PHILOSOPHY OF TEACHING

When I was a student, the key to successful teaching appeared to be in knowing the answers.  As an educator myself, however, I have found the opposite to be true; it is in knowing and welcoming the questions that allow answers to reveal themselves.   As an educator it is my responsibility to not only provide factual insight but also to enable students to question and apply presented information until its function and utility crystalize.  I strive to maintain that balance by embracing the following guideposts: 

 

                -To foster a positive environment through trust and collaboration

                -To facilitate a mastery of craft through research and analysis

                -To challenge students to rise above the comfortable and embrace the unknown

                -To encourage students to write their own stories

 

Foster a positive environment through trust and collaboration:  This principle is both first on my list and in my order of importance.  It is only through assuring students that the classroom is an open forum free from judgment and condescension that the other principles of education can take root.  Positivity is infectious; it is where guilt of ignorance can melt into thirst for enlightenment.   Theatre is laying your soul bare--it is not just enduring criticism, but inviting it.  The courage to embark on such a journey involves trusting your fellow artists and allowing them to be active participants in the collaborative process.  It is a willingness to try, and this attitude should prevail in class, rehearsal, work, or home.  This ensemble mentality is the key to becoming a lifelong learner and to creating truly great theatre.

 

Facilitate a mastery of craft through research and analysis:  In all professions before one can freely create one must have a basis of knowledge from which to expand.  Oftentimes the best advice is found through the relation of past failures and triumphs: as Paul Gaugin so succinctly put it, “art is either plagiarism or revolution.”  How do you know if your work is one or the other without probing history for guidance?   Of course, this research must always be rooted in the basic currency of our work: the script.  Analyzing the script dictates the amount and focus of research; it is the prism through which all involved view the production.  It is the touchstone of our art.

 

Challenge students to rise above the comfortable and embrace the unknown:  In theatre, actors, like students, have two linked adversaries: the easy and the expected.  Embracing the easy is reductive; it eliminates all the exciting possibilities in existence in favor of the simple and uninteresting.  Keeping students asking questions keeps them from getting stuck in the automatic while expanding their impulses.  Theatre, like life, is about making choices, and teaching is allowing students the tools, freedom, and courage to choose the best ones.

 

Encourage students to write their own stories: At our heart, we theatre artists are storytellers, and our goal and passion is to make stories come to life.   It is critically important to remember that simultaneously we are living our own story, and we have the responsibility to be our own playwright.  Every time you go to work, class, rehearsal, or home you are telling a story; are you driving the narrative or allowing the narrative to drive you?  Education enables us to be protagonists in our profession and environment: to question what is, ask why not, and create what should be.  It is this charge to be active, truthful, and engaged storytellers that mold successful students, teachers, citizens, and artists. 

© 2014 by Tommy Wedge Updated: 11/10/17
 

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