Thankless Job? Not in my classroom!
As I Lay Dying
People often ask me why I teach. It’s a thankless job. The students behave badly, discipline is a nightmare, administrations aren’t supportive enough, and those darned standardized tests. Here is the reason I teach.
I woke up that morning, head filled with congestion, a fever, and aches, but the school musical’s debut performance was transpiring at 9 a.m. The show had to go on. Hauling myself out of bed and into clothes, I sluggishly made my way to school, where I laid my stuffed head down on the desk and cried.
Bursting mid-conversation into the room, two students witnessed my pitiful state. “What’s wrong?” Jory queried.
“Dob bind be,” I lifted my heavy head. “I’b sick. Just get ready for the play.”
Jory and Valerie left me to my lamentations. Unbeknownst to me, they did not head for the dressing rooms. Instead, they began their mission. Armed with loyalty and determination, they marched to the office. Another student came in, having been apprised of my illness and made up a sign telling actors to go straight to dressing rooms to get ready for the play. As this student left, she said Marnie, my stage manager, would be in charge of attendance and I should just wait until the show to get up.
As I sat there, wondering how I would survive the play, and then the school day, the girls entered again, this time their hands full of supplies. Valerie handed me a hot tea with 2 antihistamines and a Mucinex. She informed me that I needed to let the school nurse know that I had received these pills. Jory handed me a box of Kleenex, a handful of cough drops, and a heated pillow. She instructed me, “Mrs. C. said to rest that right above your nose to relieve sinus pressure.”
Following their directions, I took the medicines with the hot tea, slid the cough drops in my pocket, rested the heated pillow on my face, and sat back to await the performance. When it was time for the cast to meet, one of the students led the director’s talk. I made my way backstage to my place, and Marnie, the gum chewing stage manager, led me to a chair, showing me the box of Kleenex, bottled water, hot tea, and cough drops the girls had placed there.
Students Took Charge
Marnie. The stage manager. The incessant gum chewing girl who was not in drama, but in dance class. She was constantly in trouble for her gum chewing. She wanted to be a part of this show, but didn’t want to perform. She offered to be the stage manager. She was one “OMG” away from a “gag-me-with-a-spoon” valley girl and I had no clue if she’d be reliable or if she’d chatter and chomp her gum during the entire show.
The dance teacher and choreographer, Bev, welcomed students to the performance as I sat, sick and worried in my chair, backstage. Bev moved to stage left headsets and Marnie had stage right headsets on. Al, my sound guy, and Brianna, my spotlight operator, had headsets on in the sound booth and crows’ nest and for once, I was completely unconnected to all of the people working under me. The curtain opened, the music cued up, and the prelude began, as scheduled, without a hitch.
Around me, actors waited for cues and techies, dressed in black, quietly waited for scene changes. Marnie spoke quietly into her headset to cue lights, while Bev cued Al on the musical numbers. Scene one was drawing to a close and a big scene change was coming up. A change in backdrops had to occur, as well as furniture and other set pieces. I rose to remind Marnie of what all needed to be done as the music was nearly over.
Marnie paused in her gum chewing, lifting one earphone off of her head to listen to me. She nodded, “I know, Miss D..” I continued with this cue and that cue as she continually nodded. Finally, with no indication of her impatience, she took off her headset, handing it to a techie and led me back to my chair. Hands on my shoulders, she pushed me onto the chair so I was sitting. “Miss D., I’ve got it covered. Let me do my job. I’ve got it.”
The scene was changed smoothly under Marnie’s guidance. When I began to stand for the next scene change, an “I got it covered!” from Marnie kept me seated.
I had to resign my sick self to trusting the students with their responsibilities. With each musical number, piece of dialogue, and scene change, the show became more and more successful.
Have you ever been involved in a school play?
No One Said Thank You
People say teaching is a thankless job, that students don’t say thanks or appreciate their teachers. But, when I hear that, I think of Jory, Valerie, Marnie, and others who took care of me on that day, and the many other instances where a student has been inspired by something in class, has smiled at me, has confided a secret in me, has invited me to a game or a performance, and a myriad of ways, they’ve shown me I am appreciated, that I have made a difference, and that thank you can be said in more than language.