With Students at Weston High School
We live in a world of escalating ethnic wars and political polarity. For the cycle of violence to end we must learn to hear voices different from our own. Theatre offers a safe arena to explore differences. Through theater we begin to understand another person through stepping into the other’s shoes. When we use creativity to imagine a different way of thinking we discover the humanity of all. As a theater teacher, my goal is to build communities that reveal students’ creative selves and open avenues for dialogue.
Every young person has a story to share. Connecting what I teach with the experiences of students makes dramatic material come to life. One of the tools I use to enable the sharing of these stories is to have students create their own dramas. We also study scripts from different cultures and eras, engage in improvisations, and discuss what we are learning. By drawing on a range of human experiences, from the personal to the foreign, students appreciate the similarities and differences between us all.
Since the best learning happens in a supportive environment, I personally connect with and encourage each student. I create a supportive community by sitting with the class in a circle at the beginning of class and allowing each student to share what is on his or her mind. This allows students to use their experiences in the day to inform the creative process. Within class I encourage a “Yes, and . . . ” approach to others’ ideas. This means accepting every creative idea as valid while adding another idea. When students feel their ideas are valued, creative excellence flows.
For some students drama is the way they learn best, an area where they excel and develop confidence. “I couldn’t talk to other people when I was in middle school,” a high school student named Brian confided to me one day after class. Getting involved with drama helped him come out of his shell. He was now a confident lead actor in the fall play. In the nurturing environment of theater classes, both shy and bold students take creative risks and overcome insecurities. Young people develop confidence in their own body, voice, and insight.
Theater allows us to hear and to be heard. We witness someone else’s story in the here-and-now. We speak and hear a different perspective from our own. We more deeply understand ourselves as connected beings. If I as a teacher assist students in accepting both themselves and the other, I will have accomplished much.