From Student to Teacher
By Kat Holmes
These are three of the statements that plagued my 19-year old brain when asked if I might like to teach theatre. I was an assistant at the time to AFAAs’ previous theatre teacher, Matthew Davidson. Matthew had been teaching for three years and his response to these concerns was to give me three books, and time to read.
Let me backtrack a little bit for just a moment. At the time this question of teaching was asked, I had been a student of theatre for nine years. So I was by no means a novice to the world of theatre. I wasn’t even new to the position of teacher, as I had been a teacher of Tae-Kwan-Do for four years prior to being Matthews’ assistant. So why was I so hesitant to teach theatre? I had acted on that stage, I had the experience needed, and I loved the students. So once again I had to ask myself why I felt so unprepared and afraid to accept this responsibility.
Now we can go back to Matthew and his three books. Theatre, unlike many other arts, doesn’t really deal in physical techniques. Instead there are many different methods which, though they often require you to do physical things, require more of the mind than the body. These methods require deep thoughts on the reasoning behind feelings. They especially involve the manipulation of your own feelings to suit the purpose of the scene. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to explain feelings before; if you have then I’m sure you can relate to just how difficult it is. It’s especially difficult to try and explain these methods to probably the most emotionally confused people group on earth… Teenagers. So perhaps, still being on the cusp of this particular people group myself, I feared the inevitable requirement of emotional vulnerability in the pursuit of furthering the knowledge of others. In simpler words, I had stage fright. But if that was the case then surely my problems would be solved in the pages of these three books! Written in the pages of these books was the wisdom and knowledge of the founders of three of these methods: Meisner, Stanislavsky, and Spolin.
If I had learned anything from being on stage, it was that the better you knew your lines the better your performance would be. So it stood to reason that the more I knew about these methods the better I would be able to teach them. Therefore I poured over these books for months learning about these methods and their founders. And, while some of the fear and hesitation did dissipate, the rest still lingered stubbornly in my heart.
When fear so rudely inhibits me from venturing out into unknown territory, I’m sorry to say that instead of turning to prayer and scripture, I let fear win and avoid the venture altogether. However, on this occasion, I prayed for a very long time. I prayed for four months and I still had no idea what was meant to happen or what I needed to do. I found myself reading in James 4 and found a few verses that, if nothing else, made me think differently about how I was praying.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit,” yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” James 4:13-17
Wherever He was going to lead me I would follow, and I would do my level best to replace the fear with trust. Luckily for me, circumstances soon demanded that I at least dip my toe in the teaching pool. Naturally I absolutely loved teaching and everything was fine. I would like to point out that through this whole process, the only person who doubted my ability to teach, was me. So many of the teachers at AFAA were previously students in the very same classrooms in which they now teach before they ever thought of teaching: a transition that takes no small amount of discipline.
I think by this point you may be able to see the lesson strewn throughout my story. No matter what you do or where you go, the greatest obstacle standing between where you are now, and where you want to be, will always be you. Whether it’s because you’re too afraid to move forward (like me) or you’ve gone too far in the wrong direction, the common denominator is still you. I know that’s a rather harsh way to say it and as such it may be difficult to swallow. So let me try writing it the way my mother puts it: We often aren’t willing to give up or sacrifice in order to pursue the path the Lord has set before us. Whether it’s a sacrifice of time, money, or anything else, we allow ourselves to be removed from where we ought to be.. something James strongly discourages. I think we also all have a tendency to allow the doubts and feelings of others to guide our lives and decisions. I believe that also comes from a place of fear.
So for anyone reading this who is struggling with an important decision, I encourage you to trust far more than I did. In fact, replace the fear entirely with trust in a God who never leaves you to face hardships by yourself. The world on the whole has never been a trustworthy place so it makes sense that we find fear a frequent companion. But God is and always will be worthy of our complete trust in this life. I think G.K. Chesterton said it best, “To trust God in the light is nothing. To trust him in the dark, that is faith.”