Tuesday, August 23, 2011

As One Door Closes...

Box of tissues ready? Check. OK. Here goes....

never, ever wanted to be a teacher. My grandma, father, several cousins and one of my sisters are all teachers. I am genetically pre-dispositioned to shape the minds of young people, but for a very long time, I wanted nothing to do with it. I wanted to break the mold, buck the trend and do what made me happy. And that was (and still is) performing. I've always been an advocate for arts education because I know first-hand how life-changing free, no strings attached arts training can be, but it hadn't really occurred to me that I should be the one teaching it. 

The more I learned about the tragic and sickly state of arts in public education and the huge disparities between high and low-income areas, I felt physically ill. It touches close to home. As a quick recap for those of you who don't know my story, financial struggle was a very large and ever present part of my upbringing- at times affording basic survival necessities was difficult, so spend extra money on arts training was not realistic for our family. I was blessed to have been born into a family that appreciated the value of art, however, and they worked hard to find opportunities for my sisters and I. Through the gracious and generous donation of time and instruction from my very kind dance teacher, we were allowed to attend class even when we couldn't pay for it, and several impactful theatre directors volunteered their personal time and resources to help me grow and prepare for further actor training. I am forever indebted to these individuals who believed in me and more importantly, who believed in the importance and power of art. 

At the end of the day, arts education is NOT about grooming the next generation of artists (that's just an added benefit). Kids need arts education because it provides: 

-permission to be unique
-a positive outlet
-an opportunity to learn about yourself and other people
-a way to look and make sense of the world we live in
-a platform on which to stand and express what's important to you

Being the person to give that to these kids is something I will treasure for the rest of my life. 

And now that I'm weeping hysterically, here's a recap of my final day teaching. 

We did a full run-through in the AM with costumes, props, etc. It went smoothly, so I let the kids enjoy a few hours relaxing before we prepared for the show. 

We played in the gym!

And then we went outside. 

The kids LOVE stealing my iced coffee and then impersonating me. Evidently I stand like this?! 

We played salon (which basically means I let the kids tear out braid my hair until I can't handle the pain any longer). 

And I hung around with some of my favorite boys. 

When we went back inside, the kids had lunch and I fed them THE COOKIES (a huge hit), and then it was time to start makeup!

 In our costume closet super fancy makeup studio.

 I got some much needed help from my awesome co-worker Ivan, who did all of the "old people makeup". 

 EVERYONE in the older grades gets stage makeup. Even the boys. And I think they like it... 

 Haephestus from Pandora's Box, looking old and busted. 

 Sometimes the boys end up looking prettier than me. I try not to be jealous. In my defense, he is  wearing more makeup than I am in this photo. 

 Drama also teaches valuable life skills like NOT twitching when there's a mascara wand up in yo grill. This kid's got it down pat. 

I made a quick transformation (as I was narrating/ emceeing) into one of my favorite Forever 21 dresses I picked up years ago- last worn here, and my wedding shoes!

There are few things better for your confidence than working with kids. I was told I looked like "a princess", "a super model", "a movie star", "a mermaid", "Hannah Montana" (compliment?) and "Princess Peach". I'll take it!

 Getting the show started with one of my handsome co-hosts. :)

 K/1st telling the Cherokee legend of Why The Trees Lose Their Leaves

 2nd/3rd's presentation of the Maori legend of Why The Kiwi Lost It's Wings.

 4th/5th's rendition of Pandora's Box. 

 Watching proudly from the wings. 

 Pandora and Hope. 

 DANCE TIME! K/1st doing a Native American dance. 

 2nd/ 3rd's Polynesian dance. 

 My little divas doing the choreography from our Cardio-Dance elective class. 

4th/ 5th lyrical dance. 

And then it was time to say goodbye. Ooof.

 One of my students gave me the lei they had made for their costume! :)

 I started out smiling...

 But the tears weren't far behind...

 I got to share a few last silly moments with some kids.

 And some more serious ones with others...

 I don't get to interact very much with parents because I don't sign the kids in or out of the program, so it was nice to have the opportunity to tell them how amazingly talented their children are. 

 With a few- of MANY- amazing co-workers. I couldn't do it without these guys.

I snagged all of my teacher swag and headed home to finish packing for HLS and run to the train station. 

I could go on for another six or seven pages, but instead, I'll end on a note of gratitude to my students and the organizations that make the work I do possible. 

Teaching has given me: 

-A true appreciation of unconditional love and adoration.
-A much stronger sense of purpose and self. 
-Gratitude for my parents and former teachers. 
-A clearer idea of what's important to me. 
-An unchangeably galvanized belief in the power and importance of arts education.
-Faith in future generations. 

Thanks for listening to the ramblings of this weepy and emotional girl. It'll be a few years before the next "Miss Keelie" post, but I'm excited to begin my adventures in graduate school, which I'll be blogging about here. Orientation is Thursday!