Wednesday, June 27, 2012

More Kids: Nebraska as a Microcosm

NOTE: I decided to copy and paste part of an older blog into what I am thinking about today. We are at our annual International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Nebraska and there are teenagers from all around the world here. They are all Thespians. And this is not to say, they are dramatic, as people say "she's quite a thespian, if you know what I mean," (and then they roll their eyes). These kids have paid a membership fee, work to collect points, compete ruthlessly for scholarships and get resume fodder, everything. Except for the nightly dances (which caused me to lose my hearing for about 20 minutes after my shift), they take it very seriously. It is an awesome way to be rewarded for all the work they do as they forge a path to "legitimate artist-dom". Being here this year has expanded my list of "types" however. Heaven forbid I point any fingers at these kids.... I was one myself, oh so long ago. I write this mostly in fun!

From the blog on Feb 17, 2012 "We'll call him Greg, a Real BK."

If you don't have kids of your own, people assume you don't know anything about kids. Even if you've been teaching their kids for a couple of decades. What people don't understand is that you see the exact same kids with their exact same problems year after year and eventually you create these categories in your head and you have a label for them, right or wrong. They don't always fit perfectly but the labeling most often helps me help them. Ask me about a first grader and I'm stumped. Ask me about teenagers and I turn into Freud.

Here are a few of my favorite kids and the accompanying codes I use next to their names in the roll book and on audition sheets... wait....I hear you judging me. Believe me when I say, I utilize everything I can to help them. Especially their issues. These definitions are not medical terminology, I know nothing about medicine (be glad)...but my husband doesn't call me the "kid whisperer" for nothing.
  • KDP. "The Kid with the Divorced Parents." That kid needs to divert their attention to something other than himself. Put him in a play and give him a cute dance partner. His mind will be on other things in minutes. You'll rescue him from home and he'll be much easier to deal with while time is healing him.
  • KNR. The Kid with No Rules at Home." This kid is dangerous. This kid likes to gather a posse and expand his horizons. Be careful you don't sit that kid next to "The Kid With the Divorced Parents."
  • KND. The Kid with No Dad." This kid will seek out a male example. If there is a male drama teacher at your school, you are in luck. Better hope this male is an outstanding member of the community. That will be your kids new dad, whether you like it or not.
  • K2R."The Kid with Too Many Rules at Home." That kid can't really participate in drama because drama becomes the kid's new master and can't really compete with parents that want their child home where they can see them....all the time.... They are usually full of social problems too. I hope those parents like their kid, because they will be stuck with them... forever. 
  • KHS. The Home-Schooled Kid. (These last two usually fit Utah) I always feel bad for this kid because their moms will show up at the school dances. They traditionally become "loners" because they don't know how to play by the social "rules." They eat by themselves or with siblings. It takes them a long time to assimilate and sometimes, they never do. These kids will either be at home for a long, long time, or they will flee as soon as they are able, never to return. Look out. 
  • SRK. The Self-Righteous Kid. This kid is arrogant and vocal about his religious beliefs. Only hurts and isolates himself. These kids often come wrapped up in a KHS package with a little K2R for seasoning. If you don't cut the "swears" out of your play, you will most definitely hear from SRK's parents - SSRP - Super Self-Righteous's Parents.  This child will (in 100% of the cases I have seen) turn on the rules one day and it will be as dramatic and intolerant to those rules as they were obedient. S.C.A.R.Y. Love. We must teach tolerance and love.
  • KL. "The Kid that Lies." This kid will say anything to get out of trouble. If it's a Drama kid, those kids are chronic exaggerators. (I know because I was one) They LOVE to tell a story and get a reaction. Put that kid in a drama class and make him compete with other kids in this category. If for anything else, I love to see the cat fight. The "Drama Queen" will arise forth and join another category.
  • DQ. The Drama Queen. This girl needs attention for deep seated reasons, but mostly because she just likes attention. She will usually break bones, be at the doctor constantly, create rumors...etc... My personal favorite is when she puts herself on vocal rest, and hangs a sign around her neck that says "Can't Talk Today - Vocal Rest." Who does she think she is, Adele? Yes. Yes, she does.
  • KRHCO. The Raging Homosexual Kid that Just Needs to Come Out Before He Hurts Someone." Also called the "Drama King." Not because he's always cast, but because he create drama. This kid is one of the most dangerous because all the girls are in love with him. He LOVES girls. He's nice to the girls. He wants to BE a girl. He pays close attention to the girls and they love that. Warning: he's just studying a character study for his role in a drag show. He's not at all interested in anything else. You are wasting your time if you think you will change him, or he will get crazy and go "straight for you." Uh huh. That ship has sailed. In fact, that ship never even left the dock. It creates M.A.Y.H.E.M. Never has their been greater drama in the drama department than when KCO chooses a BFF. O.Y.V.E.Y. hair everywhere.
