Part of my job is to teach acting classes. I primary teach teenagers, occasionally teach kids, but almost never teach anyone over the age of 18.
We offer the classes three times a year, but of the 10 sessions that have been offered since I started working at the theatre, I’ve only taught one class – not one session, but ONE CLASS. Only 4 people had signed up, and despite my hesitation to teach a small class, the bosses made me go ahead with it. Only 2 people showed up for the first class; I did my best to adapt the lesson to partner exercises, and they seemed to have a good time, but they never returned. For the rest of that session, I still had to plan the classes, come in alone on Sunday afternoons, and sit here for half hour or so to see if anyone showed. They didn’t. (They also didn’t answer or return my phone calls.) Ugh…
The bosses always ask me WHY this class isn’t catching. Is it the timing of the class? The cost? Lack of advertising? But I know the real reason – adults that are interested in theatre want to be part of the production (acting, designing, backstage) and not play “silly games” in a classroom. It happens time and time again: someone comes in or calls looking for more information, asks if we do any sort of performance, I say no and never hear from them again. I keep telling this to the bosses, but nothing changes and the cycle continues.
At least that’s what I had assumed was the reasons until earlier this week. But what if it’s me????
A guy in his early 20’s came in, asking about the class. In the middle of my regular spiel, he made a face at me and asked “YOU teach the class? What are your credentials?” Umm… an-honours-bachelor-of-arts-in-dramatic-arts, a-certificate-and-a-post-grad-diploma-in-arts-management, four-years-of-teaching-workshops-while-in-school, and-three-plus-years-working-here. He didn’t look impressed.
Then it occurred to me: PEOPLE DON’T LIKE TO BE TAUGHT BY PEOPLE THAT ARE YOUNGER THAN THEM.
A supervisor I had at one of my internships was younger than me. I’ll admit, it bugged the shit out of me – at first (but it didn’t take long to see why she had landed the job). I know it was an ego/jealousy thing, but I assumed that I knew more than her, and that she couldn’t teach me anything, so I almost didn’t take the internship. She ended up being an integral part in getting me to where I am today.
Even though I’m 6 months away from the big 3-0, I look young, and still get ID’d all the time. People don’t always take me seriously or underestimate me because of this. I try to dress professionally, but the dress code in the office is pretty casual and I’m usually bundled up under a sweater and a scarf (and occasionally, my coat). Pair that with the occasional break-out, and I instantly look 10 years younger! (Can I somehow bottle this and make millions of dollars?!?) I’m pretty sure his judgey face didn’t help me sell myself either.
I much prefer to teach kids and teenagers, and get a lot of great feedback from them and their parents. Maybe this carries over (to my disadvantage) when I am teaching adults? Like they can sense that isn’t really what I want to be doing?
Whatever the reason, the declining enrollment in all the classes we offer is starting to worry me. Not so much in a job security way (although there is that), but more so that I’m going to continue to be assigned tasks at work that don’t interest me, don’t help advance my career goals, and/or have nothing to do with what I was hired for. But that’s a whole other (forthcoming) post…
Have your abilities ever been questioned based on your age and/or appearance?
Or have you ever had a boss or teacher that is younger then you? What was that like?