I am Not Your Mother

Dear Students,

I am an under-payed adjunct faculty person teaching introductory courses in theatre, courses that you take to fulfill your arts requirement.

Although I am not a full-time faculty person, I am still an experienced and well-trained professional. I hold an MFA in directing and have directed numerous successful and well-received shows. I also hold a Ph.D in theatre with a specialty in Theatre for Youth, which means I’ve read, researched and written on a wide range of subjects. In addition to teaching Introductory courses, I’ve taught advanced level courses in Non-Western Theatre, Theatre for Young Audiences, Feminist Theatre, Studies in Drama, Theatre for Social Change, Puppetry, and Theatre History among others. I’ve also, which is unusual for many professors who specialize in one field, taught Intro and advanced level courses in Writing, Research Writing, Honors and Education. In other words, I am a well-rounded, experienced teacher.

The Day I received my doctorate.

The Day I received my doctorate.

My job, as I see it, is to:

  • create a course that lasts the entire semester
  • develop a syllabus that outlines this course (I spend hours on this, and try my best to stick to it).
  • prepare for lectures and or course presentations for each class, as necessary
  • create interesting assignments that reinforce or support the learning goals of the course, and explain my expectations for those assignments
  • grade assignments in a timely fashion
  • answer your questions or meet with you when you have problems
  • keep tabs of your attendance and participation
  • lead class discussions
  • answer your e-mails
  • turn in grade reports and other official documents required by the school, in a timely fashion

In addition, as a concerned teacher in an arts discipline who likes to challenge her students and explore new ways of teaching, I try to:

  • create interesting assignments that ask my students to think creatively
  • create assignments that allow for students to use their strengths. While I believe it is important to have written assignments, I try to provide assignments that will allow people to use presentation or art skills as well.
  • since this is a theatre class, provide opportunities to make presentations, act, and/or try some of the other skills required in the world of theatre.
  • avoid doing things like testing memorized facts, but rather ask my students to think about how what they are learning in my class might relate to their lives or the real world.

Nowhere in those lists does it say that I am supposed to be your Mother.

As one of the assignments for this class, I asked you to attend a performance of a production put on by your peers at the college, and write a review of this. I selected this production because it was less expensive than attending professional theatre, especially with your student discount, and it was on campus, so you shouldn’t have had any difficulty finding it or finding parking. I told you about this assignment on THE FIRST DAY of class, and reminded you as it approached.

“Where is it?”

“How much does it cost?”

“Where do I find tickets?”

“When is it?”

These questions dominated the classroom for several weeks. I did my best to answer them, repeatedly.

Then, this past weekend, mother nature threatened us with another storm that (upon initial reports) could have been of epic proportions. It fizzled out to be a cold, slimy, mixture of rain and snow that didn’t do much except create an incredible wonderland this morning.

DSCN1859

However, to be cautious, since I thought the shows might be cancelled, I came up with two alternative options of other shows that would happen on campus later this semester. I sent that information out to you. Some of you, it seems, have chosen to pursue those options instead, and I can’t penalize you for that. But, that’s not what this letter is about.

It’s about the fact that I am not your Mother.

After I sent the e-mail with the options I got numerous e-mails asking things like:

“How do I know if the show is cancelled?”

You all walk around with these fancy pieces of technology that have the power of accessing the internet to look things up, and–even more amazing– can enable you to talk to other people and find out information. If you wished, you could pick up these amazing pieces of technology to either look on the school website to see if anything has been cancelled, or call the box office for news. This is how I would find out myself, so why must I do it for you?

Because you want me to be your Mother.

Dear, dear students. You are adults, or on the verge of being adults. It is your decision if you want to come to class and be there on time, although class participation does affect your grade. It is your decision whether or not you do the reading, although I often do check-ins on the reading which is part of your grade. It is your decision whether or not you want to do the research and preparation required for your group projects. I am willing to help you with suggestions, but I cannot do it for you. On the creative projects, where I ask you to make design choices and present things to the class, I specifically created them to allow for all types of presentations. I have given you the guidelines, but I refuse to give you line by line instructions. If you are not willing to break out of your comfort zone, and want me to spoon feed you all the information and details as to how to approach a project, then you are in the wrong class.

