Sunday, September 28, 2014

Notes from the Field - Back to School

I am being completely honest when I say that I have just two recurring nightmares. One is the “I can’t get there” dream, where I leave my apartment ready to go somewhere, but misadventure strikes again and again, and I just can’t get to where I’m going, in fact, I get further away, and later and later – and for someone who prides herself for being on time, that REALLY kills! The second one, comes every year – usually the first week of August or so, the first time my eyes spy a sign that says “BACK TO SCHOOL”. It does not matter where I am, or what I did during the day, or even if I have seen the scariest movie EVER (which for me, great big chicken that I am, would be one of the Scary Movie series, which are supposed to be funny)- that night my dreams will be of someone dragging me – kicking, screaming, and possibly biting – back into school. Did I mention I DID NOT like school as a kid??? Clearly, I LOVE learning, and I will read anything put in front of me, but school and me – well, let’s just say it’s the old square hole, round peg situation, I just didn’t fit. So I guess it’s a little karmic joke that I now spend soooo much time in schools as a storyteller, and this year, I am lucky enough to have three different “residencies” – which means I will be visiting the same classes several times a month all year long. My husband, the man who knows what I’m going to say before I say it, smiled on my first day of one of my residencies, and said, “Have a good first day of school, honey!” And I have to admit that, just like I worried about what I wore on my first day of high school – I fretted over my ensemble for Mr. Vargas’ class of 6th graders – I wanted to look “cool adult” – and not “who the heck is this lady who is not a teacher, but I have to listen to anyway, and boy does she look dorky!” I went over in my head, not just the stories I would tell, but the way I would introduce myself, and ask their names. More than just a one time show, this type of situation is about building a relationship with the kids and the teachers, one that will sustain my visits after the novelty of having a storyteller in the room performing for them has worn off. And, unlike when I was a student – I LOVE this type of continuity – I relish the challenge of coming up with new material – pretty quickly, that will enhance the classroom learning, rather than add one more thing onto the plate of those most unsung and over worked heroes – teachers!! I enjoy adapting other parts of my life – my clowning, yoga, volunteer work, and travels into things I can share with the kids. As more and more of these opportunities to be a “storyteller in residence” in school classrooms have presented themselves, I have begun to look at them as a way to reach back in time to my younger self. The kid who would stay up as long as she could on Sundays nights, even though sleep was yanking at my eyelids, because if I closed my eyes and slept, I knew the next thing that would come was Monday – and that meant school – a place where I felt suffocated and trapped. If there’s even one “mini me” in any of these classes, than maybe I can be of some assistance to them, and their teacher, and help make school a little less uncomfortable. Perhaps some of my stories and activities can open up the window in their mind, and let in some air and light, and get them to feel a little less heavy and fretful. Maybe. I hope so. Just the idea of trying to do that makes me want to go to bed on Sunday, so I can get up bright and early on Monday, tame my nightmares, and go back to school. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

No comments: