Financial Slavery

Friday, August 12, 2011

Dog Days of August

It is August 12 and I can't believe there are only three weeks left before school begins.  I realize that my head is not fully involved in the process of starting the year.  We need to start thinking about our device drama about self-esteem.  Last year we focused on bullying - using surveys and research, national figures and professional experts to build and device our piece.  How do we device this year's piece, making it equally powerful yet different from last year?  I think we can still survey the student body, but I'm intrigued by the idea of focus groups. 

I attended a conference in Chicago (AATE) at the end of July where they spoke about applied theatre and faculty development.  Many ways they tackled that work was through focus groups.  Could we apply some of those techniques with groups of sample students from the school?  Can we get the students to talk honestly about some of the issues around not believing that our school offers them a competitive edge (especially in comparison to private schools or upper income schools)?  Or are the anonymous surveys our better bet again?

And how to better utilize dance and music this year?  I watch SYTYCD every year and I know how powerful dance and music can be to tell our stories.  Our talented choreographer can definitely help create this - but I am equally committed to making sure our students' voices are heard - that this process isn't just about the faculty's visions.

Just continuing to pondor the process as time rolls out in the dog days of August.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Working in those dreaded, debated, hated public schools

This is my first time blogging, so I hope you will bear with me.

So, it's August already.  How does summer fly by so quickly?  Once again, I am reading and inundated by the word from media and our politicians about how I (as a public school teacher) am the bane of society.  Our public schools fail our kids and we're to blame.  I guess I'm naive.  I only started teaching six years ago - coming into the profession from being a professional actor for fifteen years first.  I wanted to "give back."  I've led a good life - traveled the world, performed on Broadway and in films.  I've got it "good" (apologies to all the English teachers out there).  And you know what?  I LIKE my job.  I love the kids.  And I work in a public school... in New Jersey (where we are vilified) and I think we make a difference to our kids.

Now, our school is diverse, lots of different students from around the world in different economic and religious environments.  Lots of different issues and academic standards.  Our budget got slashed last year and I haven't had a raise in two years.  But this past year, by using applied theatre, my public school students researched, developed and wrote their own original device drama about bullying that won awards from Mental Health Associations, has received critical acclaim, has created change in our district and made things better and safer, and is going to be published by a major house this year.  Not bad for one of those struggling public schools, right?  This group of diverse students (Hispanic, Asian, African American, Caucasian, Indian) worked together to create change - and did it.

I'm proud to be a public school teacher.  I wouldn't give up my job for the world.