  • KHO "The Kid that Hurts Other Kids." This kid does not care about other kids. He is a world class narssicist. He also doesn't care if he hurts you, the teacher. Watch out for this kid he will make you cry too. Unfortunately, he needs you - to slap him - no just kidding. He needs you to find out why he hurts so it can be stopped. Sometimes this is a horrible situation. These kids usually don't exist in the drama department....for very long. Because of . . .
  • KLE. The Kid that Loves Everyone. This kid has no love filter. But usually needs you behind them to pick up their pieces when they realize everyone isn't like them. They are naive. They are clingy. They will do anythiing you need them to do and then go backstage and cry when they aren't getting the love in return. This kid sometimes becomes an amazing stage manager...if you can get them to fight back.
  • KNS. The Kid that Needs Strokes. DO NOT stroke a kid. Rule number one. Literally. ;-) But figuratively speaking, these kids are sometimes ignored and will do things, like buy pizza for the entire cast, and then not pay his activity fee. There is usually a reason for this. This kid might also be missing a parent at home or they might be an only child. You can divert this energy into a positive by getting them into a play and let them experience a standing ovation. You'll be stuck with them for life, however, tread carefully. They will do anything for the applause, even push themselves with private lessons. Remember this....
  • NHNH. Nice House Nobody Home. The beautiful kids. Never dangerous, just focused on other things besides school. Sometimes they need you to remind them to put away their phones, mirrors, and hairspray before they take your test or go out on stage. They sometimes lack a serious GPA but they will always be serious about lipgloss. These kids sometimes have issues like bulemia and cutting. Sometimes they need you to figure out that they have very low self-esteem and might just be a KNS in disguise that doesn't get enough S at home. 
  • KSBP. The Kid that's the Studentbody President. Might not come to class because he also thinks he's employed by the school. It's confusing to him why teachers don't just hand him a great grade for being.... G.R.R.R.R.R.E.A.T. He expects you to consider him for a lead. This kid needs a reality check. Give him a progress report every week, cast him in the ensemble and become good friends with his parents. They will probably fund your program or at the very least, send you a gift card to Olive Garden for your trouble. KSBP will gladly make the rules, but doesn't think the rules apply to him.
  • KS. The Kid that Sleeps in Class. Wake that damn kid up. Call his mother about his texting, IM-ing, porn addiction or Facebook fetish in the middle of the night. BUT make sure it isn't because he is working all night to support his family. 
  • KA. The Kid that Can NOT Get Anything Less than an "A." Danger Will Robinson. Prepare for a fight. Prepare to be blamed for losing his/HER homework. Prepare to justify your test questions. Prepare to read papers that are twice as long as they should be. Prepare to have long conversations with HER parents about how wonderful she is at Parent/Teacher Conference. Prepare to give her a cheap A just to avoid all of the above situations.
  • KJ. The Kid with a Job. Put him in the ensemble. He will be leaving rehearsal early every day.
  • KUF. The Kid With Unnatural Fear. This kid might seize up when anyone is looking at him . He won't do you any good unless you can crack that fear with love and patience. I once had a seventh grader urinate in his pants infront of a class right before he gave an oral speaking assignment. I thought it would be good for him to just take a crack at it. I was wrong. I was a bad teacher that day. MAKE SURE you don't attempt to crack that kid infront of his peers. If he's a great might attempt to crack him one on one, you need him. If he's not, see what he thinks about the light booth.
  • KNH. The Kid that Never Goes Home. This kid has replaced his parents with you. They are often the oldest in a big family, or they have terrible issues at home. They often feel like they don't get enough attention at home... home, he has responsibilities and would rather stay at school, at rehearsal, where its fun. There might be issues there, tread carefully. Never take this kid home, to his house, or yours. The best thing to do is make rehearsal a living hell, a constant place of productivity. ;-) Easy enough. You want to get rid of him? Make home look like heaven in comparison. You want to help him? Be his extra parent when he needs you to be.
  • KPT. The Kid that Plays You Against Other Teachers. "I can't take that makeup test, Mrs. Hall. Mrs. Hunsaker said she is going to kick me out of the play if I don't come to rehearsal on time." "Mr. Williams won't let me wrestle if you don't give me an A on my assignment today." "Mrs. Hunsaker said nothing is more important than this play, especially math. She said she hasn't used math since 1975. She said Math is stupid...infront of the whole school...over the announcements....every day last week...."
So in honor of being here in Nebraska this week, I will add to the list as I have seen more kids this week fit into neat little categories of fun.

