I love my job. In case anyone out there had any questions about that, I do love my job. I get to be the person who encourages kids to let their imaginations run wild and then help kids begin to understand what effort and skill it takes to make those dreams come to fruition. It's an extraordinary opportunity to be a part of an organization like ETC that believes in opening doors.
Yet, like all jobs, even the great ones, there are a few things that are not as fun. I dread casting my shows. I have to assign the roles in our play to the kids in the classes and I so dread it that I cry EVERY TIME I do it. I hate the idea of being the person who breaks a little heart. I don't like to take away possibilities.
Each group I work with is different, but all classes have their similarities. There are always the class 'Superstars,' the ones that everyone knows are 'dramatic' and who aren't afraid to show it, and then there are the kids who hide a little in the back. I try to see those kids and pull them out front, if only for a moment. I like the kids that surprise everyone, even maybe themselves. Those are what I consider to be the greatest triumphs of my teaching career. I love it when teachers say "she's really blossomed throught this process" or "he's really come out of his shell." My absolute favorite was when a teacher told me that her student's self-esteem had really gone up as she became more confident in her role. She had taken on leadership roles in class and really started to command a whole new respect from her classmates. How great is that?
Yet, there are those kids who get mad, storm off, mouth off, or even cry when I announce the cast lists, and my heart just bleeds for them everytime. Believe me, I consider every line in the script when I cast and, unlike professional casting directors, I do not cast based upon looks. I don't have to. No one has to "look right for the part." The major factors in my casting process? I consider what role the student asks for, the effort they put into the audition, and their behavior. Teachers get final approval of the casting list, but on rare occasions I have gone to bat against the teacher if I feel it is necessary to provide the students with their chance to shine. Many teachers are surprised by how much the kids will rise to the occasion. It is an awesome thing to behold.
So, I cling to that thought as I force myself to assign roles. I try to remind myself that I often learned the most from the roles I didn't want to play. Eventually, I found something to love in each one. Helping my students have similar experiences is a constant goal in the Prelude Program.
Here's one of my casts from last year, taken just after their performance. Don't they all look proud??