Over the years, I have grown ever more pleased to call myself a play-acting teacher. That’s sounds a bit shocking, perhaps, but it’s the plain truth about me. In the classroom, I’m simply an actor. I wear one mask after another, and I’m glad that I’ve gradually come to accept that fact. What I’ve slowly been able to realize is that we all wear masks all the time. The real “us” is somewhere far beneath (or above) all the many roles we play, including husband, friend, worker, mother, or teacher. Each day we frequently change masks, depending on what part we are playing at the time, while the power behind the mask quietly abides in the background. Years ago I would have fervently denied this, thinking of it as pure deceit, but nowadays I accept this ceaseless role-playing as the way things really are – and I’m happy they are. It’s been fun to finally understand that teaching should be regarded more as a pastime than a skirmish, more as a fascinating stage play than a life-or-death endeavor. I take my teaching seriously, but I also take it lightly and humorously. I realize that, in the big picture, what life is all about is not commas and symbolism and Ernest Hemingway short stories, but something far deeper than that, something hidden beneath the mask and costume called “student” and “teacher”. I do my best to play my role as a teacher (just as I do with my many other roles), but I know that the real force behind the role is way bigger and more interesting than a 68-year-old dramatic character called “Mr. Salsich”. The actor playing that character, and all of my countless characters, is life itself. I wear the masks; life (or maybe Life) does the work – or perhaps I should say the playing.
© 2010 Hamilton Salsich
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