What I want you to know. Which is everything.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

A New School Year, A Rant

Tomorrow is Friday after the first week back at school and I am pretty darn tired. The first week back is always difficult for a number of reasons. I'm not used to talking so much and so my throat hurts. I'm not used to standing so much so my feet hurt. I'm not used to teenagers so I am annoyed a lot more than I was over the summer.

Really, I'm pretty encouraged about the year. I think that I've got some good students, for the most part and I've already started off on the right foot by doing some small things that I had neglected at the beginning of the last two years. The first week seems long, I think, because we meet these students at the beginning of the week and by the end you kind of know them already. On Friday it's like "wow, that seems like a long time ago that I didn't know these kids." But it's not, people! It's not!

A couple of frustrations are taking their toll on me right now. Nothing major, major, but enough to have me thinking, "Hm." First, the small things. I am trying out desks like a regular class this year. Before I just had chairs that went around the room and a big open space in the middle. The open space was good for performances and games and things like that. Plus the students could easily move their chairs if necessary. The bad thing was that there was less structure and the students felt like they could not take things as seriously. The desks add structure to the classroom that I can already see is making a difference on behavior. The bad thing is that there is no room. Of course in a room like mine there isn't much to be done in the way of theatre anyway. I've decided that I'm going to take my acting classes to the stage as often as I can and just make do when I'm kicked out. So, my first frustration is that I'm not sure if I like my new class arrangement.

A bigger problem is that of scheduling. Some of my best theatre students weren't given theatre this year. It seems that they took my theatre tech kids from last year and drew a lottery as to whom would get in to my class this year. Some that I wouldn't have minded not being there are, and those that I'd rather not do without had their schedules messed up. I can't help but shake the feeling that this would never happen to a star running back with football class.

Lastly, and the biggest frustration of all is what to do with the current show whenever the contractors who are supposed to renovate the auditorium decide it's time to start. They were supposed to be in and out by the beginning of school but they haven't even started which has me thinking that they are going to be kicking us out very soon. Don't get me wrong, I want the new stuff (curtains, lights) but I wanted it over the summer. For all I care they can wait until next summer now. I'd much rather get our show season underway.

[WARNING: Rant approaching]

As far as I can remember without checking I've never disclosed the name of any of the people or school or even district that I work with and for, so I don't mind putting this out on the blogosphere.

Where I work cares little and supports the arts very little. While the choir, band, orchestra, and art departments surely feel my pain, no other department at my school has been crapped on like the theatre department. Let me make my case.

Nine years ago when I was starting my senior year (it may have been my junior year) in high school work began on an addition to the building behind the band hall. The orchestra was growing and had not had a space to rehearse in for some time. If I remember correctly they met in a large room across from the Band hall, or if there was no band period, in the band hall. So, as one could imagine the orchestra program was due. The art department was also housed in less than ideal circumstances being spread all over the school from the "arts wing" to portables behind the vocational building. When an addition was built about three years ago there were classrooms custom tailored to the needs of the art department, and they were all right there, together, where they needed to be. As far as I know, the band and choir have always had facilities that were sufficient for their needs. Plenty of storage space, practice rooms, acoustics and offices. So when there was an allotment in the most recent bond passage for fine arts facilities at our school my first thought was that it was coming our way. A new black box theatre or perhaps a renovation of a different space for that purpose. Nope, they are creating more space for the choir and band and orchestra. Practice rooms, I can only imagine, because they have everything else they need, it seems. But the theatre department has nothing what they need. We have two small rooms that are attached to the auditorium which we are kicked out of on a regular basis for anything from assemblies to open house to outside groups renting out the space. We can use the auditorium however much we need it, but when someone else needs it, which is often, we are brushed aside, expected to be cleared off the stage. There is no where, besides our measly little classrooms that we can call home. Anyone who has worked on a theatrical show knows that building the set for a play can sometimes take weeks or months. Last year I was forced to move a set piece that wasn't built to be moved so that parents wouldn't see it on open house. Is that a slap in the face? I don't think it was intended as such, but it felt like it.

We also have a set shop backstage that is connected to my classroom. Unfortunately, everyone who has a key to the auditorium, which is a lot of people, can get into that room, and it is treated like a storage closet full of free goodies. Cords go missing, brooms, hardware, you name it. It's not a great set shop, but it is something, and the stuff inside was bought with theatre funds, and I'd like to keep it for our use.

The whole thing is just disheartening, sometimes. When it started becoming crystal clear that the auditorium was not going to be ready or even started by the beginning of the school year and that the possibility existed that we would have to figure out somewhere else to go to perform our first show, I began thinking, "this would never happen at the stadium, never." Of course, I've heard it before, and as much as it hurts me to say it, no one cares about theatre. Not here, not in Texas. I love football as much as anyone, but nothing is more irritating. I work as hard and love what I do just as much.

I guess that is why I decided to direct the musical that I did this year. It is Grease. It's not my favorite, but hopefully a lot of people will want to be a part of it which means a lot of people will want to see it, which means that maybe the theatre department will be noticed afterward. It looks as though Grease will be the first show under the new lighting system and behind the new curtains. That's exciting, but they aren't doing it for us. I'd like to think that we had something to do with it, but I doubt it. I'm encouraged about this year so don't take this rant as a sign of pessimism. It's just a rant.


Dave said...

God Bless you as you start this new school year, bro. Teaching is a wonderful and heavy burden with its own unique advetures. We have a small private school that is run our of our building here, and I see everyday the joys and the pains that teaching can be. I'm sure you will have a great year.

by the way, remember the Sloth Brothers? Yeah, I watched the old camp video a couple weeks ago. Classic stuff. I'm going to save it and sell it to Access Hollywood once you are famous someday.

sarahdawn said...

For the record, you divulged the name of the school where you work a few postings ago. I must say I'm not shocked in the least at how stinky you and your department are being treated. As one who enjoys theater from the audience, I think it is a sad sad situation. I personally would much rather see a great play than football game anyday....unless the Aggies are playing. Sorry, I guess I'm a true Texan after all.

Kyle said...

So I did. Oh, well. Thanks for the support, y'all.

Nellie said...

Hang in there, Kyle. I don't think anything you shared is really news to anyone who has worked in public schools in Texas. Many of us have used the phrase, "If this were the football team ...." to begin our "rant" about something we perceived to be an injustice to our own department. It's sad, but true.

But you can be a part of making that change. Keep on working to make your department a success. I will certainly attend the performance of your first production in support!

Anonymous said...

When your shows start drawing 16,00 paying customers--then maybe you will get the respect you want and deserve. Glad your week went well.


Jason said...

Oh boy...[deep breath]


Better you than me. I would lose a ton of weight if I had to direct that show because I wouldn't be able to keep anything down.

But I COMPLETELY understand why you are doing it. Nothing lures students and faculty to the cause of the local "drama department" like the Siren song of "bop shoo wada wah, ba bop shoo wada wah," or whatever that garbage is (no offense).

I too can commiserate about the lack of attention that your own department receives. Until recently, the MFT program at MSU was relegated to a building on campus set to be demolished. We had only two full-time faculty (Accreditation requires three), and we were constantly given the runaround regarding courses, scheduling, and exact requirements. Since I've been here, we have moved into a MUCH better facility (in the on-campus medical building), and we've added 2 full-time faculty and one with a half-time appointment. Also, the department is becoming much more organized since they were absorbed into the College of Social Sciences. Of course, it isn't the football team here that seems to get all of the attention (although it gets plenty); it's the basketball team.

I hope your school year goes well anyway. I would definitely come see any show you directed, but Grease would be a tough one to swallow. Luckily, I don't have to make that decision. ;-)