Wednesday, November 27, 2013

YA # 3 - Identity

I didn't get a chance to write last weekend, with how busy I've been prepping for Into the Woods, my school's upcoming musical.  Now it is Thanksgiving break, so have some time.  I am trying to keep these weekly, or close to that.

As a drama teacher, identity is an issue I deal with every day.  Perhaps more so in my classes than in others, students are constantly eager to try on new identities, and experiment with who they are.  I have always found it interesting that a student who is the shyest student in one class can be a class clown in another.  I think many students like to adopt different personalities and see how they work, or which attitudes gain the reaction they want.

For example, one of my students came to class one day with a new nose piercing, matching the nose ring of a friend of hers.  Did the kid want the nose ring, or was it just to fit in?  Another student I dealt with was excited and talkative at the beginning of class (when she was in control), but as soon as class began and I asked her some questions she looked like she was half asleep and refused to say a word.

The best example of identity search that I've seen came at one of my former schools.  One of my lowest performing students was a constant trial.  He loved attention, was a class clown, and was constantly being disciplined for behavior issues.  This young man loved to show off to his friends, and his group was very strongly opposed to school or rules.  I was shocked when he auditioned for the play.

During rehearsals, I didn't recognize the student.  He was shy, never spoke out of turn, and exceedingly polite.  As the play progressed, his grades started to improve.  It wasn't until a speech he gave at closing night, when I first learned his troubled story.  He had been expelled from an earlier school, had spent time in jail, and had been hanging with a rough crowd.  In drama, he said, for the first time, he got all the attention he could ask for, without any punishment.  I'm happy to report that he turned his life around, and graduated shortly after this took place.  In this scenario, it was almost as if trying on a new identity, both in the course of acting as someone else, and in trying a new situation with new peers, truly changed his life.

As I write, I think about my characters' identity.  It's interesting to note how much time authors devote to keeping a character's identity "consistent"- when our own personalities and identities can shift from situation to situation- especially in situations young adults encounter as they grow.  Perhaps no identity is truly static, but merely a reflection of its surroundings.    

1 comment:

  1. I remember a girl named Kiara in grade five. I think she had been expelled too. The first three music classes she had with me, she tried everything to get my attention: calling out, banging on the music stand, scowling. I completely ignored her. Then, in the next class, I became aware of a beautiful, powerful voice rising above all the others. I walked around as the kids sang, trying to figure out who it was. I realized it was her! I told her what a beautiful voice she had. From that day on, she kept my class in line for me. If someone was naughty, she'd tell them to wise up. Anyway, she changed from a problem kid to one of my best students. Oh, and BTW, Into The Woods is one very difficult musical. Best of luck.