When I’m Not a Teacher

My stage managing table during show week

My stage managing table during show week

I didn’t always plan on being a teacher. In fact, there was a time when I was very much against the idea. My mother and many of my relatives are/were teachers and I saw it was a very challenging job so I tried out all kinds of other jobs and career paths. When I finished high school didn’t know what I wanted to do other than go to university, so my undergraduate degree was at a liberal arts school, Mount Allison, and I decided to study drama as my major. I enjoyed theatre and I felt Ā that even if I didn’t go into theatre as a profession, it would still be a useful skill to have regardless of my eventual career and I was correct. Theatre gives you many skills that are useful: teamwork, arts appreciation, empathy, problem solving, the list is endless. I loved performing and working back stage and directing at MTA.

When I finished my degree though, I stopped doing shows. I used those skills I had learned in various ways in various jobs, especially once I eventually started my career in education, but other than going to see a few shows now and again I didn’t get involved again until a few years ago. There was an audition notice for a new community theatre company and I thought, why not? So I auditioned and got into one show that year. The next year I stage managed a few shows and acted in a few shows and started doing some choreography and then I did a musical with my school one year and I was so happy to be involved in theatre again.

Right now, when I’m not a teacher, I’m a stage manager for a community theatre company called Collective Theatrics. We’re a relatively new company, this is only our third season, but most of the people involved have been doing shows together in different companies over the past few years. We mostly do musicals, though our first show was a play, and we only do one or two shows per year. What’s kind of interesting about community theatre is that we all have very different backgrounds, different careers, different ages, but we all love theatre and we manage to put on some pretty professional looking shows. In our group right now we have a few teachers, an accountant, a forensic scientist, some retail workers and customer service people just to name a few. Some people are students, some people are parents.

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Before a few years ago, I had never stage managed before but it’s a good fit for me. I think a lot about details and like to make sure that not only am I organized, but that everyone is organized and knows where they need to be and what they need to be doing. Even when I was acting, I liked to make up charts showing which costumes to wear in which scenes and which set pieces needed to be moved when. Stage managing and teaching have a lot in common, especially when it comes to organization, though I’d say stage managing is a great deal easier than teaching.

I’m a strong believer in the idea that it is important to have an activity or hobby that you do outside of your job. Theatre to me is something I look forward to all week. I have made my closest and best friends through theatre and I honestly don’t know where I’d be without it.

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Now for the shameless plug. šŸ˜Š Our latest musical has its opening night in two weeks. It’s called The Mystery of Edwin Drood. It’s based off the last novel that Charles Dickens ever wrote and he died before he could finish it. Because we don’t know how he was going to end it, the audience gets to vote on three key questions each night, partway through the second act. They vote on who the mysterious detective is, who the murderer of Edwin Drood is and then they get to decide on the secret lovers. The end of the show follows how the audience votes and so there are about 360 different possible combinations of how the end of the show might play out. How’s that for an organizational nightmare?

All the different coloured tabs mean something. And soon there will be more tabs for light and sound cues.

All the different coloured tabs mean something. And soon there will be more tabs for light and sound cues.

Of course, that also means that the end of the show can be different each night so people can see it more than once and see a different ending each time. There is a lot of audience participation and it’s also hilarious. We’re working with a cast of very talented people. Watching rehearsals I always get to see something new, some improvement, some different choice an actor is making and sometimes I get so caught up in the show that I forget my stage managing duties So if you’re in Fredericton, or can travel here, the information about this show is on our website and on the poster. It’s an amazing show.

Back to the Future

We’re into the second week of school with students now and I’m, well, I’m back to being a substitute teacher. It’s a little surreal to be honest. I started working in this district almost 9 years ago. I did three years of supply teaching and a few long term jobs before landing my first contract position teaching Grade 5 almost six years ago and I’ve taught Grade 5 ever since. So being back to supply teaching is odd for a few reasons.

For one, I’m not used to being in a position where I need to work so hard to get work. Most supply teachers have business cards and they go around to all “their” schools, letting teachers and principals know that they’re on the list and what they’re able to teach. I haven’t done as much of that as maybe I should. Partially it’s because I’m still hoping that I’ll get hired for a contract job soon. Also, I just find it very difficult to do. Luckily, I have a wonderful group of friends around me that have been incredibly helpful. I’ve felt so thankful for their support. One day I posted about a job interview I had and I was amazed by how many people sent their well wishes. And then when I asked if people could add me to their lists on our supply teacher database, again, the response was heartening, including a friend who is not a teacher who set up a meeting for me at a school where I’ve never worked before. I don’t know what I would do without my friends. They’re amazing.

Supply teaching has changed a bit since I was a new teacher, doing my rounds. For one, business cards are a thing now. The first time I got one from a supply teacher as a classroom teacher I thought they were a little strange and over-eager, a little too Hermione Granger for my taste. Since then though, I’ve seen how useful they can be. When I know in advance that I want to take a day, it’s nice to have a contact for someone you’ve met.

Another big way that it’s changed is the new system that the district has adopted. It came in while I was a classroom teacher so I’m used to using it from the other side of things but from a supply teacher it’s all new to me. It took me a few days to figure out, for example, how to set my phone to accept phone calls without waking me up with notifications that someone had commented on something on facebook. I’m starting to get the hang of it, I think, though I haven’t managed to be the fastest acceptor of a job just yet. At the first of the year I expect that there are way too many supply teachers who are super eager, jumping at any blip from their phones over too few jobs because teachers are still relatively fresh from vacation and aren’t taking any PD days yet. Things will pick up soon I’m sure.

In the mean time, I have this bizarre extended summer so it’s not all bad. I am stressed about not having a job yet of course, but I’m getting better at distracting myself with good books, going for runs, working on our current musical that’s coming up in a few weeks, and thinking of ideas I’d like to try in my classroom when I get one. And I will get one. Don’t imagine I’m in despair and need to be comforted with reminders that something will come up eventually. I know it will. Things are tough right now. The education system is in flux and I’m one of the casualties for right now through no fault of my own. But I have my work clothes ready to go in the bathroom and a lunch in the fridge waiting just in case I get a call one of these mornings and all my classroom stuff in the basement waiting for when I get a classroom.

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