“I don’t feel like myself this week. It’s like I’m someone else, and I don’t like that person.”
Now before you diagnose me with schizophrenia, let me explain.
This is what I said to our education director last week as I was describing some of the challenges I was encountering while teaching a 5th grade Building Community Through Drama residency. My perception of my facilitation in the classroom last week was that I was serious and impatient. I also wasn’t having as much fun as I could be having because I was feeling so unsure of myself.
I’ve talked to some of the other teaching artists at Metro, and they all seem to agree that the physical environment, class structure and whether or not you have developed the curriculum are all factors that affect one’s teaching style. While this was not the first residency I’ve taught, most of my teaching artist experience has included a theatre studio of some sort, teaching classes that the young people have chosen to sign up for, and curriculum that I have had a part in designing. But in an in-school residency, I’m in someone else’s classroom, teaching curriculum that is already established (and for good reason- these are strong lessons), and though the activities are fun, we are breaking the students’ school day routine. Inevitably, it’s going to take longer than I’m used to for the young people to buy into the work and trust me, the teaching artist. And that, in turn, has been affecting my teaching style.
I’m not actually a different person in these residencies –I just don’t know what my style is in that environment yet. I know who I am as a teaching artist in other class structures, but now I need to figure out how to bring more of who I am into my time in this one.
While I’ve been assured that all of this uncertainty I’m feeling is completely valid and normal, it’s also downright uncomfortable. I don’t want to feel like a different person when I’m in a classroom. I want to be me. I want to be that energized, playful, fun teaching artist that I know I am. And here’s where the big lesson of the week comes in: the only way to gain that confidence, the only way to find my in-school teaching artist groove, is to do more of it. The way to get more comfortable, is to put myself in more situations that make me uncomfortable.
Well that hardly seems fair.
But discomfort often means that some sort of growth is happening. Discomfort is good. It reminds us that we’re human. And if you’re anything like me (read: a perfectionist), these reminders of human fallibility are so necessary. I was uncomfortable this week because I was learning. Not just a new curriculum- but more about my teaching artist self. Even with the undercurrent of uncertainty and self-doubt that bubbled up (and sometimes over) this week, it was still a success. And you know how I know that? Because I learned something.
Is your teaching style affected by your environment? How?