Here we go....It's my blog and I'm sayin' it.
  • NK. Naked Kid. It's been hot and very humid here this week. If you could see how little they are wearing when they leave the dorms in the morning, you would D.I.E. My girls look like they are going to a Winter sledding party in comparison. Some NK's have no qualms about their bodies. They just don't know how naked they are because it wasn't taught to them like it was to me, or to my girls. Some NK's know better and are just acting out since mom's not around. The skirts start getting tighter and shorter, the cleavage is abundant. These NK's aren't here for the education. They have other objectives. 
  • KBPA. The Kid with a Borrowed Political Agenda. This kid is very similar to the Self-Righteous darling. Only replace religion with politics. And usually blaring right wing politics. Say for example, this KBPA has two dads, you will never hear the end of it if you automatically say something like "take this paper home to your mom and have her sign it," which we have been saying since the dawn of time. Never fear KBPA's, we aren't judging you, it's just taking us a little while to remember to turn on our politically correct button, 2012. We will get better. Give us a break and we will give you one. 
  • KBH. The Kid that Spends Hours and Hours Infront of the Bathroom Mirror. We have one in our dorm, I've noticed. She spreads out her tools in our shared bathroom beginning at 5 in the morning. Gotta give her props for getting up so early. This kid sometimes has anxiety about her looks because her parent, or boyfriend has created that. (And maybe not) They have every tool known to mankind that promises some kind of beauty miracle. They believe that other kids are taking hours and hours studying them throughout the day. They aren't. Nobody really looks at anybody anymore. I can't remember what shirt Andy wore yesterday. I hope it was ironed. (I bet it wasn't.) Hey, KBH NOBODY IS LOOKING AT YOU. Go back to bed. Or go to class. You are constantly, chronically late for school. Might be time for you to start your lifelong addiction to Prozac.
  • The opposite of the KBH is the KDGAS. The Kid that Doesn't Give a S#!t. If it's a girl, I usually LOVE this girl. This girl gets up with 30 minutes to spare, showers, throws her hair into a messy bun, tosses on mascara and bolts to class. She confidently wears whatever is clean and might add crazy jewelry that will become next weeks trend. She is comfortable going to the bathroom by H.E.R.S.E.L.F. Whoa. She doesn't care. She is totally independent. She knows everyone is looking at her and they probably are. Because she knows that grades, confidence and goals get a girl noticed. Side note: If this girl is overweight and needs someone to say "you shouldn't wear those Daisy-Dukes sweet girl, because you are going to get an infection from something riding up in your Promised Valley," then an adult, a KIND adult, should pull her aside and tell her that. At this conference, each day is themed and ends with a clothing themed dance. Okay, it's a costume thing.  Anyway, because the campus is so big  and the kids are so busy, they will dress in their "costume" all day rather than have to go back and change before the dance. I saw a KDGAS girl walking infront of me yesterday that was loud and proud. She was wearing pink zebra tights and a tiny tutu. I wouldn't have normally cared (because I'm a sort of KDGAS myself, but part of the six inch-long tutu was stuck in the back of her zebra tights exposing a zebra covered butt cheek with a mind of it's own. Andy and I just looked at each other with that look that says "You gonna tell her?" and neither of us felt like we should. It was just too funny. Would have ruined the moment. I liked her bravado. You go girl.
  • What if the KDGAS is a boy? I don't get this boy. He doesn't care about his grades, he isn't very confident at all, and because of that he has very few social skills except with other kids that DGAS. But because of KDGAS we have some of the greatest rock bands of all time. If that kid is motivated to practice his instrument 6 hours a day. Too bad the percentage of good music to massive drug abuse and homelessness are so lop-sided. Well, unless they have parents that are enabling that kind of behavior and that brings me to: 
  • KFF. The Kid with the Force Field. Now I'm all for helping and defending your kid when they lack the skills to do it for themselves. I'm an advocate for kids and I believe in that. BUT - you know who I'm talking about: this kid knows his mom will come to his rescue even if he's caught smoking pot in the hills behind the school, by the principal himself. This mom is delusional. This mom needs to be slapped. (my blog!) This kid will be forced to audition  (or be paid) by mom and when he gets put in the ensemble, he can't take direction, he can't abide by stage etiquette, he just DGAS because he's KFF. This kid is going to live with his mom forever. She wants that. S.C.A.R.Y. 
  • GKSM. The Gifted Kid with the Stage Mom. These kids are usually very talented, scary talented. But they come carrying a big piece of baggage and you will have to deal with that. So you are actually tempted not to use this kid because you don't want to deal with this mom. Ever. Mom decides that the two of you are enemies. In actuality, the two of you want the same thing. Since I've taught in a charter school, I've seen SO MANY hovering moms that mean well, but need someone like me to say "back off Jack(ie), your kid is awesome and will be awesome." For example, this kid loves drama at the expense of wild fights with his mother over practicing the violin (or doing Science). This kid tells his mom only what she wants to hear. If the mom isn't a native English speaker, (I've had a few more Asian OM's, I admit it) this kid takes advantage of that big time. This kid loves his mom, and loves his culture (or religion) and wants to be a successful violin player (doctor, etc...), but just wants to be a kid for now. This kid will probably be a world-class violinist (doctor) one day, thanks to you, mom. Both of them need to stop rolling their eyes at each other and take a deep breath for once. When is the last time mom went on vacation? I know! Moms need vacations too! Everything is gong to work out. Your KOM is amazing. I've actually had parents ask me to discourage their child from taking a drama class because she wanted her child to do something "productive." That was interesting. I don't think she knows I'm that teacher that thinks drama should be a mandatory core curriculum class like Math. She didn't know. It was only ugly for a minute.
  • KWA. This is the kid that wants it all. This kid can handle so much. This is a young master multi-tasker with giant cahones. She piles her plate high with responsibilities and she gets MOST of them done...She is confident and has a vision of her success. If she doesn't know how to do something she will find out. She is not afraid. She rocks the world! She is in control of everything except...she forgets to sleep and eventually, she has health related issues from missing all that sleep, and will for the rest of her life. Katie Rogel, I'm talking to you. 
And on that note (I really could go on and on but I'll save a few for later) I want to give a shout out to the parents of all the kids that I am au pair-ing this week. You are here too! I've seen it all week! I've seen you all in your kids. You are, without a doubt, the hardest working, most caring, loving, aware and invested parents I know. I have news for you. Because you have cared about your investment, your product is going to sell! It's going to be very successful.

