Lessons Learned as a Drama Teacher

The Lessons I Learned from Working as a Drama Teacher

In a past post, I spoke about my advice concerning teaching a drama class.  But I haven’t reflected on the lessons I learned about myself personally.

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After thirty-eight years of teaching drama to students of all ages, including adults, here are the lessons I have learned:

1. It is better to take the time to become well acquainted with my students than to hurry into a lesson.  People love to talk about themselves, so I give them a chance to do so.

2. I am punctual.  I like to be a bit early to engagements rather than late.  In the theatre, I was taught, “If you are early, you are on time.  If you are on time, you are late.  And if you are late, you are in trouble.”  Works  for me.

3. I’m organized.  I like to have all the materials I may or may not need at quick access.

4. I over plan my lessons, so that there is more than enough material to cover in case my students zip through an activity or exercise. This helps me keep my anxiety at bay.

5. I still wear a watch to keep track of the time.

6. I carry a water bottle and a beloved large cup of coffee.  I replenish the water bottle many times during a day.  Water and coffee help me to center myself if I find I’m unfocused.  Also, I carry snacks.

7. I dress nicely, but casually.  My mother always wondered my reasons for not wearing a dress to teach.  It’s  simple–I like to sit on the floor with my students, no matter the age.  I find it gives the classroom a kind of closeness that chairs can’t provide.

8. I invest in a good pair of expensive Danskos clogs from time to time.  They are sturdy, last a long time and have enough heel to make me appear taller. 🙂

9. I use my intuition and observation skills during class.  I’m aware of a class’ energy, dynamics and body language.  If a group of lethargic kids enter the classroom, I take the time to re-energize them through a game or merely telling a funny story.  Or, if they arrive too wound up, I will take the time to calm them down.

10. At the same time I am organized, I do enjoy moments of improvisation–those times where the class takes  off in a different direction than where I thought it would go.  It is quite easy to become perfunctory in one’s teaching, especially if one teaches the same subject many times in a day.  Off balance moments keep me alive in the classroom, so to speak.

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11. Over my many years of teaching, I have found students and parents to be much the same. It is the time in which we live and societal norms that make for the changes in their attitude towards their education and its importance in their lives and future.  When I first began my career, parents were very uninvolved in their children’s education. That was in 1979.  Then I became a parent in 1983.  I stayed home full time with our daughters for twelve years. 

12. When I returned to the classroom a parent’s behavior toward a teacher was quite different.  The parents only believed their children and NOT the teacher, an adult peer to the parents.  Times change, however. Recently, I heard someone complaining about the damages of over gifting of trophies to the losing team. He mentioned that over praising children makes for lack of self esteem instead of the opposite. Aha!

13. Theatre is created through an emotional person displaying other emotions. This is not an easy task, especially for kids. Early on, I learned to model the emotion for them which gave them a starting point. Sometimes, the student just needs you to go first.

14. I have believed in and lived my life by the quote, “People of integrity expect to be believed.  If they are not, time will prove them right.”  There are moments in my career when I know I did or said the right  thing even if no one else agreed with me.  I hold myself to a high standard and expect students to do so, too.  Sometimes parents or my administrators seem threatened by this. I hold my ground and it pays off in the end.  I may never receive an apology from the accuser, but at least I can live with myself for doing what was right at the time.

15. I rarely raise my voice with a class anymore.  I find that our students do not respond well to this.  I use a call and echo response technique instead.

16. I like to be on top of my game when I teach.  Teaching a group of different personalities is stressful enough.  I am rested.  I don’t grade papers on a weekend or spend my vacation thinking about the next semester.  There is plenty of time for that later.  If I am given professional time off, I use it for myself.

17. There are some school related details I just don’t remember–deadlines for grades to be in, fire drill               dates,  turning in a class materials list, etc.  Usually, I find another teacher who can keep all of this straight for me. They don’t know I turn to them for this information, but I do.

 18. When I am feeling bored, I usually entertain myself with a store bought lunch or new piece of music or new acting exercise to teach.

19. I use humor A LOT. I lifts my mood.😊

20. I enjoy team teaching.  Recently, I retired from formal public school teaching (I’ll probably teach in the private sector in the years to come.)  I team taught with three different vocal music teachers in musical theatre classes for six years.  Although it takes a while for me to adjust to another person’s style of teaching, I find having another teacher in the classroom completely changes the dynamics and refreshes me more than it frustrates me.

