A reflection on some of my personal favorite experiences as an International Thespian Officer...
The 10 Greatest Joys of an ITO
1. Teaching students and adults.
An an ITO, I had the privilege of traveling to state conferences to teach workshops on advocacy and leadership. My classes ranged anywhere from 1 attendee, to 148 attendees (Guess which workshop was at Thespian Festival?). Teaching at these festivals not only provided many other joys listed below, but also solidified my desire to pursue education as a lifelong career.
2. Listening to your stories.
This is certainly something expected of us as student leaders! But along with everything else expected of us, it only becomes a tremendous joy as we work with Thespians across the nation. Hearing stories not only reminds us of memories we've had in our theatrical experience, but also motivates and empowers us to do our best for those telling the stories. These interactions are priceless- as without the stories (and the storytellers) we'd have nothing to represent or fight for.
One of the coolest parts of being an ITO is being able to say that working is a joy. We LOVE it when we are asked to do something at a conference or at a festival. No matter the task, it is fulfilling to be put to work- as whatever we do could benefit someone in the International Thespian Society! Also, the opportunity to work with adults is so incredible- as we build skills that will benefit us greatly in the professional world someday.
4. Communicating over social media.
Even when we aren't at festivals and conferences, we have the ability to communicate on an international scale via social media! One of my favorite things was live tweeting during the Tony Awards with hundreds of Thespians. It was so fun to see all of our thoughts as the show went on. We reflected on performances, predicted winners, and more! Also, Thespians are STILL using our hashtag #ThesFest14 to bring up old memories, photos, and more.
5. Having an intense schedule.
Going into the position, I expected my schedule adjustment to be the most difficult part of being an ITO. But honestly, it's been wonderful. I constantly had dates in my head for travel, meetings, show dates, and more. It was nice to have the year mapped out in my brain and to plan everything else around it. Looking back on this year, it's also fun to use my ITO schedule as a guide. "Oh, I bought that right after attending Connecticut's festival and a few weeks before Pennsylvania's conference..." The busy schedule also kept me moving forward, and staying on track with schoolwork. To be honest, it'll be a harder adjustment to go from my ITO schedule to a free schedule.
6. Time management.
Building off of #5, it's a joy to learn time management. This is applicable on a small and large scale. Whether it's managing our time within a 60 minute leadership workshop, or in a year-long schedule, we have all gotten better at piecing together our schedules of school and theatre- which is something that will benefit us for the rest of our lives!
To be honest, traveling is a great part of being an ITO. But not because we get to fly and go to new states. It's because it puts it in perspective for us that it's a huge country, and the International Thespian Society is across it all. I feel as though the ITOs have also matured through our travels- as we travel alone most of the time. In fact, the first plane ride I've had in my life was as an ITO!
In a broader aspect, it's been a tremendous pleasure to not only see growth in myself, but in Thespians as well. Whether it was individually, in a troupe, in a state, or in the society as a whole, it's so cool to see growth. I've gotten to hear about troupes that doubled their population. I've seen kids begin a conference feeling shy, then be willing to perform in front of others by the end. As for growth in myself, I have seen myself grow from a quiet leader to a fearless one in just one year. That's something I'll always owe to ITS.
While we do teach at conferences and festivals, it's always awesome when we learn lessons ourselves. Whether it be through our experiences, or from adults and students we meet, we really do get to take away some incredible lessons. I've had workshops in which the students teach me something I would have never considered in leadership. I've learned how to travel, how to speak publicly, how to pronounce eccentric names... It's an odd thought, but a very accurate one, that we are learning more than ever in our positions- even when we are the ones teaching.
10. Having the opportunity to inspire and empower.
We are rewarded and recognized for our accomplishments as international student leaders in many ways. But hands-down the GREATEST reward of all, in my opinion, is when I hear that I made an impact on someone's life. Hearing that Thespians are taking away what you're teaching- to know even the smallest thing you said stuck with them forever... That is the greatest joy.
We strive to help Thespians in whatever endeavors they pursue. Hearing that we did...? It's life-changing for us.
No matter who reads this, thank you for being a part of this journey and for making these joys possible.
Since it's the most relevant quote, and I'm a theatre kid, I'll end it with this:
"Because I knew you, I have been changed for good."
ITO Region IV Rep