Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Costs

Life shouldn't be printed on dollar bills.
—Clifford Odets


Six years ago when I started The Shakespeare Club, I was asked, "How much will you charge?"

"Nothing," I answered, but I assure you it's not because I'm altruistic.

My reasons were sound:

(1) I wanted it to be accessible;

(2) I wanted an easy out if my big idea went south; and

(3) I didn't want to be employed by a school administration or parents' group because I didn't want this question, ever: "Hey, why isn't my kid playing Hamlet?"

I wanted autonomy and I got it. I have also been slam-dunked by the downside of my idealism.

We have an adage in this country: You get what you pay for.

That's helpful when you're buying a flat-screen TV, or a fluffy bath towel, or a cut of organic, grain-fed beef.

What do we do with that adage when we get something good for free?

I'm not certain, as a society, we know what to do with that. I'm not convinced we know how to trust such a thing.

I added an extra Shakespeare Club meeting on a Tuesday because we had lost time and I needed to keep up with my curriculum. On Tuesdays our school dismisses early, so our meeting would take place from 1:30 to 3:30.

Kids were settling into chairs and readying for our meditation when a loud knock landed on the auditorium doors. An adult from another after-school program asked when we would be finishing up.

"Today, three-thirty," I answered.

"Those two have to be out of here at two-thirty," she said, pointing out a boy and a girl.

"Why is that?" I asked.

"Because they have another class that costs...a class their parents pay money for."

The tip of that arrow is still embedded in my heart. I can't get it out.

I don't blame that woman, but her statement spoke volumes about perception, and it rattled me.

Another class that costs....

If it cost each kid in Shakespeare Club, let's say, a thousand dollars to participate, would I have 100% attendance instead of the 25% attendance I have now?

If parents had to cough up two thousand dollars per child, would vacations be planned around Shakespeare Club, birthday parties sacrificed and field trip dates recalibrated?

Oh, it costs, all right! I wanted to scream at that messenger.

In the six years I've done Shakespeare Club, my husband has spent months at a time working out of town — and I couldn't join him.

In the six years I've done Shakespeare Club, my other creative pursuits had to take a back seat — because every year it takes seven months of my time to prepare and direct the program.

In the six years I've done Shakespeare Club, I've never missed a single meeting.

When their kids are chosen for Shakespeare Club, all the parents giddily agree with the mandate of "All meetings must be attended."

How can we as grown-ups teach children commitment if we can't demonstrate it? Where do we get off with that?

You get what you pay for? Really?


CHILDREN'S WRITES: A Journal Entry
I once felt left out when my baby sister came out. We we first took her home everyone was happy. I acadently hit her on the head and everyone was like oh oh why you hit her. That's the time I felt left out. I'm going to get revenge from her one day.
Krystal, 4th grade

5 comments:

  1. Possible new direction for Shakespeare Club: Monologue competition ... where the winner gets a big honkin' trophy! Smaller trophy for "Best Costume." And get three washed-up actors to serve as the judges ...

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  2. Wow, you could work for a Network....

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  3. Well said, Mel. I once taught an adult ed class at a community college where the teacher who had the classroom before me liked to keep her students late, with my students waiting out in the hall, because her class was "for credit." I asked for and got a room change. Keep up the good (volunteer)work, you have all the right reasons.

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  4. Thanks for the comment...it's good to know one is not alone in the frustration...sheesh!

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  5. (Actually, it's Lenora said ...)

    Your work is what we call "priceless." Nothing can compromise the gifts you give to these children. My 'money's' on that.

    P.S. Maybe the parents actually agree with you.

    P.P.S. Hang in there, Krystal . . .

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