This past week a realization hit me and I am not exactly sure how I feel about it yet. I am going to be leaving my school.
As a Theater teacher it is tough because sometimes I will have had the kids for 3 years in class and in some other cases I will have also had them in 6 after school plays and musicals in addition to those 3 years. That is a lot of contact with a student and their family – some of the families I know really well. Let’s look at one family for example: I had young A as a student since she was in 6th grade – I vividly remember her looking sad her last day of Theater Arts class. She gave me a hug and a card and always remembered to say “Hi” to me in the hallway. Great kid. 3 years later I have her sister in class. J is in 6th grade and her father (who I have known for 3 years now) told me that he heard my news through the tears of a 6th grader. They wished me luck and we agreed that the transition would be “bittersweet”. J is truly concerned that the new Theater Arts teacher isn’t going to let her be the stage manager. I told her I would leave notes about who was good at what and who have expressed their desire for things in the future, but I could make no guarantees.
In other cases, I have been able to watch a shy student who didn’t know her place in the world yet blossom into a confident, self-assured young lady. I met M when she had just finished 5th grade and signed up for my summer Improv class. For 5 days, 2 hours a day she barely spoke. Yet when I cast her in the fall play her 6th grade year her mother approached me directly at the parent meeting – “You’re the famous Mr. Redman. M just loved your improv class – it is all she talked about all summer”. Next year, when she is in 8th grade – I think she may be ready to take a lead role.
I have been able to watch one of the biggest goofballs in school, who was always getting in trouble and whose unfortunate last name made him the repeated subject of ridicule, become the consummate Deck Crew Chief. He ran his crew like clockwork and never questioned a direction, but put M in the lunchroom and within 5 minutes he will revert to immature behavior and throwing food.
These kids and these experiences I will cherish forever.
The school itself? Lets just say that I have banked a lot of sick days and I will be using them.
I will not miss the red tape, the constant competition and bickering from immature professionals, the “survival of the fittest” mentality, the lack of trust from those not in the classroom, my hands being tied (metaphorically), the inane bureaucracy, the mis-diagnosis of the American public school system and the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) maligning of teachers.