I am not responsible for your inability to organize your schedule around my class. I don’t ask for much, just that you come to class. I know that this assignment was outside of class hours, but I gave you plenty of notice (approximately 6 weeks) so there should be no reason you can’t arrange your work/play/ or whatever schedule around seeing one show.

When you miss class, I am not responsible for making sure you know what you’ve missed. I’m not responsible for sending you the handouts and making sure you know what assignment is coming up. I’m happy to send that material to you, or make it available on-line (where you can find most of it already), if you contact me about your absence, but you must initiate the contact. If you have been absent for a long time (because of illness or something else major), and expect to turn in all of your assignments, it would help if you contact me before you’ve missed the classes, not after you got back.

I’m not an ogre. I’ll work with you and help if you have situations, but I’m not your Mother. I’m not going to just allow you to do things on your own time because I feel sorry for you. You need to show some initiative, take responsibility, and acknowledge that my time is as valuable as yours. I am not at your beck and call 24 hours a day. I am not responsible for taking care of your issues the moment you have them. While I check my e-mail often, I don’t have a phone that notifies me every time someone wants to send me something. Nor do I want one. I actually have a life outside of this job, and I try to keep that time separate from the time I work.

Even though work often bleeds over and my paycheck gets smaller and smaller.

I am indeed a Mother. Yet, I try to teach my daughter some responsibility and initiative. This past weekend, we went on a family outing to a winter festival at the nearby botanical gardens. “Bring your snow gear,” I said to my daughter. “We will be outside.”

She brought them, and then left them in the car. “I didn’t think I needed to carry them,” she said.

“I don’t tell you to bring things just because I want to tell you to do something,” I said. “You can go back to the car and get them, or you can do without.”

She did without. Should I feel bad? No. She made her choice, and she suffered the cold-handed consequences. She still got to pet an alpaca, however, which I think is pretty cool.

DSCN1848

I humbly request that you recognize that there is a difference between an Instructor and a Mother, and act accordingly.  Actually, I hope that you show more respect to your mother than you currently do to me.

Sincerely,

Dr. Kramer

Planting Seeds of Inspiration: ‘I done good!’

I’m often filled with self doubt.

I can hear those of you who have been reading me for a while now saying things like “Duh!” or “No, really!” or (the more vulgar) “No s*%t Sherlock!”

At least I acknowledge that I’m my own worst critic.

This negativity about myself isn’t just centered on my writing. There are times that I question every single thing I’m doing, whether it’s teaching, writing, parenting, directing, interviewing . . . Basically if its a verb I do, I criticize myself for not doing it well enough–for somehow screwing even the simplest things up.

But then there are days like today, when I realize that “I done good.”

This semester I’ve been teaching a course called Studies in Drama at Bryant University; a University that is mostly known as a business school, but has been expanding its liberal arts offerings. This is a 300 level course taught through the Literary and Cultural Studies Department that fulfills an LCS requirement that all students need to graduate.

Did you pick up on the key words there? Business students, 300 level, requirement.

Anyone who has ever taught an introductory level REQUIRED course in arts or writing will recognize that sometimes getting students involved is like beating your head against a brick wall. They come in with the attitude that “this has nothing to do with my life” or “why do I need to learn to write when I’m a _______ major?” Usually those courses are at the 100 level and filled with First Year Students who are struggling with the day-to-day reality of what it means to be a college student. I’ve had both successes and failures in those types of classes, but of course I always obsess about the failures and gloss over the successes.

Now, this particular course is kind of Intro to Theatre meets upper-division expectations.  My entire class is made of up seniors, some of whom will be graduating in December; all of whom are focused (quite naturally) on getting jobs after graduating.  In other words, students who put off this particular requirement for their Senior year. Students who, in some instances, had ZERO interest in theatre and ZERO contact with theatre; they just needed to fulfill their LCS requirement in some way. Several of them signed up for this course because the original instructor (whom I replaced because of a sudden medical leave) was known for his quirky teaching style and the fact that he NEVER MADE SENIORS TAKE A FINAL.

