Learning from Students

     For those of you that don’t know, my day job is a blessing. I am a full time theatre educator at an arts charter school in an urban area of Rhode Island. The school is the Beacon Charter High School for the Arts in Woonsocket, RI. For ten years I have taught there through a plethora of different changes of title, duties, and expectations. I have been honored by my colleagues both by awards, but mostly by having the privilege to work along side them. 

     I was hired as the “artist in residence.” My role grew once I earned certification to teach Visual Arts, and again when I earned a second cert in Theatre Arts. I was hired to be the second hand to the Visual and Theatre Arts teachers already on staff. I have been and continue to be blessed to be able to do my art and share my passion with  at least 60 students per year. Each semester, each day, presents different inspiration and challenges. Today was an exceptional day.

     It was “Senior Arts Night.”  The evening where we invite the community to partake in the artistic prowess of our Senior students. The culmination of three and a quarter years of training and pursuit of passion are attempted to be encapsulated into a single night. However, tonight felt different. It felt calm and relaxed. Bizarre coming from me. In actuality, for me it was time to sit back and watch the students do their work independent of the strings controlled by me. This is why I do what I do. The reward for all of the work is watching them create freely without my direction, a night of plays, monologues, and scenes that hey have written or learned (in the case of the Shakespeare pieces). 

     The most remarkable thing is watching them launch past the simplistic ideas and typical to a place of theatrical prowess that focusses on being genuine and spontaneous. But the portion that always gets me is the respect they have for me. I’m the strict, unpredictable, impossible to read, scary bald man at the front of the room. But for the last two years that I have been running the program, my Seniors on Senior Arts Night have written me letters and notes on what is is to be in my classes. I know I must have done something right for a group of teens to take the time to publicly recognize that they have learned and been inspired by something, especially a teacher. It is truly a humbling experience. 

     I sit here reading the notes the students gave me and get a little bit more happy in the choices I have made. I choose to be an educator with passion. I choose to be genuine. I choose to be passionate and not hide it. I choose to learn from my students as they learn through me. They made me inexplicably proud tonight as did there peers from last year (my first year alone in the program). To know that they have earned three very important things and can put them into practice:


Respect for Art

A work ethic that includes initiative and a willingness to create

     So, to the class of 2018, my sincerest thanks for your teaching and your learning, your kindness and respect, which has always made me feel a part of the class and not an outside force driving and dragging the class forward. May your futures continue to get brighter. My the muses bless you with inspiration as we begin the next chapter – Senior Project!