Sunday, August 7, 2016

Opening Night Jitters


Each of us has rehearsed the raising of the curtain in our mind more than once. Summer has come to a close, and whether you are the teacher standing in the front of the classroom, the student in the back seat closest to the door, the parent dropping off at the curb or the principal standing at the flagpole, we have each built up Day One in our minds to be possibly our greatest victory or our grandest failure. What is it about the first day of school that makes even the seasoned veteran second guess the most well laid out plans?

From every vantage point, the opening day of school is filled with firsts, and firsts can be filled with anxieties. The first time you meet your new teacher, the first read aloud to a new class, the first school-wide announcement, the first morning line up in a new line. I have been on the staff side of opening day for almost 20 years: I still toss and turn the night before opening just praying to not oversleep!

When I used to direct school plays, I would have to coach young actors through the opening night jitters every season. It never seemed to matter how well rehearsed the show was, and you never knew who was going to get the biggest set of jitters: one show it might be the lead and another you may have to coach a spear-carrier off the ledge just to get him to walk on stage in a single scene to announce the coming of the king. Regardless of the position within the cast, one sure-fire method I always found useful was this: If you have the jitters, you are probably focusing too much on yourself; you are not aware that you are surrounded by people that are just as nervous as you and maybe need your help even more than you need theirs. Walk out on that stage, make lots of eye contact with the people around you, be a comfort to others, help them by speaking slowly, smiling, and really listening when they speak. The best cure for the opening night jitters is to focus on finding someone to comfort.

So, for each of us who are preparing to raise the curtain on a new school year, I wish us all good luck and a safe journey. If anyone is feeling a little case of the opening night jitters: walk into school on Day One and find someone more nervous than you, make a little eye contact, and let them know that they are going to be just fine.

Have an amazing 2016-2017 Launch!