Knowing that I might have a reluctant group, I decided to try and make the course relevant to their interests as well as my own. Since I could design the course as I saw fit, I decided to focus on “theatre as a tool of cultural expression, political engagement, and social change.” (From my syllabus). The first thing I had them read was  The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs by Mike Daisey, which is a somewhat controversial monologue/play that questions the ethics of Apple, Steve Jobs, and the use of Chinese workers to build Apple products. What better play to intrigue the interest of business majors?

From there, we’ve traveled great distances in the class: from learning about the theatrical techniques of Bertolt Brecht, to discussing racism in Othello. We spent time with the Federal Theatre Project and discusses how a bunch of beavers led to the downfall of a federally supported theatre.  We’ve looked at the role of theatre in confronting feminist issues in plays like Trifles, A Doll House,  and even Lysistrata.  We discussed the role of race and gender in plays like Cloud 9 and for colored girls who have considered suicide, when the rainbow is enuf. I’ve introduced them to the techniques of Augusto Boal and today we looked at radical street theatre and the ways in which theatre can affect social change in public places.

Revolt of the Beavers

All in all, although there have been a few unenthusiastic and non-participatory students, the discussions have been excellent throughout the semester and the students have challenged me and each other with difficult questions.

Of course, there was still the issue of the final project. Since it was an LCS class I kind of felt the need (at first) to go with the traditional write a paper route. Then, after reading an article with the class about finding ways to incorporate the reality that this generation of students has grown up with technology into theatre classrooms, I opened up the possibility of some of my students finding alternative ways to present their projects beyond the traditional academic paper.

This lead to a surprising result today. As I mentioned earlier, in today’s class we talked about street theater using articles from Jan Cohen-Cruz’ anthology Radical Street Performance: An International Anthology. We talked about various forms of street theatre they have seen themselves, and I included in the discussion flash mobs which, although perhaps not as political as some other forms, have become (in my opinion) an important phenomenon in modern society. We looked at videos of  groups like Improv Everywhere who have mastered the art of producing moments of theatre in public places.  This is one of my favorite videos of theirs:

All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a voice calls out, “Can we negotiate the final papers if we create a flash mob?”

“Um . . . let me think about that.”

The class continued until we neared the end.

“How about the flash mob idea?”

“Well. . .,” I said, not wanting to dull their enthusiasm. After all, this was a group of students who want to, suddenly, do a CREATIVE project as their final. These are the same students who refused to acknowledge themselves as creative individuals in the beginning of the class. Granted, many of them are simply trying to avoid having to write an academic paper. Still, to me this indicates that they’ve been learning that theatre does, indeed, have power.

At the same time, I don’t want their final project to be a mediocre piece of fluff. “If you want to do this, then it needs to have some meaning. It can’t be just a fun flash mob. You need to make some kind of statement. If you can, as a group, come up with a reasonable proposal by next Tuesday, we’ll see.”

“Everybody, stay for five minutes,” another student said. “Let’s brainstorm.”

I left the class in discussion and headed toward my basement office cubby.

Ten minutes later, two students walked in. “We figured it out.”

They explained their idea. (I’ll leave the details for the future).  I negotiated a little to raise the expectations (there needs to be a research component and a little writing by everyone in the group). I told them I would still make the final decision next Tuesday, pending their figuring out some of those research details and a few other logistical things.

Meanwhile, all I could think was, “Wow! I think they really learned something. ‘I done good!'”

Stay tuned for the end results.

Creating a Reader in a World of Multi-Tasking

I have been reading since I was at least 4 years old. I spent much of my childhood curled up under covers with my best friends, the ones found between the pages of books. I could spend hours or days hidden there, sometimes never coming up for air until I had read a book from start to finish. I’m sure there were times that my mother had to remind me to come down or leave the house.

