Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Why is it so hard to round up the stage crew kids?

The backstage area seems as big as a warehouse today, and as I yell at some kids in one room to head to the stage, I realize other kids have filtered into the room I had just cleared. I'm going in circles, and I can't get everyone to assemble in one place.

Plus, I've got the core group on stage, playing around with the ropes, hanging each other by the legs and then swinging around. And a secondary group opening up pizza boxes, sneaking pieces of awful pepperoni. 

My voice is hoarse from yelling, yet no one can hear me.

It's 4 a.m., and I'm dreaming about the fall play. I fell asleep at 10:30, exhausted, and now I roll around in bed, covers over my head to keep warm, still exhausted.

Rehearsals, in fact, have been going great, with very little work from me. Yet I can't help but worry about the first show, which is Thursday. The stage crew has been the weak link. While the student director's personality is loud and demanding, the stage crew head is very laid back. The actors have been whipped into shape, but the running crew and makeup group are still disorganized. The crew hasn't assembled in its entirety once, and there's too much lag time between acts. The audience will be bored.

But ... for some reason, I have complete faith. As I lie in bed, I think about my experiences here the past four months. The students really seem to respond when given freedom to do their thing. In fact, when I try to control things, whether assignments in English class or play rehearsals, things fall apart. But when I let go, when I set high expectations and walk away, the great majority of students do a great job.

This is a very difficult thing for me. I tend to micromanage. Control every element of every assignment. Make sure kids listen to every word I say. Have them do things exactly right. But, really, they can achieve so much more when I take a step back and let things happen.

And, really, this has been true in all my years teaching. Whenever assignments call for creativity and independence, whenever I say "impress me," students impress me. The less I interfere, the more they accomplish. I start to think I've figured out some great, big secret here.

Is that why can't I sleep? 

I mean, is this why I can't sleep? (Or write properly?)

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