Say Yes and Take the Stage

Before I get into my experience at the Florida Thespian Festival, I must give credit where credit is due. The past six months have afforded me two opportunities to hear Kwame Alexander speak. The first was his book signing in Vero Beach for his newest novel Swing; the second time was at Literacy Leadership Summit hosted by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Over these two meetings, Kwame placed the “power of yes” in my toolbox for teaching. Saying “Yes” must be the first response to any human that aims to maintain a growth mindset. “Yes,” lessons need planned. “Yes,” grades need posted. “Yes,” meetings need attended. “Yes” professional practices need developed. Educators are well aware of the “many hats” worn throughout the day engaging within the field of education. Insert update on my latest chance to say “Yes”:

As I plugged my last laptop in on my way home, my phone at my desk rings….a song comes to my mind that was recently reintroduced to me by Noelle Morris. On the other end of this ancient piece of technology is my colleague Jennifer Rock. Ms. Rock teaches the performing arts at Heritage High School and asked me if I would be willing to sacrifice the end of my spring break to chaperone our students competing in the Florida Thespian Festival. Kwame’s words regarding the power of “Yes” ringing in my brain, I accepted this opportunity and got in my mandatory stack of paperwork to be approved in order to go on a public school-sponsored event out-of-county.

The first thing we did upon arriving to the Tampa Convention Center was to grab a snack and get some practice in. As my students ran through their selection “The Color Purple Reprise” from The Color Purple, my mind ran through the various songs I would listen to in the locker room to get ready for my upcoming game. This was most certainly a new world, but the competitive spirit was alive and surging. The rest of the day was breakout sessions, dinner, and college basketball from hotel room TV as I crashed into sleep.

Waking up Friday, the pride of representing my school at another state competition pushed me through the morning routine and to the convention center. First on the to-do list was to get the troupe to their large group performance of “The Color Purple Reprise” seen to the left.

More breakout sessions and walking through the exposition of vendors and recruiting schools left my stomach empty and my legs weary. We headed back towards our ride on the search for fuel to get us through the rest of the night. After all, there were still three performances Saturday. Major props to Vale Food Company for having a surplus of healthy options to get us back on our game and ready to practice for the next day.

Saturday brought a monologue, “Is This a Dagger Which I See Before My Eyes contrasted by “The Man Who Married a Dumb Wife,” a solo performance, “As If We Say Goodbye,” and a second solo, seen to the right, “Waiting for Life to Begin.” Before we left for the closing ceremonies, I was privy to one more breakout session. A session that provided me the reaffirmation that teaching can be addressed as holding theater between desks. Practicing a drill that aims at creating a self-awareness, I re-realized a truth of human life: engagement creates engagement.

Those that engage in the people and situations around them will receive the reward of new opportunities and new connections. Teachers that engage with their students in the classroom will provide the opportunities and environment for students to engage in the content and build skill. Closing ceremonies, another stop at Vale Food Company and a two hour drive brought me back home ready to rest up for the final quarter of the school year. Testing season and Romeo and Juliet will provide plenty of ups and downs through the final weeks of the school year. Coming at you next week will be my reflection on how #Writable helped my students prepare for their FSA writing exams. New tools, new experiences, and new lessons abound. Keep on your grind and remember to say “Yes.”

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