21. I try not to knee jerk at a student’s behavior.  Sometimes I achieve success at this and other times not so much. I still have to remind myself that kids make random behavior choices. Most of the time they are unaware of the consequences of their behavior.  I am very protective of my students, their  learning time as well as mine to teach.  Even after all these years, I remind myself that not all behavior is a direct attack at me.

22. I like to teach!  I think that’s one of the reasons I enjoy directing as well.  It is a kind of teaching.  There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing the “aha” moment in a student’s eyes when they understand and appreciate what I am instructing.

23. I am a better person having been a teacher.  It has brought out the best in me and shown me my weaknesses as well.  I impress myself by how much I know about theatre and can quickly become overwhelmed by how much I don’t.  I think that’s a good sign, though.

After all these years, I can still say I have room for improvement. Not everyone can say that about their chosen occupation.  Can you?

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I’d love to hear from you about what you have learned from your teaching experiences. Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or my website DeborahBaldwin.net I’d love to hear from you!

If you’d like to read about more of my teaching experiences, check out these posts:

https://dramamommaspeaks.com/2016/12/08/how-to-make-your-elementary-drama-class-more-successful-lessons-learned-from-38-years-of-teaching-drama-part-one/

https://dramamommaspeaks.com/2016/12/09/how-to-make-your-drama-class-more-successful-part-two/

https://dramamommaspeaks.com/2016/12/12/how-to-make-your-drama-class-more-successful-lessons-learned-from-38-years-of-teaching-part-three/

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This is Why Public Education is Important

I can give you tons of reasons why public education is important and the reasons to provide it.

But there is only one defense of it that truly matters. Read on.

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My father was a physician.  By the age of twenty-one, I had traveled all over the world (Europe, Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, Soviet Union and Japan).  Consequently, my world view was completely different from my peers.  Just think what a child born into lower economics would have gained from such experiences?

I attended a private womens college.  You want to talk about a microcosm?  Your life becomes the world around you, right?  Honestly, it is easy to forget other people are suffering when your roommate’s only challenge is to get the best tan she can before she travels to the coast for Spring Break.  That was her reality, not mine.

Mine wasn’t as superficial, but I was plenty privileged.  Somehow, I knew so and this awareness serves me well. My father was raised on a farm when he was a child and my mother’s parents were missionaries in Japan.  Plus, they lived through the Great Depression.

There were times my parents were very poor.  Consequently, their childhood’s formed them which in turn shaped mine.  I knew I was fortunate. I was expected to help others, share my bounty and support those who were hurting. I have never forgotten this.

About thirteen years ago, I noticed the ELL students at my middle school weren’t fraternizing with the American students.  This bothered me.  I knew both groups could gain much from each other.  So, I developed an ELL Drama Club primarily to give the ELL students an opportunity to be seen in the school. They performed on the multicultural assembly.  They were so excited and loved every minute of it! It was a tremendous experience for us and one I will never forget, either.

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However, experiencing both public and private schools allows me a viewpoint some privileged folks never have.

I have a good grasp on the importance of public education and the reasons to retain it as our best option for educating our students.

I have taught:

  • at  private and public schools
  • the wealthiest students in a private, very prestigious preparatory program
  • the poorest students in a summer program with city funding
  • home schooled students
  • students in an arts magnet school
  • general drama education class to five hundred sixth graders, seventy-five at a time (for twelve years, I taught 400 sixth graders each year, yikes!)
  • created curriculum for individual courses in Drama from creative dramatics to film making
  • and a mixed bag of other teaching experiences too numerous to mention here.

There is one important reason that public education is vital to our country.

Simply put:

Public education gives everyone an equal opportunity to become educated and to reach their potential. All children and adults have the right to an education if they so choose.  No matter a person’s age or social status, everyone should be allowed to learn to read and write.

We are a varied society, rich in cultures from around the world. This is one of our greatest strengths, don’t you think? Living in a micrcosm of any sort divides us.  This is less likely to occur in a public school setting.

Public school levels the playing field.  There are many students who were born into extreme poverty and neglect only to become some of our most decorated heroes and role models.  In public schools, they can learn alongside students of privileged backgrounds. Generally, privilege gives one choices not easily provided for students with lesser opportunities. Public school gives opportunity to everyone of every economic background. It is that simple. This is why public education is important and the reasons to provide it.

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You can argue until the cows come home about the reasons against public school education, but more than anything it merely comes down to this:

Public education embodies equal rights and provides an equal education and opportunities for everyone. Period.

