I thought I might just spill some thoughts here about what has been going on in my life recently. In particular, the thing that has led to me working an extra ~150 hours at least in the last 6 months (or just under 4 extra working weeks) unpaid, and absolutely willingly.
The following blog post will be a tad self-indulgent, so bear with me.
About a year ago, one of my colleagues – my “work Mum” – decided she wanted to run a musical at my school for the first time in 25 years. I immediately jumped on board, and became the Assistant Director of the damn thing, and it began to snowball at an alarming rate.
In Term 1, we planned and got the teachers together, and that in itself was arduous, but then the came bringing the kids on board. Now, I teach at a fully-selective public school, and while my students are beautifully well behaved for the most part, the stereotype is that they are not particularly interested in the creative arts. Boy were we wrong.
70 students auditioned, and we picked around 20 students as performers. Rehearsals began, and went on, and on, and on, and the longer we spent with the kids, the better we all got to know them. We eventually got a band together, and (almost too late) after 7 days at school in the most recent school holidays, and every preceding Sunday 2pm – 5pm and Friday afternoon in the last 6 months (along with multitudinous before and during-school rehearsals) we had the performance ready to go.
By now, I had sat with and comforted the kids while they cried after forgetting their songs or dealt with friendship or family dramas, I got annoyed at them when they wouldn’t focus, and I bantered with them constantly to help keep the moral up. It was all very fun.
Now most teachers will tell you that “it’s about the process, not the product”, and I would agree for the most part – seeing and helping the kids learn how to sing and act was wonderful. But for me, the thing I will never, ever forget is the look on their faces after they came off the stage at the end of the universally sold-out 5-show run we did over 3 days. They had a buzz I had never seen in students – an innocent excitement that seems to have disappeared from my life. They looked like, for a moment, they might just pop. At the end of the last show, the air was quite seriously vibrating with the adrenaline, and happiness and melancholy of something that was over. I may have been exhausted (and I still am, the last show was at 7pm on Saturday and we didn’t leave school until 11:30pm that night) from doing stage-hand stuff and managing them so that they would be ready for the performance or the next act, but I know that I have given them something they will never forget. That is an indescribably feeling.
How can we do anything more special as teachers? More meaningful? More real? It’s not about the content for me, and it never will be. I might like English, but as far as I am concerned, it’s way more important to be able to give these kids experiences. Even if others will just write them off as “nerdy maths kids” who “can’t be creative”.
I may, and probably will, fade into obscurity for them. They may not remember my name, or the fact they called me their “musical Dad”. None of that really matters.
In the end, if you want to be a teacher, and not simply teach, then this is the stuff you do. It’s about them and it always will be, and if you can accept that, then you’re on the right track. But you have to accept that it shouldn’t be you they remember.
Having said that, the card and the flowers and the “Hulk” T-Shirt are all nice, and I will forever be graced with the memories of an amazing set of kids who had the commitment and the drive to put in ~150 hours to perform a show for fun and for each other; and even when the oversized XXL shirt works its way to the bottom of my dresser, the flowers die, the card goes into the “reasons I’m a teacher” box with all the others, and the kids have forgotten me, this will always be a reminder of why I do it.