by Gloria Lawson
Everything forms you and who you become. Maybe some are not as fun but, they still influence who you become.
Chapter 5: North
I got involved in the dance program in high school. I had been taking dance classes, jazz mostly since I was a child, but I got more serious about it in high school. When I went to high school, they had a good program. At the beginning of high school, I was more interested in theater, but then I was seeing the dance performances and taking a dance class during the school day, so I switched the art form that I was interested in. I auditioned for Orchesis, the dance company at our school. I just loved the teacher's job of teaching dance during the day and putting on a performance. I just wanted her job. I liked the high school age just because that’s who I hung with and thought high schoolers would be easier for some reason. So, that was my goal, teaching in a high school. I got my degree in dance at SU. I didn’t have the education aspect of the degree at SU. Ultimately, I got the dance-ed degree at UIC.
It took a lot of hard work and patience. I knew it would be hard work being a dance teacher. You put in a lot of hours, you’re used to after-school rehearsals and weekends and nights. I had to move up a ladder, in my mind, because there aren't many dance jobs out there in the high school sector.
At first, I was freelancing different studios and one-off jobs in high schools. I would choreograph at one place, judge an audition at another, teach a master class, and I was an Orchesis assistant at a high school. The first bigger job I had was at an alternative school in Chicago Heights. It was still part-time, but it was the whole year. It was almost full time. To give the students movement was great, and they did well with it but, it was a sad place for me to be. The students here just having hard times. I saw then struggling and did not have good homes to go to. For a lot of them, it wasn’t getting better and that was rough. It was good to be there but not necessarily where I wanted to be long-term.
I then got a job in a charter high school on the north side of Chicago. That was tough because of the administrations. They were crazy, I know that’s not a good way to say it. Actually, it was just the principal. If you say micromanage, that’s not even describing it - down to what songs to pick for choreography, and who to put in it. He really wanted to run the program himself. He forced kids to be in these art classes for three hours after school. In theory, it is good that they are doing the arts but if the kids don’t want to be there it doesn’t always work out for the best classroom environment. There were days were those kids would really affect the other students, and they all had an “I don’t want to do this today” vibe. There was a lot of rule changing in the school, it was just chaotic. That was a tough year, and I was still figuring out teaching methods and trying to work student behaviors. There was a lot of figuring out what to do in those scenarios. If it gives any indication, by the end of the year, all but two of the teachers had left. I couldn’t leave part way through the year because I can't do that to students. I wanted to, and a lot of people did but I would never blame the kids. It's never the kids’ fault.
Then I worked at North. I was super excited to get that job. There had been someone who started the program the year before me, but she had only been there one year. So, it was pretty much me setting the roots of the program. I got to run the program; it was just the full-time job that I wanted. I was happy to be starting the program. When I went there, I was really happy with the teachers and the student body. I liked the atmosphere; everyone was super accepting and it was a diverse culture. For me, that was cool to be around. That’s what I wanted. It was the place I wanted to be. I was happy.
I had three to four years with each class. Even if things were rough, I knew that I wanted to be with one class for 4 years. So, I made sure that I essentially graduated with the freshman class I started with. I got really close to a group of students, my 4-year class. I can, to some extent, see their social media, what they’re doing. It just makes me happy to see them succeeded or even just to know what they’re doing. On the flip side, it was very hard for me to leave, but it was a decision that was coming for a while. With knowing that I wanted to become a mom would just make my decision to leave the city school. The commute, it was kind of far from my house –hours. Also some administration stuff - but that’s the reason that I decided to completely switch my life.
The last show, that was bittersweet. That show, I chose to perform with my four-year class, to a piece I choreographed on them, my first year. That was always an emotional piece for me, not because it was about anything in particular, but because it was my four-year class. I knew I was leaving, but they didn’t so that was bittersweet. One of the last days of that school year we had a wrap-up teacher meeting with the arts teachers. The Fine Arts Coordinator was asking us questions about how the year went and one of them was “what are you proud of?” I burst out crying because overall, I was just proud of what we had done. I had given them the opportunities that I wanted to and felt a lot of my students, at least, got something out of it. I didn’t want to move on with not being able to give all of that. If I had a baby, I wouldn’t have been able to give all my time to the dance program and I wouldn’t be able to give enough time to my baby. So, this was just the best decision for me, but it was bittersweet.
I didn’t realize how much I would learn from being a teacher. You think that you’re the one teaching. Teaching was super important to me, and it really helped me grow as a person. I really learned about myself, about my life, and about people. I didn’t realize how much I would take out of me, emotionally. As the years went on, I thought it would get easier to not be so emotionally attached to students or their stories. That never really happened for me. I'm happy with the way it turned out and was glad to give my students the program that I had. All I wanted was to be a good influence in their lives and I'm happy that I did that.
Lawson: Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Sidwell
In which Gloria Lawson attends Sidwell Elementary School in Chicago's suburbs. Here she describes her life as sheltered by the Catholic impositions of her private school. At Sidwell Gloria also meets lifelong friends, develops great morals, and learns the importance of academic success.
Chapter 2: High School
In which Gloria Lawson, attended her town’s Public High School. During High School, she struggled as she worked day in and day out to fulfill her a need to reflect the perfect image of a woman in America. Due to her sheltered upbringing, Gloria was nervous to attend her town’s public High School. Despite her concerns about the common stereotypes of public school, she was glad to have attended the institution as it truly influenced her career path to becoming a dance teacher and had provided some great experiences.
Chapter 3: SU
In which Gloria Lawson goes off to College and cherishes the fresh start that it came with. For the first time, Gloria feels like her true self, being free to do and explore the things she loves. This time around, she throws herself into her work, not to impress others, but because she found it fun. At SU Gloria figured out what her creative voice was and really expressed herself through her dancing.
Chapter 4: Freelancing
In which Gloria Lawson starts working part-time as a dance teacher. During this time Gloria does an internship in South Africa, teaching dance to primary school children. During her time abroad she felt incredibly involved in the community and fulfilled her love for traveling.
Chapter 5: North
In which Gloria Lawson finally gets her dream job. She works as the head dance teacher in a Chicago high school.
Chapter 6: Motherhood
In which Gloria Lawson becomes a loving mother. As a new mother, Gloria learns what it's like to be deprived of sleep and shoved into a whole other world but has found it nothing less than amazing. For the past three months, Gloria has been a stay-at-home mom navigating her way through motherhood. Finally finding her grove into motherhood, she continues to work as a part-time dance teacher.
About Gloria Lawson
Gloria Lawson is a dance teacher with a passion for choreography and modern dance. She does not often enjoy cooking but likes to do yoga. She is a new mother to a beautiful baby girl. Due to her commitment to her child, Gloria is currently only teaching part-time at the park district. Gloria and her wonderful husband live in Chicago’s suburbs with a dog named Penny.