Even now, if I have no other commitments, I can disappear for days, ravenously reading anything that comes my way. Much to my surprise, my addiction has only been fueled more by my Kindle (something I was against owning at first). Don’t get me wrong, I still prefer the feel of a book in my hands, and the joy of turning pages. But, once I discovered the ease of finding FREE books on Kindle, as well as the ease of making a purchase just after you finish one book and realize you want something else to read, I realized that there is something truly wonderful to having words at your finger tips.

As a matter of fact I’ve read around 10 books (or more) since I headed to my “summer home” at the end of June.

Sarah sees me reading all the time. She has picked up the (perhaps bad) habit of collecting books. She claims to love reading as well, but there is a difference that drives me crazy . . .

Sarah never seems to finish a book.

She has several books started. She has a summer homework assignment which requires her to read two books and write 8 essays (short) about them.

Getting her to sit down and read those books has become torture.

Not that she isn’t reading. She is currently sitting next to me reading her Highlight’s magazine. I just cannot get her to sit down and finish a book.

I have a theory. In a world where everything comes in high-speed mini-bites, she can only focus in short bursts. A magazine story or article requires a shorter attention span than a novel.  I see it with all my students, who never seem to finish their reading assignments completely. We are raising a generation of people with the inability to focus for an extended period of time.

It makes me sad. I can only hope that someday Sarah will find a book that she simply cannot put down.

Do you think reading is becoming a lost art?

The Many Passions (and Confusions) of Lisa

I sat in the bookstore coffee shop, green tea latte at my side, and prepped for the course I am teaching at a nearby university in Theatre for Young Audiences.

A course in my actual field, what a luxury.

Suddenly, as I read the chapters from the book selected for this course (which I went along with as I wasn’t sure what text to use) I found my chest constricting, and a tense feeling in my shoulders. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and wanted to scream or cry despite being in a very public place.

A panic attack settling into my system. A moment for me step back and reflect on what I was feeling and why.

Deep breaths and listen to the silence.

I am a really good teacher. I challenge my students, I make learning fun, I set high expectations, and at the same time I work very hard to help all my students find a way to succeed.

But I’ve lost the joy of teaching. It was sucked out of me because of too much bureaucratic bull#$%* and because of a system that lets the priorities of a powerful few become more important than the needs of the students. I lost the desire from having too many students who plagiarized, or too many who expected–no demanded–to be handed grades rather than to earn grades. I lost the passion by having to fight too hard to even teach what I teach best, or create what I create best, against people who were so caught up in protecting their territory that they didn’t want new ideas, new talent, or anyone who might challenge the status quo.

Yet, I still love teaching when I have a classroom full of students who are open to exploring and seeing the power of learning, no matter what the subject. And I still love directing theatre when it is about a process of creation and exploration rather than trying to become a star and make lots of money. And I still love writing, even if I don’t know where it is heading.

This class (in the one meeting we had so far) seems to be full of students who really want to be there. Well, except for the one student who has already texted me with questions like “where do I find . . .?” “Do I type it into Google?” “How do I look it up?”  “Can I find it at Barnes & Noble?” Questions that I expect people of this generation, raised on technology, to know how to answer. They have more computer skills than I do, or at least they should.

So why did my throat constrict? Why did the panic set in?

I was reading about things I feel passionately about: like the importance of including arts education into the system; or the excellent tool that theatre  is to teach all kinds of skills and educational lessons and reach different types of people; or the need in any culture for theatre and performance and arts programming that reach all levels of society. I didn’t agree with every statement in the book, but still it is a book about my passions.

So why do I feel like crying?

The answer lies in my experience in Slovakia, particularly the time with the Roma. The answer lies in my current struggle with words and search for focus and simplicity. The answer lies in the multiple incarnations of Lisa, and in my inability to figure out how to market myself so that I am DOING rather than only teaching others how to do.

Not that teaching is a bad thing, but if I am not practicing what I preach I feel like an imposter. The answer lies in my imposter syndrome.

