Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Climbing Uphill

Here's a run-down of what's passed and what's ahead:

Friday - After work, I met Rachel at Park Meadows to go dress shopping for her graduation. We had no luck there (although she did find one later), but we did get some CPK to go. We enjoyed that meal (red pepper and goat cheese pizza and their Thai Crunch salad, if you're wondering) at my place while watching tv shows (30 Rock, The Office, and some Doctor Who for David Tennant/John Barrowman yumminess).

Saturday - Jill and I went downtown to celebrate her birthday, since her family all had to work. We got lunch at Maggiano's, browsed the art museum, made some concert posters at the hands-on part of the museum's current exhibit about rock posters from 1965-1971, browsed Tattered Cover, and enjoyed some delicious pineapple cupcakes at The Shoppe. It was a gray, rainy day; and it was a perfect way to spend it.

After I dropped Jill off at her car, I ran home and changed clothes for a big multi-stake YSA activity our ward was hosting. I was not too excited about going, but I felt obligated. It was luau-themed with dinner, limbo, hula-hoop contests, and generic dancing. They can't do any sort of YSA activity it seems without making it a dance. Which I would be okay with, except that they don't turn down the lights at all, so it becomes a bunch of 20-somethings jumping up and down kinda in time to the thumping loud music. In full flourescent lighting.

In any case, I did run into some friends and chat with them, and I got to talk to Melissa about my new job. Melissa used to teach theater here, then left teaching to work as a theater-director-for-hire for schools. Not a bad job, if you ask me. She's got the scoop on pretty much every school in the area, so she told me a bit more about MTHS.

I was done with the luau after about an hour, so I left and went to dinner with another friend from the ward, Ryan. We had a bit of trouble finding a place open to eat after 10:00, but eventually wound up at Chili's. We hung out there talking until they closed the restaurant, then stood in the parking lot talking until it got too cold to do that. I tend to do that with people - Ben (math teacher-Ben from DPJH) and I used to start talking after school, and not stop until it was dusk and we were the last ones in the parking lot, freezing.

Sunday - Pretty typical - meeting #1, meeting #2, church, home. Church was a little more tricky than usual since my 1st counselor moved to Provo a few days ago without telling anyone in advance, my 2nd counselor left early to go to another ward's sacrament meeting, and my secretary left early with the flu. Which meant I got to conduct Relief Society and play the piano for all of the songs, since my counselors and I are the only girls in the ward who can play the piano. Seems like taking piano lessons while growing up is becoming a rare thing.

Monday - School, like usual, then I had my last induction/ELL meeting at the district office. I can't say I'm sorry to see the last of those! One thing I kind of chuckled at through those ELL trainings (that's English Language Learners, for you non-teachers out there) is that when they want to help us experience what it's like to be in a class where you don't know the language, the teacher tends to bring in examples in either Russian or French, assuming that most people there speak Spanish as a second language. So whoo-hoo my 19th century aristocratic language choices!

During school, I got a phone call from one of the counselors at MTHS. She said she was working on the schedule for next year, and that it looks like they don't need me to teach an English class, at least for the first semester. Which, given the crappy behavior of my current English classes this week, brought me nothing but joy to hear. I mean, I love teaching literature and interpretations and meaty higher-order-thinking stuff, but I am so okay with not teaching grammar and punctuation to a bunch of crabby, angry teenagers for a few months.

In place of that class, she told me I could teach either a Theater Tech class or a Humanities class. Holy crap, what choices! I would love to teach either of those subjects and told her so. We wound up deciding to base the choice on 1) which had more student interest for it and 2) what materials were already available at the school for each. But what a choice!

After the induction meeting, I stopped by Family Home Evening for the opening part, then ducked out when they started playing volleyball, since I hadn't been home or eaten dinner yet at that point.

Tuesday - School, which I left as soon as I finished my last class to meet Rachel to drive up to MTHS. Their spring musical is this week. I can't make the actual shows, since I'll be celebrating my sister's graduation with my fam all weekend, but the current teacher, Ruth, said I was welcome to come to a dress rehearsal. Which, honestly, was better for me because
1) Watching the rehearsal process is a lot more telling of how the program is run and what the expectations are than watching a finished product would be and
2) I could leave without having to sit through the entire show. I love the movie version of "Sound of Music", but I have never been a fan of amature productions.
Plus, this way Rachel could come, too, and I wanted her to see the school and the theater so she can help me plan.

We walked past a series of nuns into the darkened little theater. When she saw me, Ruth jumped up and ran over to give me a big hug. "Amanda!" she cried. "I'm so glad you took the job!" She was nothing but enthusiastic. With a lot of explanations and apologies for the state of the play (which, yeah, it's still rough, but I know how shows and especially dress rehearsals tend to go), she let Rachel and I sit in the audience and watch them run through the first act.