If you’d like to see my teaching resume, go to: https://dramamommaspeaks.com/resume/ 

Student Survival: The Importance of Pleasure Reading for a Kid

So, let’s talk about pleasure reading for a kid.

Recently, I was looking for a  pleasure reading book to purchase for my upcoming trip over seas. I was having a difficult time finding one. I saw a child who was nearly eating a book while he read it–in the time I looked over one aisle of books, he read three (all right, they were short, but still…)

 

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Some people are selective about the genres they read.  I usually gravitate toward books with quirky characters in ordinary appearing plots. I say “ordinary appearing” because it is always intriguing to find the characters going somewhere else than you expected.

However, I am known to cheat and read the last chapter of a book if a. the story is moving too slowly for me or b. I’m dying to know what happens. When I was a child, my mother would scold me for doing so–still haven’t kicked the habit.  Sorry, Mom.

I worry about kids’ reading preferences. It seems many writers write for whatever trend is popular the time. A few years ago, it was zombies and time travelers. Not every child wants to read fantasy or graphic novels.  That’s why I penned Bumbling Bea.  If you haven’t picked up my book, you might want to try it.  I promise you, it isn’t your run of the mill plot! Check it out here: http://tinyurl.com/n5at3oh

I ran on to an article concerning this concern and I thought you’d be interested, too.

Indie Book

Promoting the Pleasures of Reading: Why It Matters to Kids and to Country

June 10, 2017

Advocacy, Inquiry, Literacy, Reading, Teachingpleasure reading

by Lu Ann McNabb

This post is written by member Jeffrey Wilhelm.

Reading Unbound: Why Kids Need to Read What They Want and Why We Should Let Them was this past year’s winner of the NCTE David H. Russell Award for Distinguished Research in English Education.

The research findings that we report in Reading Unbound have profound implications for us as teachers, for our students, and for democracy.

In our book, we argue that pleasure reading is a civil rights issue. Why? Because fine-grained longitudinal studies (e.g., the British Cohort study: Sullivan & Brown, 2013; and John Guthrie’s analysis of PISA data, 2004, among many others) demonstrate that pleasure reading in youth is the most explanatory factor in both cognitive progress and social mobility over time.

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Pleasure reading is more powerful than parents’ educational attainment or socioeconomic status.

This means that pleasure reading is THE way to address social inequalities in terms of actualizing our students’ full potential and overcoming barriers to satisfying and successful lives.

We think that our data explain why pleasure reading leads to cognitive growth and social mobility.

The major takeaway for teachers is to focus on pleasure in our teaching. Pleasure has many forms: play pleasure/immersive pleasure, when you get lost in a book—this is a prerequisite pleasure and we can foster it in various ways, such as teaching with an inquiry approach, using drama and visualization strategies, etc.; work pleasure, where you get a functional and immediately applicable tool for doing something in your life; inner work pleasure, where you imaginatively rehearse for your life and consider what kind of person you want to be; intellectual pleasure, where you figure out what things mean and how texts were constructed to convey meanings and effects; and social pleasure, in which you relate to authors, characters, other readers, and yourself by staking your own identity.

Kids (like all other human beings!) do what they find pleasurable. You get good at what you do and then outgrow yourself by developing new related interests and capacities.

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Play pleasure develops the capacity to engage and immerse oneself, to visualize meanings and relate to characters. It is the desire to love and be loved. Work pleasure is the love of getting something functional done. Work pleasure is about the love of application and visible signs of accomplishment. Readers engaging in this pleasure cultivate transfer of strategies and insights to life.

Inner work pleasure involves imaginatively rehearsing what kind of person one wants to be. As our informant Helen asserted: “It’s not really learning about yourself, it’s learning about what you could be . . . .” and “Characters are ways of thinking really . . . They are ways of being you can try on.”

Inner work is the love of transformation—of connecting to something greater, of striving to become something more. When our informants engaged in this pleasure, they expressed and developed a growth mindset and a sense of personal and social possibility.

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Intellectual pleasure is pursued for the joy of figuring things out; it develops the capacity to see connections and solve problems. Our informants developed resilience, grit, and proactivity through the exercise of this pleasure. Erik Erikson argued that staking one’s identity is the primary task of early to late adolescence and that this is achieved through evolving interests and competence.