The answer lies in the fact that I have lots and lots of passions and projects, but without a deadline, without a “boss”, without a guarantee of a paycheck or some kind of acknowledgment from an outside source I can’t seem to accomplish them. The answer lies in the fact that I don’t have enough self-esteem to do things because I want to, I simply look too much for validation from outside when I know that I should be able to find satisfaction in myself and my projects, and in the joy of sharing what I love.

I am constantly saying that the process is as important (if not more important) than the product, that the journey is the reward. But when it comes to my own life, I can’t get past the block of feeling like I failed somewhere along the way.

This has got to stop!

I look in the mirror and I do not see what other people see.

I look at my list of accomplishments and I do not see what other people see!

I thought that I had finally gotten over this in Slovakia. As a matter of fact, I even wrote this:

 

Am I only able to find peace and purpose when I am away from my normal environment? Am I only able to see myself when someone else leads the way?

Somehow I must find a way to merge my passions with my abilities, and to become my own support “boss”–the person who gives herself deadlines and achieves every dream with or without validation from others.

My journey began in Slovakia, but now I have to face the painful stuff and move through it. The answers do not lie in an outside source.

The answers lie inside of me.

The Value of the Arts, the Proof is in the Anecdote

Ahem!

Excuse me while I climb on my soapbox for a moment. But, while I am getting it ready, please pop over and read this article from the Tucson Weekly.

I’m ready. Are you?

Did you read the article? Well, if you did, good job. If you didn’t, it basically discusses a study conducted by one of my former (and fabulous) professors and another colleague, both of whom I admire for many different reasons. Their study looked at the long-lasting affects of drama and speech programming in high school on people’s lives, and to no surprise at all, they discovered lasting important effects.

To put it simply, the arts helps people become better people. The arts help people think, empathize, become public speakers, and grow in multiple ways.

And yet, what is the first thing the politicians want to cut rather than give up their cushy tax breaks? The arts.

We are headed, my friends, to a catastrophe with a society of people who cannot communicate in person, cannot empathize with each other, cannot think beyond the test or the rules, because the artist in them has been squashed at an early age.

Theater has made me the person I am today. That is obvious. But, even if I had chosen another career path, my experiences in theater as a child and a high school student would still have made me who I am. I learned to speak up. I learned to question and challenge. In some ways participation in theater has made me a stronger writer. I learned to express myself in new and wonderful ways. I saw people saved by theater, people who would have ended up going down a dark path in life.

I’d love to hear what effect  participation in arts/drama/speech programs had on your lives? Share the anecdotes to fight for the power of the arts.

Stepping down from my soapbox now. Thank you for listening.

Anything Goes at Brockton High School back in the day. I'm there!

Next Step–Create Work!

  • Job with benefits for Nathan . . . check!
  • House found that will allow the dogs . . . CHECK! (We finally got word yesterday, can I hear a Hallelujah!)

  • Truck rented . . . check.
  • House packed . . . um, check minus. We still have a few things to go.
  • Route planned, including fun meetings with friends from the past and friends from the blog . . . CHECK!! (Look for a blog post later this week after I meet the fabulous Kathy from Reinventing the Event Horizon)
  • Find job for Lisa so that we can actually afford this move . . . X not so much.

So now my search for work in the area begins in earnest (not that I haven’t already started, I have). Which of course makes me reflect on what I really want for a career or a job. What do I want to be when I grow up?

Everyone keeps telling me that I should be able to find work easily, but we all know that in some ways those are empty words nowadays. There are many talented people out of work. There are many greedy people controlling what jobs are available. I’ve written elsewhere about the additional challenges I seem to face as I try to find employment. My education and the diversity of work that I have done makes me both marketable and unmarketable. The fact that I am a woman over 40 adds to the challenges. The fact that I have a child adds to the challenges. All in all, I have lots to offer, but it isn’t that easy.

