Theatre Teaching Philosophy
I imagine teaching as an incredible opportunity to share my adoration and enthusiasm for theatre. I believe that the value of drama is not restricted to professional practice but that it permeates the social connections within our daily lives. Drama is a transformative occurrence. My teaching facilitates students’ own conception not only of what theatre is and how it functions, but of the additional possibilities it offers. By encouraging an awareness of how communication that defines and evaluates theatre is formulated, I seek to promote an understanding that social and political forces shape its structure and consumption. I believe it is important that students learn to question and challenge existing boundaries. Classification and categorization are convenient short-hands, but we must remain alert to the inevitable dilemmas they alternately create. The outlying edges of any definition must be allowed to expand and contract with a variety of related concepts. What we explore in regard to the theatre should apply, to a greater or lesser extent, to other art forms and cultural institutions. It is by positioning theatre at the intersection of literature, art, culture, philosophy, politics, socialization, and the individual that we can study it most effectively.
This position furthers students to engage actively with the material as they recognize the relevance of their own lives and ideas. I endeavor to foster a classroom environment where the learning is as transformative as the dramatic experience itself. I employ small discussion groups to ensure each student has opportunities to articulate his/her changing conceptions and include assignments that require each individual to relate personally to the subject matter. In keeping with the performative nature of theatre, I also endeavor to include opportunities for performance regardless of the class size.
Appreciating that students bring a diverse range of learning styles and experiences, I am careful to remain flexible and allow a range of choice in what material is provided for assessment. With PowerPoint presentations, handouts, films, video, music, and hands-on activities, I employ a variety of teaching approaches to enhance each student’s engagement. Although the responsibility for learning remains ultimately with the student, a strong teacher can inspire and encourage the desire and commitment to learn. I believe that the most successful techniques are rooted in listening to the students. By taking interest in who the students are, I am able to tailor my teaching to incorporate valuable parallels and begin to model the process of engaging personally with the subject at hand.
I endeavor to acknowledge and incorporate all student comments – even those that may at first seem humorous and irrelevant. These are often inspired by an intuitive or visceral understanding that can be uncovered with a little interpretation for the whole group. Every comment can be an effective teaching opportunity and students should feel confident that their ideas are worthy of consideration. I believe that my interest in my students is recognized by them and helps to foster an understanding community of learners. Personal interaction with students is one of my priorities. I am happy to meet with students outside of class hours and arrange to attend their group rehearsals. I actively encourage dialogue in person, by phone and in email.
Perhaps even more than a knowledge of theatre, I want my students to develop critical thinking skills along with an awareness and tolerance of the diversity of other learners’ views and processes - skills that will support them as life-long learners.
I am constantly modifying and redefining my approach and methodology.
Each time I interact with a different group of students, I encounter new needs and learning styles. Remaining flexible, I plan and design new exercises to try with each group. My objective is to communicate clearly and engage each student every time I teach. I watch intently for signs of recognition and comprehension. I listen for comments that suggest a comprehension and synthesis of ideas stemming from the material. Most importantly, I rediscover during each class that teaching is a learning experience.