You ever have one of those moments where you find yourself doing something and, unheeded, your brain slams you to some point in your distant past when you were doing something absolutely, completely different and all you can think is “well dang, I never thought I’d be doing this”?
It’s been happening a lot to me recently. I think this is mostly due to teaching my acting class.
This semester is the first time that I’ve had a classroom all to myself; not team-taught, not taught with supervision, not teaching off of someone else’s syllabus. I make the rules, I enforce them, I create the lessons, and I have complete control over what goes on in my classroom during class.
Since it’s a rudimentary acting class, it requires me to go back to the fundamentals of my
own training which, essentially, requires time travel. I think back to the person I was when I was doing these exercises, when I was turning in these kinds of assignments, when I was the wide-eyed optimistic student. And thinking back upon that, I simply can’t escape the fact that I never could have planned things this way.
I never thought I’d be an acting teacher and certainly not within a university setting. I never seriously thought I’d be getting a PhD (though the notion had crossed my mind, it wasn’t as something tangible or relevant until very recently). And I certainly never thought that the academic world which is now my embroiled lifestyle could be a valid and sustaining life choice (though I guess, with the job market being what it is, we could debate the usage of the term “sustaining”).
It’s funny because it all seems so obvious. My specific background lends itself really well to this kind of vocation. That being said, there were a series of choices which seem to have logically set my feet on the path I now travel (and, if you really want to think of it this way, couldn’t have landed me anywhere else). The question I keep coming back to is “well, if you didn’t think you’d be doing this, what did you think you’d be doing?”
The real answer is that I had no idea. I knew I wanted theatre to be a deep part of my lifestyle. I knew that certain works touched and moved me in a way that others did not. I knew that I had enough and diverse background knowledge that I wouldn’t be happy being limited to a single middle-powered role in a top-down industry (theatre is totally a top-down industry). I knew that I wanted to be an educator of some kind, but what kind was completely beyond my ability to understand.
I keep wondering what my students must think of the exercises that we’re doing. I remember doing most of them myself, but (of course) I pointedly ignored the urgings of my teachers to keep the kinds of journals that I’m forcing my students to (by way of a graded assignment; see how tricksy I am?). These days, I really wish that I had the kinds of resources that I am asking my students to develop for themselves. There are other
reasons to keep track of things this way, but I will admit to the romantic hope that someday one of them finds herself in the situation I’m in: completely unwittingly winding up in my shoes and fervently hoping that something from her past can reach across the years to give her some guidance.
I think back to my teachers and find that I don’t think I appreciated them the way I should have. Then again, I’m not sure I could have appreciated them this way. I don’t think I could have understood the sheer amount of effort that went into doing what they do until this moment, when I was called upon to do it in turn. And at the risk of sounding overly romantic, it’s kind of comforting to take my place in this cycle. Even if, for just a short time, I can contribute to the turning of the wheel, it’s nice to know that my teachers’ teachings didn’t die with me. Passing on the information is a real joy and, even on my bad days, I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to do so.
…Yes, even when I’m facing down a mountain of grading. Which, by the way, is another thing I never considered until I became a university educator. Assignments are as much (if not more) work for the instructor as they are for the student. In case you were wondering why the instructor can’t party until the fat transcript prints.