But, I do not intend to bitch and moan about the above reality today. If you note my title, I am thinking about how to “Create Work!” On September 6th, once I figure out the car situation (we really need two cars for this move, but can’t afford a second car at the moment) I have an appointment at the Career Development Office at my Alma mater to help me on my job search. That means, of course, that she is going to ask me difficult questions. Questions like:

  • What kind of job do you want?
  • What do you look for in an employer?
  • What are your strengths?
  • Etc.

If I could create my dream job, what would it be? I still don’t know the answer, but I do know a few things:

  • I love jobs with flexibility, both in time and approach.
  • I like to have variety in my working, where I take on short-term projects (like directing shows or drama workshops), fulfill them completely, and move onto the next.
  • I like meeting with, working with, and mentoring people who are passionate about what they do.
  • I would love to be able to make a living with words, whether it is writing words, putting words on a stage, or speaking words in front of other. “Words, words, words.” They are my fuel and my passion.
  • I want to be available for my daughter as she grows, but I don’t want to be a stay at home mom. That means I would like flexibility of hours.
  • I am good at organizing, managing, coordinating, and solving problems on my feet. I like those challenges as well.
  • I am passionate about the arts, education, giving a voice to all and following your bliss (although I’m still working on that one)

I probably could keep brainstorming this list, but the reality is that I don’t know what job fits those realities of who I am. So, perhaps it is time for me to Create the Work that I want to do.

The question then remains, where do I begin? Perhaps I have already begun.

Love of Literature, Fear of Failure

I have been reading forever, and writing since I knew how to form letters. Books have been my best friends, and sometimes my worst enemies. Writing essays and stories became my escape, and represented a climb to glory that only a few could achieve. Some of my fondest memories of childhood come from my own words–when the school published a poem I wrote, or a teacher read a story I wrote to the class. I relished reports written by me and then presented orally. I still remember doing the research on Basenjis because my dog, Tammy, was part Basenji.

Tammy had the coloring, the face, and the size, but she had a lab chest.

This love of reading and writing lasted throughout school, as I blasted ahead of fellow classmates absorbing literature like food. At Smith, I skipped the Introductory Course in English and went straight into the Sophomore Level. (That only became an issue years later when I started to teach Freshman Comp, and realized I didn’t know how).  I believe I declared a major in English Language and Literature as soon as I was allowed to declare my major.

But wait, you are thinking, isn’t your field theater?

Well, at the time English Language and Literature was one of the HARDEST majors at Smith College. What used to be an easy A for me, became a hard-earned B (with the occasional A). The lowest grade I ever got in college was from my Chaucer class (although I have to say that was not completely a fair grade–but that’s another story).  I tended to excel in the dramatic literature classes more than in the classes about novels or poetry. As much as I loved reading and writing, I started to doubt myself. I had one professor who truly supported me, and allowed me to do a special studies project during my senior year (“The Roles of Women in Shakespeare”). I had one professor who chose favorites, and he happened to be the one who taught Short Story writing. When I graduated, I only had a B+ average in my major.

I grew doubts.

Meanwhile, I had always intended to do a minor in theater. I participated in everything I could, and took more classes than the minor required. (On a side note, I always made sure to take at least one class a semester outside of English or Theater to broaden my horizons–Smith didn’t have any core requirements). So, when senior year rolled around and I met with my minor advisor, she and I realized that I was only three credits shy of the theater major, and that I had an A- (?) average in all those courses. Three production credits. I had done numerous productions for no credit. So, we traipsed over to the chairs office and asked if there was any way I could still be a major, without those credits. He waived them.

So I graduated from Smith College with a double major in English Language and Literature and Theatre.

Little did I know how intricate a role each would come to play in my life.

The theater part is pretty obvious if you have been reading my blog for any length of time. Sorry if this is a little repetitive. I did an internship in electrics and stage management, eventually went back to school for an MFA in directing, and then continued my masochistic pursuit of education to get my PhD in Theatre for Youth. So now I am technically, a theater director/educator with an expertise in theatre for and with children as well as theatre for social change.

Now to English. Between my internship and my MFA I taught English conversation classes in Japan for three years. And of course, I kept reading and writing.

