Finding My Stage On and Off the Hill
Hamilton is an ideal place for students who know exactly what they want to do after college and those who genuinely don’t have a clue. I feel like I was somewhere in between during my time on the Hill. I knew that I wanted to do something in K-12 education early on, but it took awhile to figure out how I would spend my time getting ready for the field at Hamilton.
Of course, I first looked in all the obvious places. As a student, I dove into coursework in education studies and psychology that could provide valuable information on the current research and opportunities to visit classrooms at the Clinton Early Learning Center as well as in Utica and New Hartford. Outside of the classroom, I volunteered for various tutoring programs like Hamilton Reads or Friends Without Borders. Eventually, I assumed leadership positions in these organizations, and those roles provided experiences where I had to encourage other students to take an interest in education. If you are a student interested in working in education (K-12 or other) or with kids in another way, there are an amazing number of “traditional” opportunities to take advantage of at Hamilton.
However, in classic liberal arts style, my experience in one organization at Hamilton prepared me for my current job as a special education teacher like I never could have imagined—performing in an a cappella group. As a member of the Hamilton College Buffers, I had to learn the art of performance and improvisation. Performing in front of a full audience in Wellin Hall is no joke. It took a while to feel like I had any command of the stage, even when I didn’t have a solo.
Concerts prepared me in a few other ways for the classroom, like dealing with the nerves of being on stage is just like being at the front of a classroom with 30 sets of eyeballs waiting for your directions. Also, especially as a junior and senior, I had to teach new parts to the younger guys and figure out how to do this as efficiently as possible with all the songs we had to learn.
Teaching happens to be a performance art as well. I don’t belt Buffers songs to my students, but I do keep their attention with humor and improvisation. The fifth-grade classroom where I teach is a far less intimidating space to perform compared to a packed a cappella concert in the Chapel. From spending all that time on stage at Hamilton, I feel like I met the transition to the “stage” of the classroom with confidence and even with an ability to enjoy the moment.
Yes, as a student at Hamilton, dive into what makes sense. However, don’t lose sight of those activities that will either make you think in a different way or will make you feel refreshingly uncomfortable. If you are headed to the classroom, find a “stage” somewhere at Hamilton. It could be in Wellin Hall or the dance floor in Bundy quad. Your students will be grateful for it.