January 31, 2017 | Leave a comment After a long day of teaching kids (and the last period is always the hardest), I get to the drama rehearsal room and walk into the sunshine. No matter how hard the day was, working with actors is always a blessing to me. I get to do what excites me! Something about me sharing my passion creates passion in students. Background: I had a blessed childhood in many ways. This is one of those: my parents were season ticket holders to the civic light opera at the Music Center in Los Angeles. From the time I was about 10 or 11, my parents took me to live theatrical events. This was the era in which everyone dressed up to go. And by the way, they had good tickets in the part of the theater that is called the orchestra. The very first show tune I ever heard from those seats was “Food Glorious Food” in the show Oliver. I enjoyed the best live theater that Los Angeles had to offer. I knew from the time I was very young that the idea of getting on stage excited me. One of my earliest experiences was buying a ventriloquist dummy at a magic store and when I was in the 5th grade, going down to the 3rd grade and entertaining the class. The kids loved it and laughed. I don’t know where the funny came from because I was rarely funny in casual situations. Over those years I saw some great performers: Yul Brynner, Lena Horne, Liza Minnelli, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Stephanie Mills, Charlton Heston, Katherine Hepburn and more. In high school, the first full play I acted in was the first professional play I enjoyed as a child, Oliver. And I got the best role, Fagin. I’ve played that part twice in my life now. In college, I auditioned for a children’s theater troop called Fantasy Machine. That was fun (until I ruined it with my own hubris – more on that another time). Fantasy Machine changed the way I felt about acting because we created almost everything performed. We wrote it, blocked it, and performed it all. The improvisational nature of my training was enhanced greatly when I discovered Al Razavi who taught improv at San Jacinto College. What an amazing person to work with. When I finally got to direct years later, I found it just as enjoyable as acting (though sometimes more nerve wracking). One of the things I loved to do, when I lived in Southern California, was load up a van with students in the middle of the summer to go to the Redlands Bowl to see opera, symphony, musicals and more. We could afford it because you paid whatever you could afford (If you live anywhere near there, you’ve got to check it out). When I work with students, I bring all of that background and more with me. I remember what it was like to think I was the sunshine and the moon, so I work hard at helping them stay grounded. I want them to know that they are serving those they entertain. It’s not about them; it’s about the audience. I almost always work with other teachers who help me. Mainly, because I’m naturally a mess. My brain remembers things I need to do like a good colander holds water. It’s a joy to work with those teachers (and they’re doing what excites them too). From this root of experience, I’ve directed musicals, comedies, one act plays, and melodramas. I’ve had the privilege of founding improv troops at two different schools. Teaching students to podcast has also been a fun offshoot of this. I used to feel bad that I never acted professionally (okay, I still wish I had – maybe I still will), but I am grateful up to the sky and back that I get to share this with students. Teacher, share what excites you with your students. I’ve met teachers who code. They love it. How about opening up an after-school coding club? Many students would enjoy cake decorating. What if you figure out how to do that with kids that would love it? Or a chess club… Of course, coaches already get this. This is what they do. They are all about what goes on after school and working with the students who want to do something well. And all students want to do something well. What if the thing you do, is the exact thing that will light their fire and get them inspired to be who they are? Those are memories that will last with them forever. And when you share what excites you, you keep your teacher-fire burning. The fact that I get to teach drama at my school is a huge part of what keeps me at my school. It gets me re-energized when my lesson have flopped. There is something that you do that will light a spark in boys’ and girls’ lives. Make a list. Hey, when I first started directing, I had no idea if I could really pull it off. And it was shaky, but it worked and I learned. My students, the audience, and me all had a good time. Do what excites you with students… it will transform you and your teaching. Click here to get a free pdf with 47 ideas for doing things with students after school that can transform your teaching and their lives.