After I got my PhD and moved to Vermont where my husband taught at Castleton State College, I felt like I needed more than teaching adjunct courses for the theater department in the college and directing  one show a year.

So yes, crazy me, signed up for a distance learning class with the Institute for Children’s Literature. That one class led to three, and the book that is gathering dust without a home.

We then moved onto Fort Lewis College where, due to circumstances which I choose not to discuss here, my opportunities to teach in the theatre department were limited and then ultimately disappeared (although I did teach Non Western Theater that was part of the General Education program, as well as Children’s Theater for the Education Department). I got to direct one show (eventually) and had lots of projects in the community, as well as some children’s classes. But again, that wasn’t enough, especially financially. So, the first classes I taught at the college were 1 credit Library Research classes, introducing appropriate use of resources. It was a horrible class  because it was being phased out, but still a requirement. But, it was a foot in the door, and I got to do it because I had a PhD. After that, the Writing Program advertised for a full-time faculty position. I knew I wasn’t qualified, but I applied anyway. I didn’t get that job, but late in the summer (about two weeks before the semester started)  I got a call from the Head of the Writing Program saying “Would you like to pick up a couple of classes? We really need someone.” So I found myself teaching a 100 level and a 200 level course in Composition–without having a clue.

You know what I learned? Give me a challenge and I live up to it. Both those classes were successful, and I learned from my mistakes. I eventually picked up more classes, got on a part-time contract (that included benefits) and taught courses throughout the school in Honors, Comp, Gen Ed, Writing, and the occasional theater class.

Move forward to now. I am at a community college (another long story). I teach Theater Appreciation and Stage Makeup, which are basically the only Theater classes available to me at the moment. It’s a small program. I direct. This past semester, the person in charge of adjuncts asked if I would be willing to teach a Comp I class. No problem, I’m experienced now (although this one was very different).  He asked me if I’d teach one on-line as well. Slight problem, but I was up for the challenge (and that class was better than the live one).

I didn’t expect any classes over the summer, but I said I was willing to teach some on-line courses. (Live ones would be too complicated for the summer). At first nothing, and then I was offered two classes. Slight problem, instead of Comp I he wanted me to do Comp II. Okay, I’ve done that before as well, just a matter of figuring the technology again.

However, the second class leads me to here and now. To this present moment. I am teaching an Introduction to Literature Class. American Literature. (Did I mention that my degree at Smith mostly focused on Brit Lit).

I’M FREAKING OUT!

There, vent over. Luckily I have a wonderful blogging buddy who has sent me a gracious gift.  So, here’s a shout out to Amanda at A.Hab’s View who is a goddess in disguise.

Now, I must stop procrastinating and face the beast.

The Multiple Incarnations of Lisa

My journey at the Festival today made me recognize another important thing about myself–I have multiple lives. No, I’m not talking about reincarnation (although I don’t rule that out) but my life, in terms of interests, passions and goals can only be described as multiple incarnations of Lisa. This realization is keeping me awake tonight (or perhaps it is a combination of the caffeine I drank to make it through the day and the alcohol I drank to celebrate life). I realized that every event I participated in today reflected this diversity in some way.

The morning started with a presentation of a play called Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad performed by Book-It Repertory Theatre. This show told the story of Henry Brown who mailed himself to freedom to escape slavery. The story reminded me of two things–my passion for literature and seeing stories come to life, and my desire to fight for justice through the arts. That is an incarnation that I keep returning too.

Next I watched an amazing performance of Terrapin Puppet Theatre of Tasmania’s Boats.

This show can only be described as magical. It told a story of love, loss, and the sea using simple objects in amazing ways. It reminded me of my time as a student at the University of Hawaii, when one of my favorite teachers brought me into the world and magic of puppets.

Next I saw a performance of Doctor Kaboom! A show that combines theater with science. I witnessed a theater full of students embracing learning while watching and witnessing art. It reminded me of the things I do love about teaching–and of some joyous success stories I’ve had in my incarnation as teacher.


