SoDak it Hurts

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 13 2011

Attitude Reflects Leadership, Captain

Most spring days involve a few good events, some pretty average experiences and, of course, a fair share of frustrations, warnings and “Stop throwing things out the window!” For the most part, I close my day with an adequate sense of fulfillment and hit the light switches to end another measured compartment of shared time with my students.

Currently, we’re in the middle of rehearsal for The Book of Liz, written by Amy and David Sedaris. Whether I’m right or wrong, I generally tend to believe I’m more effective as a director than a teacher. Some thought somewhere tells me: because I enjoy acting more than teaching – after school rehearsals should be a cinch.

Of course – they aren’t. Especially for this show.

And for the life of me, I haven’t been able to figure out why.

Then, a few days ago, I realized where the gap was.

The past two weeks, I’ve been less than enthusiastic as a director – I haven’t been angry or rude or apathetic – just not inspiring. We’ve done well with all stage-performance related endeavors at Todd County High School and I think it has been easy to assume that success will inevitably continue. Why wouldn’t it? There is a solid foundation of great shows and firm expectations for the students who want to be involved. The equation is simple: show up and do what Mr. Pugh says and we’ll have a great production.

This doesn’t work.

Regardless of past events, students (and people) must be re-connected to the source – they must be reminded why what we are doing is important, valuable and beneficial.

This is where I’ve fallen short.

I love the scene in Remember The Titans when Julius is confronted by Bertier about his lackluster efforts on the field. After they exchange a few words blaming each other and their friends of the same color – Julius says, “Nah, nah what I’m gonna do is look out for myself and I’ma get mine,” to which Bertier disgustedly responds, “See man, that’s the worst attitude I ever heard.”

Julius then squints hard and purses his lips: “Attitude reflects leadership, captain.”

For the longest time, I didn’t think it was fair that Bertier got stuck with the responsibility. Shouldn’t it be everyone’s job to invest themselves? Shouldn’t personal responsibility take a role somewhere?

Yes – it should. But we know this doesn’t always happen.

Especially in the context of interactions with my students – that kind of investment needs to be taught. Choosing to take ownership of something, deciding to put skin in the game, summoning the courage to present oneself on stage involves a great deal of courage that requires a great deal of inspiration.

Though we’ve done well on the stage in the past, I can’t depend on past experiences to shape our future.

Attitude reflects leadership, Director.

One Response

  1. Evan

    Excellent words of wisdom for any artist. For myself (an actor), I can’t try and recreate the performance that was received so well the night before. I have to go out and discover the play as if it had never happened to me before each and every night.

    Glad you’re getting to do theatre out there!

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I taught 10th Grade English on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota between 2009 and 2011. Currently blogging at

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