I am not a good teacher. Fact. My experience of the vocation is limited, I grant you, but I was put off for good after teaching a handful of drama classes at my college’s Saturday school. I say ‘classes’, but the sessions were more crèche-like than class-like, uninterested parents palming off their equally uninterested offspring for a few hours’ relief. The fear of commanding the respect and attention of a room full of hyperactive children took me to a stress level far higher than any I reached due to official drama school activities. Five year old boys ran circles around me, smashing studio mirrors and threatening to go into anaphylactic shock upon contact with the slightest morsel of nut dust. OK, that was just the one child, but the very one I could have done without. As well as causing me the greatest concern (his mother would push his Epi-Pen kit into my shaking palm before leaving her son’s life in my incompetent hands) he was also, to put it mildly, the most ill-mannered little boy I have ever met. The 8-10 year olds were an improvement. My classes for this group were based on devising scenes around a given word or action. Never was I more entertained than by three sisters (confusingly named Tina, Nina and Mila) who although of differing ages, refused to be split up into separate classes. One ‘piece’ of theirs culminated in them (with the self-given monikers Phoebe, Rachel and, er, Monica) each simultaneously giving birth whilst up a tree. Constructive feedback not peppered with guffaws was a challenge, to say the least. Almost as challenging as the home-schooled boy who didn’t have a television, understood no topical references and couldn’t bear the noise made by other children.
Less stressful but also significantly less lucrative was manning the Saturday school’s dance clothing stall. This job required very little forethought but did demand that I converse with pushy showbiz mothers. One particular mother was either trying to break down gender stereotypes one bit at a time (unlikely), or had not yet come to terms with the fact that she had given birth to a son and not the daughter she had always wanted (probable). She dressed this son, not in boys’ dancewear but head to toe in pink - leotard, ballet shoes, cardigan, and even - wait for it - a tutu. “He likes to look like all the little girls” she assured me as she handed over her cash and shifted her son from one hip to the other. It didn’t look to me like he was old enough to be able to express such an opinion, but who knows? Perhaps she was just an admirably forward-thinking mother. Perhaps.
My experience of small children had, up until this point, been limited, and it wasn’t just at work that they had been thrust upon me. I was, for my first year at college, living in digs with a young family, and my low rent was to be supplemented with babysitting duties. The two little boys terrorised me from their next door bedroom, calling my name and running away, pushing rubbish under my door and if I so much as left my room for two minutes while they were in a mischievous mood, they would steal my clothes. Or books. Or everything. Aged only five and six, they somehow managed to carry armfuls of my belongings out of my room and into theirs in very small time frames, leaving me to drip bemusedly on my return from the shower as I discovered I had nothing to put on.
I made a bit of extra money in ways not involving children too. There was the standard bar job, where I spent three evenings a week pulling pints and using the dance floor to practice routines, and I was a regular in my Dad’s office over the holidays, but my favourite money-making effort allowed me to ‘work from home’. Occasionally at drama school we had to write an essay. These were pass or fail, so the only real requirement was the minimum word count, but some people just couldn’t seem to bring themselves to put pen to paper. So they paid me to do it. This was before young people had laptops, so I would stretch out in the back garden with notebook and pen, charging a very reasonable £20 per essay. Thankfully I was also very good at disguising my handwriting.
So sadly, I cannot join the droves of actors who supplement their earnings teaching, and I won’t be
willing able to cover your class in Berkhamsted next
Saturday, but for any essay writing needs, look no further. Although what with
inflation and all, l will have to reconsider my rates…