Monday, November 28, 2005

A Teacher Impact Story

I have had many wonderful teachers, and I would love to say that the greatest impact on my life has been from a positive experience with a teacher. Unfortunately, I do not feel this is true.

When I was a graduate student in a large (unnamed) university drama department, I became concerned about the relationship between many of the students and some of the faculty. I felt that the morale of the students in the department was steadily eroding. The department turnover among the faculty was also alarming. The brightest and most enthusiastic members of the faculty seemed to leave [be driven off] after only a year or two.

I was teaching classes as a graduate student; a lead in the department's current production; working an outside, part-time job; and editing the programs for all the department productions. I had stayed out of department politics because I just don't like that sort of thing and I assumed I could fly underneath it all.

Well, I finally went to a professor and told him I was concerned about the mood of those in the graduate program. I felt I was simply attempting to provide a communication bridge. Just a week earlier I had gone to the head of the department to report an incident in which a faculty member had actually slapped a graduate student during a rehearsal. That person was fired... and I liked him! Anyway, after I spoke to this (other) professor the next thing I know is I am called into the department chair's office and accused of spreading rumors and causing discontent. The day after the play I was performing came back from its contest appearance I was fired. I was called again into the chair's office and presented with a list of 10 incredibly ludicrous accusations against me which were cited as the basis for my termination - it was already a done deal.

I am not sure that I am explaining this fully or as well as I perhaps should. If you have any question or want clarification please ask for it.

A couple of months later a teacher who had already secured another position at a different school approached me and apologized for not defending me, even though he knew he should have. He simply was too concerned with getting out with a positive recommendation to risk it. This experience was definitely educational for me. It did however leave some scars and created a setback that I have not yet overcome. Hopefully, I will get to a place in which I do feel that I have not been handicapped by this experience.


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