In the last few months, I’ve come to realise more and more that what I do each evening – act, entertain a hall full of people, perform, if you like – has a lot in common with teaching. Or lecturing, even.
If I think back to when I was studying at the Vrije Universiteit, somewhere in the 1980s, I remember few real performances. To be honest, I remember very few lectures, even though I was present at almost all of them. I thought that it was compulsory, and it probably was back then. Nowadays it seems a matter of course for most students to combine two jobs, multiple relationships and a sports career with their studies in such a way that the goal is to pass an exam at least once in a while. That said, all those things – hard work, exchanging bodily fluids, training until you see spots before your eyes – better prepare you for life than that one Statistics exam that you’ve been dreading for over a year. Anyway, I don’t know if it’s necessarily wise to take career advice from someone who in the coming weeks is allowed to (has to) play in Almelo, Uden, Someren and Spijkenisse, among others.
‘Exchanging bodily fluids and training until you see spots before your eyes prepares you better for life than that one Statistics exam’
In films you only come across professors who either have a screw loose, or who are so passionate and brilliant that, even in the cinema, you watch half a Statistics lecture with utter enthralment. Because the love of random numbers radiates from the professor, because the language is effusive and flowery, and because every now and again, there’s a cutaway shot to that one student with glistening eyes and moist lips who doesn’t realise how beautiful she is yet, but you just know that she will end up understanding both love and life because of that passionate professor. Or not, depending on the script of course.
What I learned at the Vrije Universiteit was that not all professors are passionate and/or a little crazy, unfortunately, and there weren’t any students such as the one above attending the same lectures as me, unfortunatelier. And that is indeed a non-existent word, but then, so is disappointified, so there you go.
And how did I come to realise that teaching and performing are very similar? My wife, who I got to know thanks to your beautiful university, by the way – but more about that some other time at this spot– took it into her lovely head a couple of years ago to get through the primary education course (Pabo) as fast as possible, and if my wife gets something into that head of hers, then the chance is somewhere between 100% and definite that it’s going to happen. Therefore, I often want exactly the same thing she does, as I’m sure you’ll understand.
‘If my wife gets something into that head of hers, the chance is somewhere between 100% and definite that it’s going to happen’
In a month or three she’ll be an authorised teacher or whatever you call it officially, and in the past 21 months I’ve learned a great deal about standing in front of a class. A class full of kindergartners, children or pre-teens, a class with 28 different personalities and hundreds of stories, dozens of problems and a plethora of emotions. And all that a couple of days a week, swapping back and forth with the other school where she was a student herself again, involving herself with teachers who, with the exception of one, were and are absolutely not film material.
When you stand in front of a class, you have to have a good story and other methods of holding the students’ attention, like a joke now and again or something unexpected, or including something personal where possible (yes, you can even do that in Statistics!), and you can be kind if possible and strict when necessary. And I do, am, and use all of those things too. The most important difference is that each evening, I find myself in front of different people (Uden, Roermond, Purmerend) and I make a little more use of jokes.
And if there’s a teacher (professor) who works at the Vrije Universiteit and would not look out of place in a film, I’d like to hear from you. It wouldn’t surprise me if there was another column in that. Or a piece for my next performance.
> Comedian Dolf Jansen writes a quarterly column for VU Magazine.