Cast And Crew

07/11/2022

One of my hobbies for the last forty years or so has been amateur dramatics. I love acting and performing on stage but I have done other things in the theatre: lighting, props, prompt, directing and helping to run the theatre were I have acted most often. It takes a whole team to put on a production just as it takes a whole team to educate children. Last week I wrote a blog about the profession I have been proud to have been part of. This week I want to write about all the other great people I have been proud to work with.


Sometimes, when I’ve been playing a part on stage, I’ve had to respond to a sound cue or use a prop and had to rely on backstage crew to make sure they arrive on time. I suppose the equivalent in teaching are the technicians I’ve worked with over the years. Their support and assistance has been invaluable. So often in my career I have planned for the class to carry out experiments and the chemicals and equipment have just been there for me. More, when I’ve forgotten to order something, or have realised that the lesson would benefit from a little extra piece of kit - the equivalent, perhaps, or fluffing my lines as an actor - so often I’ve been able to call the technicians and, as if by minor miracle, they have appeared at my door with what I need. 


And then there have been the people with whom I have shared “the stage”. The Learning Assistants, the Teaching Assistants and others who have sat with and helped students with specific behavioural or learning needs. So often they have exhibited the kind of patience required to pick up mercury. With tweezers. So often they have displayed levels of love and care for kids with profound needs that I have found breathtaking.


Theatres don’t last without the people who keep them in good repair and shows often can’t go on without set builders. So here’s to the janitors I’ve worked with over the years. From blinking strip lights to blocked sinks (and my sinks blocked often!) to broken blinds and broken stools they have been there to ensure - as far as budgets could be stretched, but that’s a whole other blogpost - that my working space has been in decent repair and that I could get on with my job.


Theatres don’t run without people to sell tickets, take in the money, respond to letters and so forth. Schools don’t run without administrative staff. All right it could be frustrating when I was elbows deep in a really good demonstration or the heart and lungs of a sheep and someone from the office called to ask me if I had updated the register, but that came with the job and they were unfailingly polite and friendly. Maybe it was my boyish charm and devastating smile, but I always got on well with the folk in the office and they were almost unfailingly helpful. 


Finally, shows need directors, assistant directors and so forth, and schools need management teams; with headteachers, deputes and principal teachers. Over the thirty-eight years I taught I was fortunate to work with people in those posts who cared about their staff and supported them. As a union rep I had to work with Headteachers and, with perhaps one exception, they were receptive to what I had to say and my working relationships were good. When I have needed the help of senior management in dealing with, for example, behavioural issues, they have usually supported me. In particular I have been grateful to the Principal Teachers I have worked with. In particular I am grateful that they have trusted me: trusted me to use the professional skills I developed over the years and supported me in doing so - even if we didn’t always agree. They helped me to get the best out of the role I had.


Trust. I suppose that’s what it comes down to. When I first developed an interest in drama when I was at school, my drama teacher was keen on trust exercises. Yes, including that one where you fall backward and your partner catches you. Schools are teams and teams are founded on trust and mutual support. When all members of the team - cast and crew - respect each other, trust each other and look after each other, that’s when a team works, whether in sport, in performing arts or in education. My best times in those thirty years have been when the schools I have worked in have operated in this way and those are the times I will look back on with most affection.