The first day I taught Freshman English, I woke up and put on a costume. Sensible teacher clothes. Sensible shoes with an understated accessory, shirts that are ironed, socks that match, ID batch secured around my neck like a talisman reminding the students I am, in fact, a teacher, satchel full of prop-like papers slung over my shoulder and there, in the front pocket, one of my signature grading pens.
I grew up doing musical theater, tap dancing after school to Sondheim and Gershwin and going to theater camps in the summer that were so peppy that if they were a color they’d be Pepto-Bismol pink.
Entering the classroom as a first year teacher it was easy to return to those roots. I nervously sang through my syllabus and made theater out of thesis statements… quickly realizing I’d never faced a tougher audience than a room full of 14 year olds at 8am on a Monday morning.
Somewhere in that first week, though, something happened, some nuanced shift took place on stage, and I realized that that costume I thought I was putting on? It started to fit; it started to feel like me. My papers in my bag stopped looking like props and started looking like three-paragraph essays that were real (and really in need of grading). I stopped feeling like a college student playing the role of a teacher and started to realize that, almost unwittingly, I’d become one.
Being a member of the Alum Service Corps gave me the means and opportunity to take on my biggest role yet. It gave me the opportunity to breathe reality into the lines I’d rehearsed at my Jesuit university and gave me a new understanding of what it means to act with intention.
Care of the whole person? It’s not a catch phrase anymore. It’s taking the time to glance at the dress a student picked out for homecoming, or granting time to make up an assignment when her grandma becomes sick. Magis? It’s not just the only Latin word I can define. It’s forcing yourself to stop in the parking lot after being at school for 11 hours just to make sure that student standing by the front door of school has a safe ride home.
Men and women for and with others? It’s the lived reality of life as a member of the Alum Service Corps. No rehearsal required.