Thursday, January 28, 2010
PLAYING A PRIZED ROLE
As a boy, I always enjoyed dressing up in costumes (not just at Halloween, but anytime) and I actually still do. In fact, you might say I wear a costume every day in my classroom, and I don’t just mean my bow tie and sweater: I put on a sort of inner costume when I’m teaching. I think of myself as playing a role – that of a senior citizen middle school English teacher – and so, as I’m preparing for school in the morning, I don an interior “set of clothes” – a mindset, a way of thinking – that’s appropriate for the role. Since I take this role seriously, I want to be fully prepared when the curtain of my classroom goes up every day. To some, this may sound odd, even irreverent, as though I’m not taking my profession seriously, as though it’s merely a trivial pastime. Quite to the contrary, teaching is an enterprise of great significance to me, just as a prized role is of great significance to an actor. I want to play this teaching “part” with sincerity and enthusiasm, since it’s a role I longed for as far back as my high school days. If an Oscar were given for “best dramatic or comedic performance as a teacher”, my unvarying goal would be to win one. Yes, I do take my role as a teacher seriously, but it is just that – a role, a part I play, a character I portray, a performance I put on each day. It’s not so strange, really, to think of it this way. I’m simply doing what the universe does. Each day, it plays different roles, puts on different costumes – clouds one day, sparkling light the next, train wreck one day, widespread happiness the next. The universe moves from mornings to noons to nights with perfect aplomb, and I try to move through my roles in a similar way, easily taking off one inner costume and putting on another – quiet reader, writer, washer of dishes, grateful grandfather, peculiar old English teacher.