For many students, the theater is a safe space. A place where they can explore, discover and figure out who they want to be. As a teacher or a director, your job is to bring out the best in your students and create a supportive environment where students are free to express themselves and try new things. My focus in directing and my focus in the classroom is to create an ensemble where students and actors support each other and do not compete against each other. I have found that overall, there is a far greater level of success when everyone is working towards a common goal, rather than when it is every man for themselves. This encourages students to take charge and to help each other. Not everyone is good at everything, which allows all students to be successful leaders throughout the course.
Resilience is an incredibly important skill for today’s students. I feel a classroom is a place where students should feel free to experiment and make mistakes. I guide students learning through an exploratory process that is inquiry based and experimental, where it is expected that things will not always to go as planned. Students can frequently learn more from an activity that crashes and burns than they can from an easy success. Life isn’t easy, and it is important for students to know that it isn’t the end when make a mistake. The conversations and reflection that can come from an “epic fail” are some of the strongest lessons that students can have. They can analyze what went wrong and talk through the process to help ensure the same mistakes do not happen in the future.
It is important to meet students where they are and know that success is measured in different ways for different students. Students learn best when they are challenged and engaged in the material. High expectations create higher quality work and a better experience for the students. Gently pushing students out of their comfort zone allows them to discover they can do more than they realized. What I find most exciting about teaching is to see the look of determination and excitement on the faces of the students when they finally nailed it after weeks of rehearsals or classes; the “Ah, Ha!” moments, the moment it all clicks and they can make connections. I love to see students discover their potential, and to be able to play even a small part in that is very gratifying.
The notion of educating the whole child and sparking passion in students are concepts that I support and strive to achieve in my classes each day. Exploration, pursuit, and motivation are my framework for success. I believe that fresh perspectives and trying new techniques help schools evolve and grow. In today’s increasingly connected world, it is imperative students are taught to be global citizens and have an understanding and appreciation for people who are different from them. It is important for students to be able to articulate their ideas and communicate different viewpoints. Secondary School is such a formative time for students, and I feel that the arts are incredibly vital to help students gain confidence and learn the collaboration, resilience, and problem-solving skills that will serve them well wherever their lives lead them, both onstage and off.