A performance by  The Guangdong Province Puppet Troupe reminded me of my love of culture and language, and my desire to create theater that crosses cultures bringing multiple languages and stories on stage at once. One time I started to write a play like that, but I don’t know what happened to hit. One time I worked on a show in Japan, and I stood backstage enthralled even though I know little of language.  This performance combined magic, animals, and the complex beauty of Chinese Opera, all done with puppets. We, did not need to understand the language to understand the story. I love that. When I first started my PhD program, I wanted to do research in that idea, but I got talked out of it (partially because I wanted to be both artist and academic and THEY wanted me to be only academic).  Incarnations of the language/culture lover, the passionate artist, the crushed academic. It also brought back memories of my MFA program (the incarnation of Lisa the director/Lisa the Asian theatre fanatic) where I studied Beijing Opera movement among other things.

The next two, performances (yes I saw a lot of theater yesterday, today I will be spending most of my time in a workshop) reminded me of my high school self, and of the incarnation that wants to find ways to help the youth of the world. The first was a performance of 1 1/2 by Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre Program in collaboration with Oregon Children’s Theatre. This piece, meant for 4th-6th grade deals with the nations growing problem with obesity and bullying. I’m still kind of processing this piece so I may write more about it later. The second was a Musical in a Day Workshop performance created by iTheatrics with local middle school  children. The did Annie and it was amazing. It reminded me again of why I chose to go into TYA.

After all this we had a wine and appetizer gathering, where someone asked about my academic background. I remembered that at Smith College, where I got my undergrad, I was a double major in English Literature and Theater. The incarnation of the reader and the writer wannabe. His honest response to my many degrees (as well as another woman who got a PhD from ASU after me) “Congratulations on being overeducated.”

The incarnation of Lisa the scholar; Lisa the student who loved to learn; Lisa the goody goody.

When I look back on my life, I have lived many lives. I have had many career paths and opportunities. I struggle with definition of self because of the multiple incarnations of me, but they all relate in some ways. Theater links them. Passion links them. A love of culture, language, arts, people link them.  So while I have many incarnations, it is the sum of those incarnations that makes me who I am today.

Right now I feel like I am a chrysalis that will soon burst open to reveal my next incarnation. I wonder where my butterfly  wings will take me, and what they will look like.

[I am starting to write a few posts for Spread Information, an interesting blog I found recently. Here’s a link to my first post, which also comes from this festival and from my understanding of the importance of arts in society. Check out the entire blog, they have a lot of interesting things.]

Complete Disillusionment

Three students in Theater Appreciation–100% plagiarism on their final project.

I’m devastated.

One of them is an ESL student from Korea. Maybe the assignment was too challenging for him. But he didn’t even make an effort to hide the plagiarism. He cited sources, but the article is word for word from another source. (Although it does look like he took information from various sources, word for word).

The other two, part of the basketball team that has made my life challenging this semester. (As you can read about here) Again, word for word. Cut and paste of an entire paper. I gave them a higher grade at midterm so they could play (even though I didn’t want to). And this is what happens.

People around here keep asking what they can do to make me want to stay. They don’t want to see Nathan and I go. But how can I continue to teach when I am disillusioned with teaching? How can I continue to share my passion for theater in a place that bombards me with challenges and disrespect?

I don’t know what I want out of life anymore, but it is certainly not this.

My heart is aching.

A Little Blogging Favor

Okay my blogging friends, I have a little favor to ask of you. I actually have another blog site that I set up (with a different version of my name) for the students in my Comp I class. Some of them have relished the opportunity and created fabulous posts on both the blog site and their own personal sites. Some seem more reluctant and don’t see any purpose behind this assignment. So, my humble request to you is that you visit this post where I discuss a couple of the reasons behind the assignment and add your opinion. No, I’m not trying to get more hits on the site. I simply want my students to see the value of this wonderful writing community. If you see other posts you want to comment on, feel free!

Thank you in advance if you take the time to do this.

Big hugs.

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: