I celebrate my birthday this month, and instead of naming my exact age I'll just say that I'm well established as a "thirtysomething." I got an iPod for my birthday, so I'm fully a part of the 21st century. As soon as I figure out how it works, I'll let you know how I'm enjoying it.
July is one of my favorite months; fireworks and hotdogs, watermelon and cookouts, outdoor theatre at Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park sitting on a blanket under a starry southwestern sky.
At the end of last month I had the pleasure of accompanying a group of Oklahoma Christian students on a trip to Stratford, Ontario to take in the Stratford Shakespeare Festival with a brief excursion to the Niagara Falls area to see Arms and the Man at the Shaw Festival. I saw eight plays in five days. In addition to Arms, I saw Henry IV Part I, The Duchess of Malfi (a Jacobean play, not Shakespeare), Coriolanus, Oliver (yeah, a musical...I'm not sure why I did that), Much Ado About Nothing, The Glass Menagerie, and a modern experimental play by a Canadian playwright entitled Harlem Duets. For a theatre artist like me it was a nourishing experience. I now want to save up all year so that I can return to the festival annually.
While seeing the shows through the eyes of a younger generation was illuminating, I also enjoyed contributing to the students' experience by sharing my views and observations about the plays we were seeing and allowing them to share their thoughts with me in return. My favorite show at the festival was Coriolanus starring Colm Feore in the title role. When I sat down to read Coriolanus before the trip, I couldn't even get through it which is a tribute to the brilliance of the acting and directing of the Stratford production.
After my immersion in stunning visual and theatrical art, I found myself shifting between pure ectasy and becoming completely despondent with thoughts running through my head like "I've been working my entire life to create art that can't possibly compare with the work these people are doing." This is an important lesson on the dangers of comparing oneself to others. I find myself playing the "comparison game" in many areas of my life, and it is purely destructive. What makes me feel that what I do isn't as valuable a contribution as the contributions of the Stratford artists? Lately, I've been trying to remind myself that I influence student artists around me on a daily basis, possibly a future Colm Feore among them. I've really lost my sense of humor with the attitude toward teachers that they are "those who can't do." Is this an appropriate attitude to take toward those people who on a daily basis inspire, challenge, and give their lives to the pursuit of making the world a smarter place?
Granted, all teachers aren't perfect, but most of us could have been successful in many other areas but chose education because we found within ourselves the drive to give back-to pass on our passion and talent for understanding literature, math, biology, music or theatre. I don't know who I'd be without Mrs. Guy (Kindergarten), Mrs. Beth VanRheenan (High School English), Mr. Craig Jones (7th-12th grade Chorus), Miss Linda Arnold (9th grade History), Dr. Ellis (Technical Theatre), Prof. Robin Miller (Acting and Directing) and many others too numerous to name from elementary school through two graduate school programs.
THOSE WHO CAN'T DO TEACH.
I'd love to wipe this destructive and negative phrase out of our cultural vocabulary, but for now I'll have to settle for tweaking the phrase:
THOSE WHO CAN TEACH US PLEASE DO, and thanks.