The Big Chop

My grad school friend and colleague, Chris Van Cleave, came through town yesterday and we had our quick coffee session we usually have when he’s here. We got to talking about different things and he told me about some of his tougher teaching experiences this year in his role as department head at a school in Virginia. Apparently, a few students had some success in productions in the community and were getting a little too cocky so they needed a gentle whack.

Sometimes this happens. It is part of the training. Frequently, artists need to be nurtured but there are times when the sensei needs to take a hatchet to a branch that is hindering the growth of the tree. I have received several of these cuts and they are painful. Timing is very crucial. I recieved one once and am only now coming to terms with it some 15 years later. I wandered deep in some woods confused, lost, and scared.

Ego and cockiness can be a cover for some fears and hurts. When self-esteem and confidence turn into self-enchantment, that is time for the machete to come out. A good mentor will know how to help the student recover and grow after the cut.

Extra limbs can either make a goddess or a freak. This being can rise above and become a leader or shrink down when confronted with disdain. Bearing this in mind, the teacher must decide if it is a good idea to make the cuts. They might lead to conformity.