach.

Today I said these words for the first time: "This is my last year here." (It seems strange to say that with only two years.) I actually have a little under two months left. The student asked why I was leaving them, and I told him budget cuts, and it made me glad to be able to admit this without a heavy feeling in my heart. My creative writing class knows because I cried in front of them, which is a teacher's nightmare. The principal happened to come in during my prep only twenty minutes before they were to arrive, which, if you know me well at all, doesn't give me a great deal of time to get myself together.

At rehearsal today, I had some time to think about myself in contrast to my co-director. This is our second production together, and I think we get along well, but our organizational styles and tackling styles starkly contrast one another, which probably leaves her frustrated with me quite often and me afraid that she is upset with me. I am more laid back, prone to not panic, significantly less organized, and I teach from 7-3. She is a stay-at-home mom who loves the theatre (as do I, but I think more often I'd prefer to be audience then directing the action, though it is an incredible experience--breathtaking to walk in and the kids are focused, warming up, going through lines or dance moves, excited and laughing) and obsesses over the fine details. She is a wonderful person but takes things personally, which allows anger and frustration to make its way to the surface. She is talented and neither musical would go off without her. And it is her last year too.

After rehearsal today, she worked with the pianist to adjust some of the music and re-choreograph some of the dances. (It's amazing how often the sheet music and script don't always align; this was true when I was a player in the pit as a highschooler myself.) So Kathryn, her three-years-and-one-day old and I were "silly" on stage. ("M, you're silly!" she loves to proclaim. She also is sweet and tells the kids she likes their voices, knows all their names, and during one frustrating scene, she shouted to the chorus, "Don't worry, it will get better!" in a very matter-of-fact tone.) I haven't "played" with a little kid in many, many years (last year she was more afraid of me then anything else, and would grow mute or annoyed with me, her terrible twos bursting forth), and I was amazed at how easy it was to romp around the stage with her. We threw juggling balls to see how far into the audience they could go and each tried on crowns. We fought with plasic swords and looked at our reflections in the baby grand piano rolled out on the pit covers. I feel guilty for all that playing when my co-director was busy worrying. I told her what a joy it is to watch the king pantomime, his face like a rubber contortionist, or to see the queen stand in for a knight, acting as if she were furious at the lady in waiting for mistaking the princess for a chambermaid, ad libbing, her castmates hooting beside me. And this time I sat in the front row and the kids sat close by, a strange difference from the disconnect of last year. They feel comfortable talking to me, and I tell them of my wedding plans and how talented they are (one boy, an incredible dancer, confessed he'd never taken a dance class before, and I was floored--so astonished I cannot seem to forget it).

I am glad that I can be happy as the weeks tick by in my experience here at this high school. I still know that leaving is better for me then staying (that drive!), but I feel a little release in my heart, and perhaps that is the worry ending. Now, I can revel in the simple wonder of these students and feel comfortable being myself, not a stiff replica.

The world is wide open and I am learning how to play again.

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