top of page

On our rotating cast of teachers

I didn't start this project to sound off or retaliate against the school's drama teachers. The goal is to document incidents that happened and capture the class's honest feelings of the time as clearly as possible.

But there comes a point — the very beginning, in this case — that you can't divorce the drama program from the teachers who oversaw it every day of the year. As good as their intentions may have been, most of our teachers dropped the ball. And that's putting it very politely.

Coming to school every day was an exercise in putting up with disarray and randomness. Most of them could not teach. Many of them didn't know how to speak to us on our level. Some didn't even bother to construct any semblance of lessons. They may have been pleasant enough, doing serviceable jobs as we figured things out by ourselves. There was not a single teacher in all four years that I could honestly say "succeeded" in their role.

It wasn't about a lack of time, money, or resources like the administration would go on to claim over the course of our time there. We didn't need an impressive slate of conservatory classes. We would've been content with a single teacher who paid attention to our work and dedicated any time to helping us improve. Unfortunately, even that proved too much to ask.

Coral Reef's drama magnet was structured thusly: every year, we had two drama periods in addition to our four regular academic classes. One of those periods was always taught by Ms. M******, the lead anchor teacher and de facto director of the program. The second slot was a constant revolving door of different teachers with varying ranges of experience and interest in theater. (We came to refer to them as our own "Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers," a reference to the similarly unstable school position in Harry Potter.)

Tag teaming with Ms. M******,, were, in order: Ms. L******,, the eccentric hippie who was both spacey and short-tempered in unpredictable measure; Mr. P******, a caring and thoughtful former actor whose genuine insight was hampered by a fragile ego and tendency to ramble on and on for hours; Mr. C******, a fun and friendly fill-in teacher who was warm and upbeat but completely out of his element talking about theater; Mr. E******, a young, passionate rookie who showed tons of promise but disappeared one day and was never heard from again; and Ms. C******, a knowledgeable and no-nonsense theater expert who had a vision for the classroom but was also completely annoying and insufferable.

Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that I named five secondary teachers spanning only four years of classes, meaning that not only did none of them last longer than one year, some didn't even make it that long. With different faces cycling in and out, each replacement needing to meet and get to know us and evaluate our abilities anew every other semester, there was no chance of building any sustainable growth. There was no consistent plan from year to year; every teacher started us back at square zero.

And then there was the aforementioned Ms. M******. Look, I'm trying to keep this strictly professional, and I don't want this to become a huge character assassination. But Ms. M****** could not have been a worse teacher. She was the face of the program and a huge force behind every decision made within it, so almost everything I've written about in the other essays was her responsibility. Now, I'll give her credit, she was an absolute whiz at getting paperwork done. (And I'm not being facetious: she orchestrated all of our field trips and competitions effortlessly. And she was a badass at it.) Outside of that, she quite simply did not care.

See, other teachers struggled to know what to do, but at least seemingly wanted to do something. Ms. M****** didn't. She barely tried, barely came out of her back office, and actively taught us wrong information. She disrespected theater, talking and even walking through our scenes as we performed. What's more, she craved glory and recognition for leading the program and was surprised that anyone would question or challenge her on anything. She was petty, lazy, and ran the department like a dictatorship. Oh, and she was still calling me by the wrong name in senior year.

The lessons and stories in this project speak for themselves, but it's also important to know just how many wasted days there were between the more memorable lessons. Our teachers were completely unequipped to oversee a theater education for 20+ students. They may not have been malicious, but there were no objectives, goals, or measurements for success. All of them were either flying blind or trying to run out the clock every class period. If they happened to be kind and considerate, they had no theater experience. If they did have theater experience, they weren't able to impart their wisdom onto us in the classroom. If they managed to construct any sort of useful lesson, they were overly rude or critical to the point of ineffectiveness.

It's not hard to imagine a "perfect" theater teacher, because many of us actually knew them — they were our middle school drama teachers, our extracurricular show directors, or our friends' teachers at other schools. They existed. They weren't blessed with enormous budgets or flawlessly well-behaved kids. They worked with what they had, just like all good teachers do. Our program was built on an entire culture of not trying, not knowing, not bothering, and NOT CARING, and absolutely nobody was held responsible.


A childish approach
bottom of page