Over the summer I had the occasion to teach playwriting at theater camp. The students in the class were in middle school and while I was nervous, I knew that this was one of many workshops that they were taking and that, for whatever reason, calmed me down. Also I was walking into something that was at least somewhat familiar to me since I knew most of the kids and had been working this camp for years.
Yesterday was a little different. A friend that I teach camp with works as a teacher for a youth acting program at a respected school here in the city. Earlier in the week the person who was supposed to teach a weekly workshop with those kids canceled and so she called me to see if I’d be interested in teaching a playwriting workshop. It was pretty good money for 90 minutes and teaching kids was something I’d recently thrown out in the universe as wanting to do. So I said yes.
I was pretty nervous heading into this. I think a part of me still wonders if I know what I’m talking about. That and this is a for real school, with city kids who are potentially attempting to get agents and auditions. Throw into that mix the fact that these kids were 9-12, younger than what I’ve worked with in this sort of class and I felt a little unqualified.
But something I’ve been noticing recently is tons of people who push the restriction of what it means to be qualified. I’ve watched people in my life step up to a plate that they don’t quite know the shape of and hit it out of the park. Teaching this class was a small act of rebellion on my part, going against what I’ve been social told is the “correct” way of doing things.
Turns out I wasn’t completely out of my league. The point of this class was to give them an opportunity to have a good time and try something new. So I kept it light, trying to pull them out of the idea that they have to spell everything correctly and use proper grammar. I figure there are enough people in their life attempting to teach that. What I wanted was to stretch their creativity and hopefully allow them to feel free to play within the exercises.
At the end they all seemed happy and content. I managed my time well so everyone was able to read what they had worked on and I was able to start them on two pieces that they could take home and continue to build. When I look back, I think I was struggling to trust myself. But in truth this made me realize that when it comes to working with kids, I’m already a step ahead of the game. And as long as they’re having a good time, I figure I’m doing my job.