As I am currently in the midst of visits to the theatre and performing arts nights with many of my students, I thought I would blog on the value of seeing your students in a different light.
I pity the teacher who only gets to see his/her students from the other side of the desk and rarely goes on excursions. Recently I have gone to the theatre with my senior Drama students (another one next week) and sometimes I just drift away in the theatre and think about how fantastic my senior students really are. Sure, I set a few ground rules at the start and go over them again from time to time, but seriously, it’s just procedure, because I could get hit by a bus an hour before attending the theatre with my students and all would run like clockwork.
Before every excursion to the theatre, I remind my students briefly of my expectations in advance. But more importantly, after returning from each excursion, the next day in class I also make a point of not forgetting to praise them for their maturity and good behaviour. As Drama teachers, we should not take for granted the fact that our students may behave like proper young adults in the theatre, because if you’ve ever seen the oppposite….! My students now come back to me in Drama with wicked tales of misbehaving students from other schools at matinees of Shakepseare performances and concerts from Literature and Music excursions, alike. It’s not said cockily, but more in the sense of being proud in that they have been taught this is not how one should behave in the theatre.
My students know all too well I often wear my heart on my sleeve, but there is rarely a moment when I am not proud of taking them to the theatre. It’s all based on trust and mutual respect for both theatre as an art form and between student and teacher. I can (and regularly do) trust my students to sit wherever they like in the theatre. I don’t have to be sitting under their armpits all night for them to take it seriously and behave properly. It’s simply an expectation that is never questioned.
Last week Avila ran our annual performing arts extravaganza, run by the Head of Music. It’s a three and a half hour night full of music, drama and dance on a chosen theme with over 400 performers from all year levels, before a full house at Robert Blackwood Hall, Monash University. Because this night is as much about access as it is excellence, it is a fun-filled night full of laughs and celebration.
It is backstage and in the wings that a Drama teacher gets to see the other side of his/her students. Kids discussing their item with you (knowing full well you’re a Drama teacher and will know nothing about their classical music item), the MC’s cracking a joke to the audience about your colourful daily wardrobe at school (so I like bright shirts, where’s the sin in that?), more jokes left, right and centre between teacher and students backstage, a quick listen to a new track on a student’s iPod and then it’s back again to putting on a funny wig or wearing someone’s costume for a bit etc. Yep, I know, I was meant to be one of the adults there on the night. Mmmm….well at least I had fun! In the process, I got to enjoy some time with students and see them in a different light outside the classroom.
I believe for both teacher and student, seeing each other in a different light helps each party respect the other more when it comes to classroom activity and work back at school. For the students, they think their teacher is ‘human’ (although some of mine still question whether I have ‘a life’ or not – as I always say, ‘well if I didn’t run this theatre website’….).