Life’s too short to stay in a job you can’t stand. I’ve played “you got this” songs full-blast in my earholes on the way to work because I needed a team talk just to turn up. I’ve taken the scenic route back from the loo just to delay returning to the office. A couple of places have taken the wind from my sails. Never again.
Because I work part-time in a number of roles to make up full-time hours, what I lose in stability I make up for in choice. Recognising that I have the luxury of choice was liberating and allowed me to build a happy working week.
I’ve taught drama sessions to adults with learning difficulties and disabilities for a few years. Our first stage productions went well. Though my learners are enthusiastic performers within the context of our trusting environment, some found the pressure of a live show unsettling. The core purpose of my work with the group is to support them to develop confidence and become more assertive, so anything that undermines that is counterproductive.
The answer was to make films. This strategy has worked a treat and, as the group’s ambition grows, I’ve learned umpteen technical skills to underpin our projects. Turns out I love film editing – a pleasing discovery.
We premiered our last project, Doctor Who: The Musical, on the big screen at a city centre venue just before Christmas. It was a magnificent celebration of the group’s achievements and truly one of the best days of my life.
We’re currently in preproduction for our version of The Wizard of Oz. So far, we’ve turned the plot into story-card scenes – a mixture of words and images, as many of these learners struggle with literacy. The next part of the process, along with creating sets, costumes and props, is to discuss each scene and then improvise them over the weeks and months. We shoot hours of footage to get those magic moments that make the final cut.
To succeed, teaching the songs must be playful and stress-free. We learn with games and actions – making each other jump with a surprise “WE’RE OFF to see the wizard” was a hit. Most learners remember key words rather than the whole lyric, so we record what they do remember and add it to the bespoke backing track I’ve got my husband and son (both excellent musicians) to produce. It’s all about building on what we can do and working around what we can’t.
The group’s next challenge is leaving their familiar environment to film on location in Sherwood Forest.
Every so often, I find myself working as part of a team that has such a strong shared goal that anything seems possible. While I’m a pushy showbiz mother to almost everyone I meet, none of our adventures could even be attempted without my colleagues’ culture of “Yes, we’ll find a way.”
There are wonderful places to work and marvellous teams to be a part of, so if you’re miserable at work, just click your heels three times…and scour the internet for vacancies.
Sarah Simons works in colleges and adult community education in the East Midlands, and is the director of UKFEchat. She tweets @MrsSarahSimons