Social pleasure involves this human developmental project because it involves relating to authors, characters, other readers, and the self in ways that stake identity. Social pleasure is the love of connection—to the self, others, community, and to doing significant work together.

This pleasure develops social imagination: the capacity to experience the world from other perspectives; to learn from and appreciate others distant from us in time, space, and experience; and the willingness to relate, reciprocate, attend to, and help others different from ourselves.

In other words, it promotes cognitive progress, wisdom, wholeness, and the democratic project. In fact, all of the pleasures were found to do this.

Our data clearly establish that students gravitate to the kinds of books they need to navigate their current life challenges, and that many ancillary benefits accrue in the realms of cognition, psychology, emotional development, and socialness. So much so that we developed the mantra: Kids read what they need!

 

This finding led us to be more trusting of kids’ choices and to ask them about why they chose to read what they did, and eventually to championing these choices. We likewise found that each of the marginalized genres we studied (romance, horror, vampire, fantasy, and dystopia) provided specific benefits and helped students navigate different individual developmental challenges.

Our data also establish that young people are doing sophisticated intellectual work in their pleasure reading, much of it just the kind of work that the Common Core and other next generation standards call for. So making pleasure more central to our practice is not in conflict with working to achieve standards.

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Standards and all the other significant goals described here can be achieved if teachers value interpretive complexity as much as they do textual complexity, if they create inquiry contexts that reward entering a story world and doing psychological and social work in addition to more traditional academic goals, and if they provide opportunities for choice and meaningful conversation.

Given the benefits of each pleasure, we are convinced that pleasure reading is not only a civil right, it is a social necessity of democracy.

That is why we urge you to promote pleasure reading in your classroom and school, and it is why our book is filled with practical ideas for how to do so while promoting each of the five pleasures. It is monumental work—and it is work we must undertake with the greatest urgency—particularly at this moment in history.

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What are some of your favorite genres to read? Perhaps you have a child who might enjoy reading my book, Bumbling Bea simply for the fun of it.  I think they’ll enjoy it!

Check it out here:  https://www.amazon.com/Bumbling-Bea-Deborah-Baldwin/dp/1500390356/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1516988757&sr=8-1&keywords=Bumbling+Bea

I’d love to hear from you.

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or DeborahBaldwin.net

How Successful Teachers Avoid Common Pitfalls

persuasion speech rubric

A common pitfall most teachers experience is thinking they must create everything for their classes all by themselves. Au Contraire!

So here’s the deal.  If you are a teacher and you haven’t discovered Rubistar4.com, you need to do so pronto!

Like most people, we do our best work when we help each other.  Many years ago when I first began in my teaching career, other teachers were not so keen to help you.

Now we know helping one another is the key to success. I really enjoy sharing with other teachers and having them share with me.  We’re all in this together, right?

Rubistar4.com is a wonderful site with templates for various assignments.  Trust me–this site will save you loads of time and time needs to be on your side not against you.

Here is my persuasion speech rubric, FREE.

Note:  This particular rubric was created at Rubistar4.com and then I downloaded to my document folders.

I created it for college level students in a Fundamental of Speech class.  It could easily be adapted for younger students. This free persuasion speech is just my way of showing support for other educators.

Click here: Oral Presentation Rubric – Persuasion Speech

Keep checking back for other rubrics.

I’d love to know how it works out for you.

The rubric is all encompassing and includes voume, posture, time, notecards, bibiliograpy, manuscript as well as grading the introduction, middle and conclusion of the speech.  There is room for notes in the margin, too. Also, I added a requirement to follow all the steps of Monroe’s Motivated Sequence (Attention; Problem/Need; Satisfaction; Visualization; Call to Action). This was created for the collegel level, but I think it could easily be simplified for other grade levels.

Using other teacher’s rubrics is one way to avoid the common pitfalls of teaching.  There is no harm or sin in using another teacher’s documents provided you give them credit if need.

Remember, we teachers are all in this together.  Until next time.

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or DeborahBaldwin.net

persuasion speech rubric

 

Sure Fire Formula that Works with Classroom Assignments

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If you are a teacher like me, sometimes you need a little help but don’t know where to find it. I’m just like anyone else–occasionally, I need a sure fire grading formula that works with classroom assignments–a time tested answer to my teaching needs. Creating new teaching rubrics is hard and time consuming. Thankfully you are no longer on your own, there are teacher tools available online!

