I always joke with people saying, “If teaching doesn’t work out, my back-up job is a cast member on Saturday Night Live.” It’s a bit unrealistic and fantastical, especially since I’m not very good at memorizing lines and you know, the whole not having prepared for a career in acting or comedy aspect. However, as I was watching SNL 40 a few weeks ago, I realized that there are so many similarities between being an educator and working at Saturday Night Live.
1. Collaboration is key. Writers and cast members are constantly working together to write the perfect sketch, joke, or character to make their mark on the show. As teachers, we sometimes get a selfish attitude, at times withholding resources or ideas. We need to work closely with other teachers, administrators, or counselors to make our lessons or programs a success. I find in the performing arts world we are usually the only teacher in our content area, so we often work alone. While it certainly has perks, how great would it be to collaborate on a concert or project with other teachers in your district, state, or elsewhere? Why not collaborate with a different content area teacher? Collaboration doesn’t have to be a chore, it can be fun and a place for creativity to surface!
2. If something doesn’t work, you throw it out. How many times do we try to reuse lessons or strategies that just aren’t working? During the dress rehearsals at SNL, if jokes don’t go well, they don’t make it to the live show. Sure, cast members and writers are disappointed that their sketches were a flop, but it’s for the greater good of the show. Sometimes we choose too difficult of repertoire, or the way we teach a musical concept has completely confused students. Rather than struggle and give mediocre performances or grade failing quizzes, throw out your original idea and try something new.
3. Sometimes you just need to laugh. Jimmy Fallon is always picked on for breaking character during sketches, but in my opinion, I think it makes the whole situation even funnier. Here’s my favorite sketch where everyone is losing it:
I remember days when I was stressed with upcoming choir events that I was particularly stern with one of my piano classes. I think my thought process was, “If I act serious and not-fun today they won’t act out or make me angry.” Good idea, Lindsay. As I was teaching a lesson about whole steps, half steps, and enharmonics, I created a few examples on the board for students to come up and label. In my efforts to save time and abbreviate, I ended up writing “W, H, or, E?” See what that spells? Look again. There it is. When the class started hysterically laughing, I turned around and looked at them with that “unhappy teacher eye,” but then when they pointed at the board, I realized what I had done, and I, too, laughed as I quickly erased it.
4. Late nights happen. Cast and writers stay up working sketches into the wee hours of the morning. While I am never one to bring work home with me, I have had days where I go to school, have after school rehearsal, have my own rehearsal to attend, and make it home by 8:30 to have dinner and go to sleep only to do it again the next day. If you are a South Carolina choir director, this was basically the month of March for you. With All State, All County, the school musical, and choral festival all in one month, there were only late nights to be had. But at the end of the day, it’s good work, it benefits students and/or an audience, and we’ve created experiences for others.
I’m thinking I will stick with my day job, but it’s comforting to know that maybe I could survive with my teacher skill sets were I ever to join the cast. 😉
[Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/brenzens/]