by Bethany Rivard, 2016 Regional Teacher of the Year
Today is “Take Your Child to Work Day.” I teach AP Literature and Theater at Fort Vancouver High School Center for International Studies. My children are truly wonderful, not that I’m biased or anything. But really, Sage (age 9) and Elsa (age 8) have learned to go with the flow.
2:30 After a long school day, I gather the bit of energy I have left and begin rehearsal for our spring play. I feel exhausted and want to crawl backstage and take a nap, but instead use my acting skills to pretend I have energy and lead a rousing game of Musical Theater Chairs. The person who doesn’t find a chair when I pause “Guns and Ships” from Hamilton has to die a dramatic death onstage or make a dramatic exit. My daughters join in the game. My students try to let them win, but I don’t let them.
2:50 This year, my teaching partner and I chose five student playwrights who each wrote a short play and two monologues based on student narratives that were submitted in their English classes. The show (opening in mere days) is called “Fort Stories: If You Really Knew Me.” Today is monologue day. As students review their lines and prepare to get on stage, I duck out to check on another club I co-advise: MEChA, a Chicanx student leadership group.
3:00 As I’m dashing down the hallways, my daughters trailing behind me, I suddenly remember that I agreed to act in a video MEChA is filming and realize that the videographer could only make it today. The video reveals the fear of deportation (of selves, parents, siblings, relatives) many students carry around with them daily. Fort is a diverse community, with students and refugees from around the world. The heightened sense of anxiety post election is palpable at my school.
3:05 I set the MEChA videographers up in a classroom across from the theater to film their scene. I tell them to grab me from rehearsal when I’m needed.
3:10 I get back to the theater (Sage and Elsa in my wake) just in time to catch the first monologue. It’s powerful story about a student whose father left, and she is struggling with the aftermath.
3:20 A MEChA student comes to get me for the scene. I jettison back across the hall; leave my daughters with my co-director. The videographer laments that they don’t have enough students in the classroom scene. I look across the hall to the theater.
3:30 The last monologue ends. I ask my theater students, “Who wants to be in a film?” I gather a dozen of them and head back across the hall, daughters in tow. My theater students are now the actors in the M.E.Ch.A film and the two plates I’ve been simultaneously spinning come together like the middle of a Venn diagram. It happens that I can be in two places at once!
As exhausted as I am, I can’t help but smile at the way the end of the day came together. Every day as a teacher is a production, a series of improvisations. The variables are constantly changing. But the juggling, dashing between projects, and serendipity of it all is what makes it special, and I’m glad my girls get to see that.
Bethany Rivard is a 2016 Regional Teacher of the Year, a National Board Certified Teacher, and a member of the Professional Educator Standards Board. She teaches literature and theater at Fort Vancouver High School Center for International Studies in Vancouver, Washington.
Amy Abrams, Kent