Open the door to Rubistar.4teachers.org

Maybe this will help you…

Click here for a FREE copy. Informative Speech Rubric

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This grading rubric includes elements such as voice, posture, eye contact, introduction, body, conclusion, bibliography, outline, notecards, self evaluation of peers, etc.

So back to Rubistars4.teachers.org…..

Rubistar4teachers.org is a website for anyone teaching who needs

a particular rubric, or grade sheet.

There are terrific templates for just about any assignment you are grading. You can find rubrics for subjects under the heading of oral projects, making products, multi media, science, work skills, math, art and music just to name a few.

And you can custom create a rubric to your particular needs.

Another terrific feature:  Teachers have made their grading rubrics available to you for your use, too! 

I put a grading rubric together last week using the oral presentation template for a persuasive speech for a college level Fundamentals in Speech class I am teaching this semester.

I have many rubrics through rubistar4teachers.org.  If you search my name, you should find them.  If not, contact me and I’ll help you.

In my new teaching positions, I can create rubrics right in the coursework assignments which is awesome.

Boy, has Infinite Campus changed over the years.  This software has been around for at least twenty years, I’d say.  We can do all kinds of things through it such as rosters, coursework, blog, test, attach assignments, surveys, videos and a bunch of other incredible helpers.

I still remember when we used paper gradebooks!  In my third years of teaching, my school called me one summer because I gave a student a B instead of an A as I had informed my student she would receive.

Can you imagine?  I had to go BACK to school and change the grade in the paper gradebook (which we turned in to the office, BTW…) and inform the student.

Now, we can change grades right on line with the click of the mouse!

Check back here often because I have a few other FREE grading rubrics for your use.  

I always appreciate when other teachers help me.  So, I’m paying it forward here.  Hope it helps!

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Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or DeborahBaldwin.net

growth mindset

Strategic Ways to Accelerate Learning: Growth Mindset through the Arts

https://www.edutopia.org/practice/embracing-failure-building-growth-mindset-through-arts

I just love the arts, don’t you?  Did you know they teach growth mind set?   In case you don’t know what growth mindset is:

People believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work-brains and talent are just the starting point.

Amen and amen.

Here’s an article from Edutopia.com about ways to accelerate learning and growth mindset through the arts.  It’s worth a read.

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At New Mexico School for the Arts (NMSA) — a dual arts and academic curriculum — failure is taught as an important part of the journey toward success. Understanding that mistakes are indicators for areas of growth, freshmen learn to give and receive feedback. By senior year, students welcome tough, critical feedback — and even insist on it.

When Natesa, a senior at NMSA, arrived as a freshman, she had a hard time pushing herself in the areas that were difficult for her to master: choreography and getting into character.

“Now, I feel like I can channel my inner self and my inner fierceness when I need it, and even my inner beauty,” reflects Natesa. “I became more willing to take risks, and I think that taking risks is a big part of who you want to become, and who you’re choosing to be.”

Students audition to get into an NMSA program specific to their craft — dance, theater, music, or visual arts. Each day, they have their academic classes from 9AM to 2PM, and after lunch, they have their art classes until 4:45PM.

“Students have to take risks,” says Cristina Gonzalez, the former chair of NMSA’s visual arts department. “That’s something that is so unique to learning in the arts. Great art comes from risk taking, from being willing to fail. Maybe it will work. Maybe I’ll discover something about myself, something about my capacity that I wasn’t even aware of, and that’s so exciting for a student.”

If you want to help your students develop a growth mindset — the belief that they can improve their abilities through effort — helping them become more comfortable with risk-taking and modeling critical feedback through critique journals are two of NMSA’s strategies that you can adapt to your own practice.

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Teach Your Students That It’s OK to Make Mistakes

Making mistakes, not knowing the answer — this is part of the artistic process. “You’re going to make bad paintings,” says Gonzalez. “You’re going to make bad photographs. You’re going to fumble your way through it, and in fact, that’s how you learn. You need to make those mistakes.”

The idea that you learn from your mistakes is embedded into their entire arts curriculum. Teacher, expert, and peer critiques are innate to the arts process. Immediate feedback is part of the norm. You might pause your piano student in mid-rehearsal to say, “When you get here, make sure you get a really clean pedal on the B flat, but that was great. That’s the kind of energy you want.”

In dance class, you might tell your students how they need to rotate their legs differently when taking their demi-plié in first position.

When ninth-grade theater students rehearse their Working in Silence scenes, they perform in front of their peers and faculty, receive feedback from their teachers, and then re-perform the scene to immediately incorporate their feedback.

