by Sarah Shotland, Teaching Artist for TAP, about her first day teaching after school at Wooldridge Elementary
My first day as a Theatre Action Project teacher was nothing if not eventful. About five minutes into my 4th grade class, a teacher from Wooldridge came into my portable. While the door was open, a bee flew into the classroom, sending every nine-year old in north Austin into a panicked frenzy. I don’t particularly care for bees either, but I tried to remain calm as children literally hid under desks and ran into the bathroom crying.
Obviously, I had no time to speak to the teacher and had to refer her to my program director. When I returned to my class, things were in chaos. Two kids in tears over the bee, one hiding in the bathroom, everyone else crazy, and no one believing that I was a “real” teacher. I’m not sure if I believed I was a real teacher. I tried to calm the kids down and coax one out of the bathroom, and eventually we all made it back to our circle, and tried once again to introduce ourselves.
Throughout the class period, most of the kids needed to go to the bathroom, but at some point (I’m not sure if it was during the bee incident) someone missed the toilet and peed all over the floor and a little girl slipped in it and started to cry (I can’t blame her….I’d probably cry if that happened too). This ignited round two of first-day chaos, with all the boys running around, screaming about pee (I have come to believe it is an exclusively male experience to be fascinated with pee….as a little girl, I remember not a single conversation about pee), and all the little girls screaming in fear that they, too, might have been splashed by a droplet or two of cootie-infested liquid. Once again, I had to call in my program director, and watch horrified as the adorable nine-year-old girl exited stage.
Thank goodness by this point there were only a few minutes remaining in class, and finally, FINALLY, the last student introduced himself to the circle. We headed back to the cafeteria, and I wondered what in the world I had gotten myself into. Other career paths were surely less….stinky. Even as a bartender, one rarely has to actually handle pee-soaked patrons. Plus, there’s always the power to refuse service–children are still required to be in school…peed upon or not.
The next week, I got a new classroom, far from bee/pee ridden portable 10B. The change of setting was an excellent move, and I got a lot of support from my program director, the other TAP teacher at my site, and Dustin (my team leader at TAP). In a way, it was an advantage to have that disastrous first day right off the bat. I am fearless in the classroom now. Nothing fazes me, nothing surprises me, and I think the students realize that I am not going to leave. My students and I got to share a real experience that day, and whether they realize it or not, it brought us closer together. We were all vulnerable that day– I saw their fear, they saw my self-doubt, and maybe we all panicked a bit. We’ve pulled it together, though, and even on our not-so-good days, we still know….it could always be worse.