Friday, May 14, 2010

Help Me, I'm Falling: Rachel



Everyone needs help. But it's a rare thing to know how to use help. This is the trick of the assistant-thing. How to release control and reap the benefits.

When Rachel showed up last year, I welcomed the idea of her help and so started my own learning curve on how best to let her assist me and our pint-sized club members. Rachel came to us as a trained classical actor particularly well-versed in the works of the Bard but, like me when I started the club five years ago, hadn't spent time in a classroom. This had her a little nervous but I assured her that though it could be daunting, she would be fine, just fine.


Here's how long my learning curve with Rachel took: ten minutes. This was in part because I was ready for help but mostly because Rachel is one of those clever beings who can scope out a situation quickly and find her place as easily as one slips a hand into a satin glove.

For teachers, it can be a time-gobbling endeavor to put a helper to use. Picture a teacher trying to enforce a curriculum while maintaining order...and then having to teach an assistant how to assist. Sometimes it's not worth it no matter how much they need the help

I lucked out. Within short order, I noticed Rachel kneeling beside a child struggling with a journal entry, or whispering encouragement in a tiny ear, or adjusting a yoga pose. She followed up with "You need to listen to Ms. Ryane," and "You need to be over by the bench for this part," and "Don’t forget to pick up your prop before you make that entrance."


I learned to extend trust to Rachel. She asked me once about boundaries. About where or when she should speak. I said, "Anytime, anywhere...I trust you." And I meant it.

I rely on Rachel a lot. I constantly forget the blocking and she keeps careful notes. She comes up with great ideas, like taping the floor to help kids move to specific marks. She offers to bring snacks. She writes our synopsis for teachers to prep their classes before seeing the play. If a parent or guardian shows up with questions and I'm busy, it's Rachel passing on information. For these two years she's been with us, I'm entirely confident about sending Rachel off to work with actors alone.

Rachel watched, adapted and then applied her own creative instincts. This seems to me how an assistant should do it and be trusted to do it.

The one thing Rachel cannot do is assist me on the cold, dark night when I awake in a sweat imagining the day she says, "It's been fun, but I've got another gig," or "I'm moving," or "I'm getting married," or "I’m having a baby," or....

Sadly, Rachel might not be of much help to me on that day.


CHILDREN'S WRITES: A Journal Entry
If I was an Aleabeathen Girl i would wair a white dress and I would go with qeen Alisabeth to go see the plays and I will walk with her around town and keep her safe so nwone tries to kill her. I will eat fruit and love apples.
Lizzie, 4th grade

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