Okay, remember how I said last week I would give you details about my decision? Sitting there, watching these kids rehearse, I started to summarize those points. When it came right down to it,
- the commute didn't matter (I like driving, and I've done longer commutes before with little irritation. Plus, there's no traffic to sit in - it's all gorgeous mountain scenery the whole way)
- the money doesn't matter (my happiness is worth $9000, and I wouldn't have gone into teaching if money was the priority in my decisions)
- I can buy snow tires for my car
- and I'm willing to give small schools/districts another try, knowing how extraordinarily screwed up STMS's district is right now.

Sitting there, what it came down to is that I need to be teaching theater again. I tried to pretend it was just an option for me, that teaching any subject is fine, that I love literature enough to be just as passionate about it, but what this year taught me more than anything else is that I need to be teaching theater. I'm good at it. Really good at it. And it's good for me. Other people who've seen me here have described to me how I come alive when I talk about shows and production possibilities. Jill said that she's seen a real difference in my countenance since I accepted the job at MTHS - that I'm happier, and she can see it in my face. It's sad that I'm that dependable on this art form, but I am and I'm not going to let myself not be myself anymore. And I can do that at MTHS.

So that's why I took the job. And that's why, sitting there listening to Ruth push her kids to be better, marveling at Jesse's work with the orchestra and genuiness with the students, and watching those kids scramble to pull together one last show for Ruth, I couldn't stop thinking about all of the things I could do next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. I was homesick, missing Janelle and Kelley and Ben and knowing that I had to do this without them; but I was also home.

Midway through the rehearsal, Ruth introduced me to another one of the teachers at the school who had stopped by the rehearsal. As she said my name and explained, "she's the new drama teacher here!" every teenage head within hearing distrance immediately turned to stare at me. You could actually hear the air "whoose" with the movement. It was funny.

While they were taking a dinner break and Rachel and I were heading out, Ruth grabbed me one more time and pulled me into the middle of the lobby where all of the students were sitting, eating. She formally introduced me to the students as her replacement with a very nice speech. She repeated how excited she was that I had accepted the position, since they had interviewed a lot of candidates, and I was by far the best (a surprise to me - for all I knew, I was the only one they interviewed). The students clapped politely, still doing that teenage-staring-judging-thing. I said hello, then kind of awkardly-jokingly asked if I should make a speech. "Yes!" Except what was I supposed to speak about? Tell them my biography? Classroom management plan? Recite a sonnet?

Instead, I asked if any of them had any questions. "What's your middle name?" one girl cried out.

"Jane," I replied. Ruth laughed at the question.

"I like your hair," Friedrich (who, to Ruth's disgust, was wearing rhinestone spacers in his ears and long pants to cover his leg tattoos, which made me kinda want to do a version of Sound of Music with all of the Von Trapp kids dressed in clothes of their choice) said from my left.

"Thanks!" I said.

The students then, as students do, promptly ignored me so they could all discuss me amongst themselves. I thanked Ruth and Jesse again, wished them luck, and ducked out.

On the drive home, Rachel and I tried to figure out what musical I could do next year. I don't know yet. I really, really want to do Urinetown - it'd be perfect for that theater in a lot of ways, but I don't think it would work the first year I'm working in that community. Something, though....

After dropping Rachel off, I made some Relief Society phone calls and went to the RS monthly book club. Again, I got a late dinner and went home.

Today - School, blogging, RS visits tonight and hopefully some exercise on my elliptical. Oh, and dropping another dozen tamales off for Rachel and Ben. Mostly Ben. One of the parents at our school makes them every once in a while as a side business.

This weekend is packed with Rachel's graduation and family stuff, which I'm really looking forward to. After that, it's only 12 more days of STMS and then my summer travels begin. Thank goodness!

So there you have it - a slice of life in a nutshell. A very long, very wordy nutshell.

Oh! And I also finished the edits on "Making Waves" and Heidi officially dropped it off last week, so that's another project wrapped up, too. Go us!


  1. "...I need to be teaching theater. I'm good at it. Really good at it."

    That may be news to you, but everyone at DPJH has known it for a long time. Nearly a year after your departure, this is still a topic for conversation in the faculty lounge. They will be thrilled to hear that you will be teaching theater again next year.

    If you'll save me a seat, I will do my best to be in the crowd when the curtain goes up on your first musical at MTHS.

  2. Wow, it's all happening so fast!! How exciting!

    P.S. Just heard the great news about "Making Waves"--congrats!!!
    P.P.S. Hmmm, I think I just learned your middle name for the first time!?! Thanks, MTHS girl.