The arts play a necessary role in today’s society - theatre nurtures creativity, confidence, and fosters empathy as artists work together toward a common goal. My studies are focused in musical theatre. My teaching philosophy revolves around helping students to develop a sense of self, while maintaining structure that allows students to become artistic communicators. I believe the keys to producing successful and passionate artists include: providing a strong technical base, encouraging independent thinking, and providing a safe space to fail.
FREEDOM THROUGH TECHNIQUE: In my personal journey as an artist, I have found that my technical training in dance, voice, and acting has offered a form of freedom when exploring artistic creation. Having a strong technical base allows the performer to make safe choices as they explore. By internalizing technique, the performer is also able to focus on the emotion and story involved in the creative process. I urge my students to look at technique in this same way, as a tool for cultivating individual artistry. Coming from a dance background, I believe it is important to produce strong performers who move with their entire body. I find great value in spending time working through technique, and helping students understand what is happening on a muscular and skeletal level in order to make movements happen.
INDEPENDENT THINKING: Teaching students to be free thinking artists with individual thoughts and ideas is an integral part of my teaching philosophy. I believe by empowering students to express themselves clearly and powerfully, we as educators are contributing to their sense of self-worth. Not only is this an important life skill all students should take with them as they enter the world, but it is a valuable asset for an actor walking into an audition situation. I encourage students to create strong, physical, character choices and motivate movement in a way that speaks to them. Giving students opportunities of choice and empowering them to make strong decisions manifests itself in performance, and gives the student a basis for future performance decisions.
SAFE SPACE: Equally as important as teaching free thinking or cultivating strong technique, a student should be given a quality learning environment in which to explore their craft. A quality learning environment is a place where the student feels safe - a climate of respect, trust, and leadership. Students should feel free to form their own opinions and ideas without the fear of being judged. As artists it is important to have a place to fail, and learn from our mistakes. In my classroom failure is never the end, but rather the beginning. I feel strongly that students learn more from, and will listen to, an educator who values the open exchange of ideas. It is important to provide an open educational environment where artists feel free to be their whole selves. I encourage students to give their feedback, and I listen to what that they have to say. Cultivating a learning environment of mutual respect teaches students to lead through example, to be respectful and responsible theatre artists.
My philosophy in teaching is not entirely my own; it is influenced by those who taught and inspired me. As I continue to explore being an artist in the world, I am more adept at responding to the questions and needs of my students. While I continue to grow as an artist and teacher, my techniques may refine and change but my philosophy on teaching will remain true. As an educator, it is my mission to create strong independent artists who are confident and find power within themselves.
Equity - Diversity - Inclusion
Education that is accessible to all students can only be achieved through valuing diversity, equity, and inclusion. But what does it look like to support diversity in the classroom, or to carry those actions further into the world? I would like to take a moment to highlight two ways in which I strive support diversity, equity, and inclusion in the classroom:
Decolonizing my curriculum.
Creating a climate of respect.
As a theatre educator, I strive to explore material that broadens my students' mindset as well as material that students from a variety of backgrounds can relate to. This is where my continued education is important - as I grew up learning through a eurocentric point of view that is still prominent. I aim to include the history and background of the material taught in class - that may look like the authentic origins of a specific dance step, the lived experience of a composer or writer, or highlighting stories from underrepresented communities. To combat the eurocentric focus placed on musical theatre education, I make every effort to:
Diversify educational materials and content.
Teach to learning outcomes that address and support empowerment.
Involve students in the creation of content, and curriculum.
Create assessments that allow students to demonstrate knowledge in diverse ways. (i.e. demonstration of knowledge through individualized creative projects vs. traditional essays/tests).
CLIMATE OF RESPECT:
A climate of respect is a classroom where all participants - students and educators - demonstrate empathy for one another:
A space where emotions are acknowledged and not ignored.
A space where discussion is respectful and encourages both listening and understanding.
A space where students feel free, and comfortable, to share their lived experience.
A space where collaboration is explored so students can learn from each other.
To cultivate a climate of respect, I implement community building activities into the class structure. An integral part of these community building activities is the uses/introduction of pronouns. Addressing one another with our correct pronouns is directly connected to respecting each other. Community building can simply be “getting to know you” activities, or more in-depth discussion based activities that tie students' life experience to the material being covered in the classroom. In either form, students create bonds and explore empathy through shared and differing experiences. Leaving time for student centered affirmations can also add to a climate of respect. A quick check-in at the end of class where students “shout out” another student's work/growth adds to continued community building and mutual respect.
Representation matters, and I believe it is important to bring in artists with cultural connection to the material being explored. My classroom is just a small piece of the puzzle when looking at the larger picture - diversity, equity, and inclusion must be valued on a systemic scale to have a greater impact. I aim to be one part of an educational community that works together and strives to make education accessible to all students.