Teaching and Performing – by Stephen Fite
I have just completed the third week of the Spring leg of the Funtastic School Day Tour and I am having the time of my life. Well, let me back up for a second; the travel is grueling and the time away from home is tough. But, the concert itself along with performing are always so much fun and yet, never the same as each show takes on a life of its own. The audiences from city to city or even within the same city in different years will always vary in attendance, make-up and most importantly; enthusiasm. One day I will have an entire front row of children who participate during every song, smiling and laughing as they do. The next day; not so much. Two years in the same venue can often bring audiences that are diametrically opposed in their reaction. One year the atmosphere is electric and makes the hair on the back of YOUR neck stand on end. (That would be YOUR hair as I don’t have any) The next year in that same city it’s as if someone forgot to pay the power bill and it’s been shut off.
As teachers, you experience the same on a smaller level. Classes vary from year to year based on the mix of girls versus boys, parental involvement, home life and other issues that these days, seem to be much more important than before. One year you have a class of angels. The next year; not so much. Some days, everything you do in your classroom seems to spring forth a garden of learning with the sweet smell of success. Other days has the children holding their noses.
It’s those days. The “I’m just not feeling the love” days that are the most challenging. I have to admit that I’ve had plenty of “those” kind of shows. You know good and well what “kind” I’m talking about. The “kind” that after it’s over, or especially during, you question why you’re even doing this. Am I good enough to teach/entertain? Is all this work worth it? Do I have the calling? Do I WANT the calling? Am I REALLY making a difference? These are questions only you can answer. However, if you’ve been teaching as long as I’ve been “concerting”, I think we both know the answer is an emphatic, Yes!
Here’s the one lesson I learned a long, long time ago; give the performance of your life even when it seems like no one thinks you are or seems to notice and the results will speak for themselves. Isn’t that the toughest thing to do as a human? Give your all when it seems like it’s falling on deaf ears or blank stares? Internalize this one thought; it’s not woe is me for being in this situation but rather WHOA, look at me cuz I’m striving for your education.
You give of yourself daily to teach, to serve, to love. It’s your passion to share the joy of learning with children. To rejoice with them as they grow and master each concept. To cry over them during the difficulties. To let go of them as they move on to another teacher who will hopefully care as much as you.
I have experienced many joys during my years of performing and many disappointments. I remember standing in a lobby as the audience was coming out only to overhear a mother tell her friend, “Thank God that’s over!” I simply smiled and said, “Well, that was nice.” I try not to take anything personally as you just can’t please all the people all the time. It’s a mathematical and emotional improbability. You’re just dealing with too many variables and we humans are most definitely a variable bunch.
I’m sure you’ve all heard of the Bucket Filler book written a few years back. It’s a wonderful conceptualization of how we should approach our relationships. Anyways, again, I was in the lobby and a teacher walked up to me after a show and told me she had something she wanted to share. As her class was lining up to leave the theatre, one of her little Kinders came up to her and said, “That concert filled my bucket up all the way to the top.”
Each day you are filling the buckets of children in your care. Filling them with love, learning, understanding, compassion and many other things too numerous to mention. You do it on days when the crowd is going wild for you and on days when no one seems to care for you. So give the teaching performance of your life each day. Don’t let the changing audience sway you from your passion. And if all else fails, remember that famous showbiz axiom from long ago – “the show must go on.”