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All’s Well That Begins Well

 

“Did you find me in yourself, sir? or were you
taught to find me? The search, sir, was profitable;
and much fool may you find in you, even to the
world’s pleasure and the increase of laughter.”
– All’s Well That Ends Well (2.4. 1236-1239)

Day One (7-3-16)

Zounds! What have I gotten myself into?

SSC Interns getting some fight choreography lessons

I find myself in a studio on the second floor of the Bernhard Theater building at Skidmore College and introduced to 13 very talented interns and three great instructors. Who’s got the least experience in the room? Who do you think? I bet I can’t even beat the tables and chairs in that department. (Although I may have a chance against the thermostat.) The credits of this ensemble cast ranges from Shakespearean standards to Neil Simon, Cabaret, and even a Yiddish version of Death of a Salesman.

“Anxiety” is the theme of the day for me. It’s been many years since I’ve been the new kid, the stranger in a strange land. And as a teacher, it’s very discomfiting finding myself as the one in the room who knows the least about the subject matter. I don’t even know how to breathe correctly. (For the record, actors breathe in through the mouth, not the nose.)

Perhaps this is some karmic payback for all the years that I have confounded my own students with the Index Card Test. In this exercise, which I perform on the first day with a new class, I hand each student as they come in an index card with the lined side down. I then have them write on it the standard information that every teacher seeks on the first day: name, contact information, parents, favorite word, etc. (This past year yielded the word floccinaucinihilipilification, which was a new one on me, but I digress.)

After everyone finishes, I ask them how they did. They usually feel confident, but some start to become suspicious. Their forebodings are confirmed when I tell them that the “test” is not about the accuracy of the information provided, but rather which side of the index card they wrote on.

At this point, heads dart back and forth checking each other’s cards to see if they did it “right.” By right, I of course mean if they did it like everyone else. Psychologists have proven that people will go along with a group giving the wrong answer even when they know better. The majority always write on the lined side, and at least a few will smack their head when I point out that I handed them out with the blank side up.

There is no right or wrong in the Index Card Test. The exercise is designed to make students reflect on why they wrote on the side that they did. When asked, many say it’s because that’s what they were taught to do. And that’s my point. We can’t really learn, or create, or evolve as an individual or as a society if we just follow what everyone else says or does.

With this in mind, I find some comfort in beginning as the Beginner in this accomplished SSC group. After all, the Zen philosophy of the Beginner’s Mind says that one should approach every situation as if for the first time, regardless of their level of expertise, because for the beginner there are many opportunities but for the expert there are few.

Our instructors, Tim and Doug, keep telling is that there is no right or wrong way of doing things here, there’s just your individual way. Sounds very familiar.

Okay, so let the show begin…

Roger Gaboury is a national board certified English teacher from Schenectady High School. He has degrees from Union College and the University of Idaho, and has trained with the Freedom Writers and the Capital District Writing Project. His last performance was in an Intro to Clowning graduation show at Schenectady County Community College.  He will be guest blogging his experiences with our Intern Program throughout the summer. Check out his blog at  www.outofthecentrifuge.blogspot.com.