Today, I spent several hours  at an inservice entitled “Teach Like a Rock Star.” A very engaging and entertaining gentleman with 25 years experience in the classroom made us laugh with stories of what it’s like the first week of teaching, that awful moment when you realize the principal is in your room for a surprise observation, and the A.D.D. kiddo who just grins and wiggles all the way through a lesson, just to ask what he’s supposed to be doing when all the other students are busily engaged (Mason was my A.D.D. kiddo. Loved that boy!) About an hour after lunch, he began to talk about earning the right to authentically critique kids. He exhorted all of us to discover why we teach. Sharing that “Why” with our students is what, in their eyes,  earns us the right to correct and admonish. Sounds simple, huh?

I’ll tell you this: teachers do not teach for their summer breaks. Mr. Rock Star said it, and I have known it for years- if you’re in education for the summer breaks, you’ll only last five years, tops. There comes a point where all the pool time in the world will not be enough to keep a teacher locked in a classroom with 30-140 kids a day the other nine months of the year.

Why do I teach? Why?

Because it’s who I am. I have no better answer than that. I love the act of teaching. I love pedagogy. I love planning and executing lessons. I love watching kids “get it.” I literally get these weird tingling sensations on my scalp when I am watching a particularly effective scene. Student pantomimes and neutral scenes can send me into an absolute rush of goose bumps.

Mr. Rock Star also says you are not a real teacher if your students don’t make you cry. Accountants don’t cry over a column of balanced figures. Plumbers don’t cry over a well-laid pipe. But teachers? We cry.

I have cried over and with kids whose home situations were unbearable and I was helpless to remedy it.

I have cried when kids have said hurtful things to me.

I have cried out of sheer exhaustion.

I have cried with students who clung to me, weeping in sheer panic, leaving mascara stains all over my clothes, as they sorted out relationships with parents or lovers.

Simply put, I love being a teacher.

However, I have discovered that I don’t love being a producer. That’s the other part of my job. I love the part of directing shows where I am really digging in with kids to create character and tell story. I love rehearsal- that’s the teaching part of a show. I do not love the rest- the organization and building of the set, costumes, sound, and lights. I do not love worrying about show publicity. I hate fundraising. I despise doing the programs and posters (even if kids do the artwork, I still have to take care of getting it printed and paid for).

In my ideal world, I work in a school where I teach classes all day, but someone else directs the after school shows. I want so badly to be beyond excellent in the classroom, but the extracurricular program is a large, hungry beast that demands a lot of care and attention.

I think I am the opposite of many of my theatre teaching colleagues. Isn’t that funny? I sense that for many of my colleagues, the after school program is where their hearts are, and that the classroom day is just something to get through.

So what are my goals and aspirations for this year?

I have written at least two months of lesson plans, and have my scope and sequence for the entire year in all subjects. I aspire to teach at least 80% of what I have planned.

I hope to find joy in the tech classes.

I endeavor to stay in the moment with my students. I will not use my valuable teaching time to multi-task. My students deserve 100% of my attention during our 45 minutes together each day.

I vow to simplify. Less elaborate productions will allow me to teach and direct better.

I. Will. Rest. Burn-out is the great enemy of my profession.

I will try just as hard as I can to treat each student as I would want my children’s teachers to treat them.

I will smile more and worry less.

Teaching is a calling. It’s my calling. It’s my passion. May I move forward into a new year with energy, flexibility, creativity, and compassion, never forgetting that I may be the one that kids will remember for the rest of their lives. It is up to me whether their memories are joyous.