– Marilouise Michel
The classroom feeds me.
Well of course not literally. I guess my teaching in the classroom facilitates the paycheck that feeds me.
But I’m sure I’m not the only one who, once I get in the classroom, feels like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. It’s about the sharing of my passion, the igniting of a passion in my students, opening eyes and changing perspectives. Not to my point of view, but to varieties of views and the realization of different perspectives.
And then, I am still scooping up cell phones and waking up students who slump, close their eyes, and cover up with their hoodies as much as they can. And when one of the students whose cell phone I pick up stands and says, nah, he’d rather leave class than not have his phone, I wonder, “Am I kidding myself? Does what I do make any kind of significant difference?”
Then there are always the students who “get it.” Who really seem connected to the material and the ways in which their eyes are opening.
I’m not kidding myself. I know Introduction to Theatre changes very few lives. For most kids it is filling in an Arts and Humanities slot that is required, and they really don’t care what class goes there. I use it as an opportunity to teach a set of skills about academia to the freshman and reinforce them with the older students. I know they don’t all do all the reading – heck they don’t all even buy the textbook. But getting papers that tell me in one form or another “I didn’t know this before and this is cool and I think I’ll keep looking into this further” is what feeds my soul.
In my other job as a Life Coach, I try to help people see that their job doesn’t have to be their life. It can be the thing that facilitates their life. For academics who initially go into this work because we love our fields of study, this can be a hard concept to grasp. When my job feels like only a job, it is sometimes hard to face.
Ultimately, even though I have to remind myself sometimes, I know I am blessed to be making a living doing the one thing I am really good at and really enjoy. I so want that for my students. If I can teach them anything I want it to be to keep looking and trying new things until they find that thing that really turns their key.
The creator of Hamilton, Lin Manuel Miranda, said in an interview that he owes his success to realizing he wasn’t as good as his peers at a lot of things, but that he “picked a lane and I started running ahead of everybody else” (Holiday, 2017, p. 45). With undergrads, helping them pick a lane where they can run free, uninhibited and with joyous abandon is the ultimate goal. Would I love it to be the theatre lane? Sure. But I want them to see that they have choices. I also want them to have the tools to change lanes without fear.
So, except when I’m scooping up cell phones (I forbid them in my classes – a long story for another article), I pretty much love my job. And sometimes it’s just what allows me to pay the bills, for which I am also grateful.
Is it summer yet?
Holiday, R. (2017). Perennial seller: The art of making and marketing work that lasts.. New York, NY: Portfolio/Penguin.
Marilouise “Mel” Michel is a Professor of Theatre, Holistic Life Coach, Certified Yoga Teacher and burgeoning writer. Her website is livelivelybewell.com