Over spring break, I volunteered at TADA! Youth Theater, to help chaperone and facilitate a week long theater camp for children ages 8-12. Each day, we met for five hours and over the course of the week, we set to work creating a small show. I was in charge of leading games, making sure people stayed quiet and on task, and other odd jobs. There were about 15 kids in total, and two other adults with me, one choreographer and director and one music director. We used songs from former original shows (created for the TADA! Resident Youth Ensemble, which I am actually a part of; third year!) and other non-original broadway shows. The kids helped generate ideas and possible lines of dialogue for the play, while the adults wrote up the physical script. At the end of the week, we invited the parents to come in and watch their children perform the play, emphasizing how short of time we had to create it and rehearse it. In the end, no matter how good or bad the show was, the parents were still entertained, and the kids were content and proud of themselves.
I’m going to be honest here; I was very scared coming into this project. It sounds hypocritical, but working with young children is impossible. There’s that certain age, from 8-12, where no one knows what’s going on or how to handle energy probably. Channeling that volatile energy into dancing and singing and acting is an honorable feat, and a miracle, to a certain extent. But still, we were able to pull it off, through courage, patience, perseverance, and binging during the lunch breaks. I was okay by the end, though; I love working with kids, and there were some really talented children in the group.
A telling example of what I got out of this project would be of what I did after my first day. After about five and a half hours of dealing with the kids, I was frustrated and tired, walking home heavily. But the first thing I did upon getting out of rehearsal was to call my mom and tell her how sorry I was for what I put her through my pre-teen years. She laughed, but understood. I think my out of school service was challenging, but telling in that it showed me a reflection of myself, and also, through blood, sweat and jazz hands, how hard teaching can be. My out of school service spawned a newfound respect for the teaching occupation.