I read the student’s note. He’d flunked out of the university but was sure he could pass the two courses needed for re-instatement if he could be in my production of Peter and the Wolf. I was a teaching assistant, (TA) with no power, but I was moved by what he wrote and contacted him.
He was tall and skinny, visibly nervous, as he walked into my small office. He told me how much he loved theatre and how, as a kid, he’d listened to the record of Peter and the Wolf so much he’d practically memorized the words. He begged me to let him join the production. I told him I had no authority to cast him if he wasn’t a registered student. He looked so miserable I said I’d check with the Chair to see what could be done.
He read the student’s note and said the decision could only be made by the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He reminded me I was only a TA. He told me it was not my concern, that I had enough to do with teaching, writing a second half of the story of Peter and the Wolf, and directing the production. He added, “I know it’s not my business, but you’re also a single mother.”
Still, the urgency of the student’s plea stayed with me. I went to the Dean. He was direct and clear. “You’re only a TA. He needs to get help from a faculty member.” He looked at me like I was a bothersome mosquito, ready to be squashed.
“I’d like to help him. I’ll take responsibility for his doing good work.”
“You’re a fool to bother,” said the Dean, “but if you’re determined to do this, he has to get Cs in two courses in order to be re-instated as a full-time student.” I thanked him, wondering if I was taking on a burden that wasn’t mine.
Although neither my Chair nor the Dean thought I should get involved, I felt sorry for him. I also felt he needed more incentive than two Cs to thrive in college.
I contacted the student and we met in my office. “I told him, “The Dean says you may be in my production, but,” and I lied, “you have to take two courses and get an A and a B in order to be reinstated as a full-time student in September.
He was so happy he danced out of my office. I questioned what I’d gotten myself into, but it was too late. The decision had been made.
He joined the cast. He got an A and a B. Graduated. Became an actor, playwright, and teacher. When he retired, students continued to contact him as he has continued to contact me.
What might make you take a chance when you’re strongly advised not to do so?
Life tales from a woman different living in The City Different.