Musings on teaching theatre

For the last 18 years, my profession has been teaching theatre in high schools. I started at an all girls Catholic School (1999 – 2007) then moved to an urban public charter school for the arts (2007 – present). This is more than a resume blog, however. For the first 16 or so years, give or take, I spent most of my time being resistant to the idea of having teaching be my profession. I was good at it, some said wonderful, but I always fought with the idea of it.

Why?

I had this idea stuck in my head that I was an artist and teaching was not me living up to my potential as an artist. I felt as the years passed that I was getting too old to become that artist, a sense of hopelessness and a time of artistic crisis pervaded my days. After the release of Broken Silences and the many small successes as a writer and illustrator, I began to hit a stagnation as work on theatre piled up. I was building and designing sets at high school after high school, making art in my spare time. Then I had a revelation.

Teaching is my art.

I know it seems like a cop out but in actuality, I had received more from the art of teaching than any art I had produced to date. The success was not in the praise and the publication, it was in the impact of the art. It is always in the impact of the art. “How does the artist’s work influence the next portion of time?” is a question I ask my Art Theory students. Well, I had my profession staring me in the face as just what I described, “Art is an influence on the future that should be considered as an integral portion of it’s own era influenced by the artist’s area (location of origin or production).”

What I considered success I finally realized was the surface of what I always wanted my art to do – influence others for the better. No fear, I am still going to create works of visual art, when time allows, but over the last three years I have sunk myself eyebrow deep into the art of teaching theatre. 

The impact theatre educators can make in the long term is intense. I have seen students from years ago coming back to let me know a single unit of curriculum or a phrase I said in a class inspired them in some way. I have received letters and emails from students I taught recently and long past, thanking me for a life lesson or two that was shared through the art of theatre. This is not an uncommon thing. My colleagues in the theatre teaching world have the same experiences, indeed any teacher who is worth their mettle has like stories.

The long and short of this is simple. Life has brought me to this point. A point where I was searching for a crossroads to take me down another path. As I peered on the tangential highways and byways of my life longing for those paths, I neglected to see the entrances to paths that I had cut for my students and allowed them to find new ways of thinking. It did not occur to me to look ahead and realize I was on a great road to another type of success, one whose chief benefactor is the future.

 

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