POST: 'This Gonna Be on the Test, Miss?' - those who teach, do
What's it about?
A one-woman comedy show based on 20 years worth of anecdotes from community college remedial English classrooms in NYC and LA.
What'd I experience?
For weeks I had been excited about watching this show, mostly because I’m an aspiring teacher, but also because sadly I hadn’t been to the theater in what seemed like ages. The show was on St. Marks, an area I know pretty well, so I got there smoothly and very enthusiastically sat front and center. I was a bit early so I took the extra time to read through the program. I then took my notepad and pencil out, in part because I have the memory of a Blue Tang fish with Alzheimer’s (peep the Disney reference lol), but also because I wanted to feel like an important theater reviewer… and then like a true professional I posted a pic of the experience on my Snapchat story.
As soon as the show starts Ronna Levy, aka Miss Levy who is portraying herself, begins talking to the audience as if we were her students in a classroom. As a straight A student myself, I feel a really strong urge to raise my hand when I know the answer to a question she's asking...
Miss Levy talks about the struggles of pursuing her dreams to become an actress and teaching a remedial English class, or as she calls it “a 12-week course covering what you should have learned in the past 12 years”. She talks about her personal battle overcoming her mother’s suicide. She talks about her frustration after being fired as a teacher back in LA.
One of the moments that I connected with the most was when Miss Levy talked about her self-doubt regarding being a teacher because it meant she had failed… after all “those who can’t do, teach” right? Oh boy, if I had a penny for every time I hear that. As an aspiring teacher I’m all too familiar with the phrase. But I still remember the day I told my grandma that even though my whole family was against it, I really wanted to become a teacher. I said “grandma, I just don’t want people to think that I’m teaching because I’m one of those who can’t do”, and she said to me “Fania, those who DO wouldn’t have been able to DO ANYTHING if it wasn’t thanks to someone that TAUGHT THEM HOW”.
Miss levy hit me right in the feels when she recalls the day she went from being an aspiring actress doing teaching on the side to a teacher who loves acting. Without even being aware of the change, one random day she simply introduced herself as “Ronna, the teacher”. And she knew her work was meaningful because her students told her she made a difference in their lives - they invited her to weddings, sent her birthday cards, tweeted to her, and added her on Facebook to tell her they were graduating.
For years and years she challenged herself to become a better teacher and to improve every day. Finally, in 2016 she found herself teaching a remedial English class at Kingsborough Community College, right here in NYC. The stories her students told were incredibly drastic. Some had children, sick parents, parents in jail, worked 40 plus hours in some crappy job, knew little English, had no papers, etc. Yet, their dreams for the future were so big, but sadly it looked like “the odds were against them”. It seemed to her that her class wouldn’t even matter, like it wasn’t important enough to make a difference in these students’ fates.
The show closes with a statistic: “less than one in three students in community college graduate”
But Miss Levy was there for that ONE in three, and that was enough, that made her somebody, that made her a teacher.
At that point I cried. Not because I was moved by a beautiful romanticized story of an educator, but rather because I know that harsh reality to be true. I have also seen students from broken homes, I have also taught students with the odds against them. And above all, I have also hoped that they all find a brighter better fate than that in the statistics.
After the show I clapped my hands out, wiped my tears, and waited eagerly for Ronna in order to get photographic prove of this amazing experience. I spent my 45 minutes of commute back home reminiscing about all the past students I have met doing student teaching and fieldwork. And after I got home, I spent a good hour telling my mom all about it. Because what is a theater experience if you don’t get to share it with someone, am I right?
- Fania S.