SoDak it Hurts

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 11 2011

Sig Gains

She’s a freshman who puts blue streaks in her hair – so when the stage lights hit her, it looks like midnight.

I taught her sister earlier this year, but, other than knowing who she was, never interacted with her until she started doing Oral Interpretation. After a while I figured that she was just involved for the trips – for the most part, she’d memorize her lines at the last minute and mess around with her friends. It was something to do.

She auditioned and was cast in the One Act play this year – which wasn’t nearly as good as last year’s – we lost three senior girls to college and the cast was young. When it came time to hold auditions for the spring show, we had an influx of boys, but few girls – and even fewer girls who could handle the lead. I mentioned this to her when she inquired about the spring play – she was quiet for a second and then said, “I think I can do it.” I looked at her hard, remembering her freshman tendencies from the fall Oral Interp season, “You want the lead? You think you can tell her story?” I asked. She nodded – no words needed.

So I gave it to her.

Over the next 6 weeks, all I heard from other teachers was how she devoted any downtime to her lines. She came in during advisory every day to work scenes, she was the only character required to be at rehearsal every day of the week – and, she was getting pretty good. It was one afternoon when we were running the last scene when her character, Liz, has a monologue about realizing who she is and – for the first time, feeling brave enough to be that person – that I realized the parallel that was happening. As she recited the lines of Liz Donderstock, a woman forced to come of age and tackle the realities of life, I could see it. She and her character had joined hands over the course of countless rehearsals and, though she’s still got a few techniques to learn before she’ll make it to Broadway, she grew up a little. She purposely chose to do a hard thing because it was good, commit to something and follow through and have confidence in herself to take on the risks of the stage.

I can’t measure that growth. I can’t put a number on how important it is for our students to understand the necessity of commitment and diligence.

I also can’t measure the feelings an audience gets when they laugh or create a collective, robust silence as they contemplate the power of a young actress’ words.

But I know both of those immeasurable pieces of living sink bone deep – they’re in our blood – and they, too, are part of the maturing wholeness of our children. When I told her how proud I was of her, she simply nodded and wandered off to get ready for the next scene, shades of blue appearing and disappearing in the shadows.

2 Responses

  1. stateofhope

    Thank you for sharing this inspiring piece of student growth. Your students are lucky indeed.

  2. Wess

    I cried. Still crying.

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About this Blog

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

South Dakota
High School

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