Musings of an Irish-American

Sometimes I think about stuff, and then I write it here…

Monthly Archives: October 2013

a job

2 things:

1) of course it takes me more than three months to write another post; just when I was starting to lessen that gap

2) five years ago (count it, FIVE), I started this blog…I thought WordPress was kidding when I was sent a congratulatory message saying I registered this site five years ago.

I felt motivated to write and post on here recently, so a brief recap is also in order as a little anniversary salute.

This school year, I’ve been working with a children’s theatre group known as Boom Troupe. We go to schools all over Chicago and the surrounding suburbs doing shows about anti-bullying, drug abuse, character education and the like. During one of our shows earlier this week, we did a brief talkback with the students, and one of them asked us if we had “jobs”. I decided to field the question to tell the student that we didn’t have traditional “jobs”, as they see them, but that performing was our job. I wasn’t so bothered by the question as I was by the teachers seated near the child, who all laughed quite heartily when the student asked the question.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but I couldn’t help but be a little offended at their reaction. Sure, it was dang adorable, but their laughter was an implicit endorsement of the root of the question, that is, that what we were doing wasn’t a job, and that any good student should obviously aspire one day to have a “job”, and not anything else.

It highlighted to me the immense flaw that exists in our current education system: essentially, to quash creativity. Sure, the kids have music and art once a week, so that should be enough right?

No. The answer is always no.

By compartmentalizing education as such, and not encouraging students to explore their creativity, we create a culture of compliance. Am I saying that to comply is always bad? Absolutely not; there is so much to be said for the process of collaboration. But if we continue to teach our children that they need to learn the most about basic subjects, like math, science, history, English and the like, but never encourage them to seek any artistic or creative outlet, we will have a society of people who don’t know how to direct themselves. They’ll constantly be looking for opportunities to fit in and comply, rather than expressing the truest depths of their being.

I’ve recently read (and am re-reading) Ignore Everybody And 39 Other Keys to Creativity by Hugh MacLeod.  In it MacLeod offers up this point: “Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten.” His point is that, when we have a creative urge, it’s that very primal part of us, the one we connected to in our youngest years, crying out for our crayons. The problem is, the way things are now, we move the box of crayons further and further away from our students and tell them, “Do it like this, or else.” It runs completely counter to the wisdom given to us by Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet: “If [the teacher] is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.” Instead of telling students, “it must be done this way”, if we nurtured the various ways that they can create and solve in their own knowledge, we’d be empowering them to take ownership of their education and, more importantly, their lives.

A student asked me if I had a “job”; the implications are terrifying on a societal scale.

I recently watched this interview with Russell Brand; I can’t say I was a fan of his before I did, but he really won me over with his points. It also hit me in a personal place because he asks the interviewer if somehow his opinion is invalid because he’s an actor. It brought my experience at that elementary school full circle; I know that when I tell people I’m an actor, that I pretty much automatically lose a lot of credibility with them (which I eventually build back with my intellect, charm and, of course, modesty :-D). It’s enraging that that is what happens, because it’s an extension of the reason I originally posted this: that, for some rhyme or reason, because I don’t have a “job”, my opinion (or inner wisdom) must be invalid.

I think everyone in the world should take an improv class in their lives. You know why? Because the first rule of improv is to always say yes to your partner. It puts you in a place of agreement and allows you to build your scene. The life implication that nobody seems to take from it, however, is that it forces you to listen to your partner. If you know you have to agree with it, you damn well better listen to what it is when you agree with it. If we spent more time trying to agree/listen, instead of creating invalidating frameworks based on assumptions or societal conventions, the world would be a better place. Period.

Rant concluded.

Let’s check back in with me from five years ago and see where I am:
1) well, I didn’t start teaching after graduating from DePauw; self-fulfilling prophecy? Maybe. Am I happy I am where I am? You’re damn right I am. I have stopped being 10 steps ahead of myself in a constant effort to be living here and now.
2) Still listening to smooth jazz in the Fall. Enjoy!
3) Haven’t watched Boy Meets World in quite a long time; curious as to what Girl Meets World might look like. Still aspire to be like William Daniels, however 🙂
4) Queen and Toto still apply (and, out of context, that sentence seems very strange).
5) I haven’t dropped the blog! I’ve just been terrible about keeping it up regularly. Perhaps that will change (especially since Mr. MacLeod suggests blogging in his book as well; glad I was a little ahead of him on my journey there). Who knows? There are many projects on the horizon!

Happy five year anniversary, with this 92nd post, some 7200+ clicks later! Thanks for being on my journey, now use this for its intended purpose and interact!!

And go grab a box of crayons.

-MJH