“The direction of the journey is more important than the size of the steps.”
As an educator, I strongly believe in process over product. Every student learns differently and will have a different aptitude for the subject matter. Therefore, my main goal is to help each individual student reach his or her maximum potential. Any growth that a student shows is a sign of success, no matter how large or small that growth may be. Not every student who leaves my classroom will turn into a Broadway star, but the students will leave with a sense of accomplishment, knowing that each step they took was in the right direction.
When I look back at my own educational experiences in middle school through high school, I remember what a trying time it was for me and for my peers. This is the age where students start to figure out who they are and possibly what they might like to do with their lives. Many times, the students feel as if they are not listened to and ignored. However, I recognize that they do have important things to say and share and in my classroom, I see the students as young adults with imaginative ideas. I feel it is my duty to give a voice to each student, including those who feel silenced, to raise those up who feel defeated, and to create theater to educate and inspire. I want to foster their creativity and build up their self-esteem during such a difficult time in their lives.
My classroom is a place of learning as well as a safe-space where the students can grow, share and take risks without blame or judgment. Intolerance, disrespect and ridicule are not allowed. At the beginning of every year, this is stated clearly. In a class that is so based off of trust, growth and progress can easily be stifled by even the smallest disrespectful comment. I want my students to feel safe and to be able to speak freely in my classroom. This can only happen with the cooperation of each of the students as well as with my guidance. It takes time to foster that sense of trust, but once it’s there, the bond is lasting and essential.
Theater is a wonderful subject to teach, because it plays to the strengths of many as opposed to the strengths of a select few. Not everyone learns through reading and writing. Some students show their strength through music or movement or problem solving. As a theater educator, I try to create assessments that play to all of those strengths. A student may not be the best at monologue work, but will be able to show their strengths through a unit on Viewpoints or a class dedicated to Laban Movement Technique. When a student hits his or her stride, it is not only apparent, but a wonderful thing to watch.
Every student can succeed in my classroom as long as they show up and work hard. If they do both of those things, they are guaranteed to grow not only as a theater artist, but also as a community member. Theater is about collaboration and working together. Just by attending class, their interpersonal skills will develop and mature. They will learn to become better listeners, they will learn how to think critically and they will learn the importance of being an active and caring classmate. These are skills that they can carry on after their education is through, whether or not they decide on a career in theater. Again, even a tiny step in this direction is a valuable step.
Throughout my education as an actress, I have learned many styles of theater from the traditional to the non-traditional and from Western to non-Western. From this varied background, I like to create diverse curriculum plans to show the students the limitlessness of the theater. This knowledge will make them well-rounded theater artists and will open and expand their minds to cultures and possibilities they never would have learned otherwise. It is important to teach students things outside of their comfort zone or general base of knowledge and in my classroom, I do just that.
Teaching is not just a profession; it’s an art form. As such, I work hard to keep my knowledge of the theater and education always growing. While I am a teacher, I am and will always be a student, willing to learn new things and open to new ideas. As I tell my students to show up and work hard, I live by those rules as well. I strive to set a good example and to grow as a theater artist and educator. My work is never done and I am more than happy to keep working towards my own goals. It gives me a purpose and a meaning in life to see the development of my students. And, like my students, I may not always make the biggest steps but I know that I’m going in the right direction.