Do you know how amazing your children are? I think you do. But I just want to tell you from my point of view in the very expensive and very-close seats, that you have raised a group of kids that are going to be better than okay. When they go away from you, they are the SAME kid you know. They get up, they go to classes, they are respectful and they are leaders. They are the kind of people that get everything they want out of life, because they are NOT AFRAID to try it all. They might try a few dumb things every once in a while, but they are smart enough to take everything good away from those experiences too. You have been there to pick them up and push them back into the game, and we will ALL have to continually do that until they can get up on their own. Some of the kids in the world aren't as lucky as your kids have been. But this week I'm surrounded by such good kids that already stand up when they fall. They are not afraid to speak up, volunteer, answer questions, obey the rules. They are the kinds of kids that you spent your life praying they would become.


I also know that you are worried about how they will fair next year with their new au-pair. They will be great. It might be scary at the beginning, but they are smart enough to know that life give you many opportunities and this is one of those GOOD ones. They will glean from it because of who they are. I'm so glad to have these last few days with them in preparation for that new journey. But you don't need to worry about them because I KNOW they are the "captains of their soul."

I have such good faith in my kids and the Thespians of the world. They are civil, cultured, smart, problem-solvers, team members, movers and shakers, leaders. We're going to need them once they learn how silly the pink zebra tights are...and they will figure that out eventually.

Stay close mom and dad, they need you more than anyone, but for now, let the zebra-tights have a mind of their own. They'll work themselves out eventually.