“Getting to do the scenes a couple different times really helps because then we get to take the feedback and we get to apply it, and that is the whole learning process,” says Kara, a ninth-grade theater student. “If you fail, then you can do it again, and you could make big leaps and bounds and learn from that.”

You can connect risk taking — and helping your students build comfort around it — to their interests outside of school. Gonzalez has students in her class who enjoy skateboarding. She draws connections to risk taking by referencing their experience with trying a new trick. “

A skateboarder knows what it feels like to try a new trick, how scary it is that they actually might fall,” she says. “They could get hurt, and all their buddies are watching. We ask them to do that every day in the art studio.”

With any art form, students can fall into a pattern of doing what they’re comfortable with or what they’re good at doing without risking something new because they don’t want to make a mistake. “It’s our job as teachers to go, ‘Do that new new trick. Go to the precipice,'” explains Gonzalez.

By encouraging your students, you’re helping them to explore their craft and expand their ability — whether they execute a new technique right out of the gate or over time with feedback and practice. Either way, they see that taking risks pays off.

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“Failure isn’t the end of the road,” explains Cindy Montoya, NMSA’s principal. “You learn from failure. It gives you more information on how to do something better. It’s fodder for success. It’s a cycle of either learning about yourself, the content, or your art form.”

Teach Your Students to Appreciate Feedback

Once your students go through the process of applying constructive feedback to improve their work — and once they create something beautiful as a result — they’ll see its value. They’ll learn to appreciate and even want feedback. “Being able to accept critique and not feel hurt by it is an important skill for us to learn,” says Serena, a 10th-grade student. “We’re taking those critiques and learning how to put them to use.”

Creating something, receiving feedback, and revising their work is a natural part of the artistic process that your students can apply toward their academic classes. “The strengths and skills that these artists come to us with are hard work and a willingness to keep trying,” says Geron Spray, an English and history teacher. “They have perseverance, they take constructive criticism well, and they build on it.”

It’s not uncommon to hear students say, “I’m not good at math,” or “I’m bad at writing essays.” An arts education helps students to see that they can improve at their craft with effort. They can become better at math.

They can become better at writing essays. “They start to see that connection between struggling through the practice, getting feedback, going in for help, and the outcome,” says Eric Crites, NMSA’s assistant principal.

“It’s just so great to watch a student go through that process of struggle, have a teacher believe in them, and then at the end, they have a result that they can be proud of,” adds Gonzalez.

Give your students journals to write down the feedback they receive from you. It’s a way for them to store immediate feedback from each day to review and apply later, and it also allows you to model giving constructive criticism. When providing feedback to your students, share both their successes and areas for improvement, and be specific.

“Feedback is fundamental to growing oneself as an artist,” says Adam McKinney, the chair of NMSA’s dance department. “I try to model what it means to provide critical feedback to my dancers.” One way that the dance department models critical feedback is through dance journals.

teaching apple
Throughout class, students write their teacher’s feedback in their dance journal. For example, says McKinney, a student might write, “‘When I’m taking my demi-plié in first position, rotate from the top of my legs so that my knees are going over my first and second toes.’

For me, that next level of cognition — to understand the feedback, realize the importance of the feedback, and then to incorporate that into their bodies — is essential as young artists.”

By giving constructive criticism to their peers, your students will learn to better appreciate receiving feedback and they’ll improve their skills to self-assess their own work. “Having young artists provide critical feedback to each other provides a deeper understanding and another layer of what it means to get better as an artist,” says McKinney. “That critical feedback is essential to improving one’s art.”

NMSA develops students’ abilities to assess their own and others’ work through showing them examples of mastery, equipping them with technical vocabulary, and providing them with opportunities to practice peer critique through fishbowl discussions, Visual Thinking Strategies, and Post-it note critiques (See Mastering Self-Assessment: Independent Learning Through the Arts).

“Our students have learned that they can receive feedback — even negative feedback,” says Crites, “make a correction, and then come up with something amazing.”

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“We develop this idea of self-reflection very early in the department,” adds McKinney. “Why are you a dancer? Why is that important to the world? I know that the power of art saves lives. I have several young people in the department — and who have graduated — who communicate that art has saved their lives, and it certainly saved my own.”

Growth mind set–gotta have it!

The arts saved my life, theatre specifically.  For a post describing how it did so, go to:

https://dramamommaspeaks.com/2017/01/17/how-theatre-saved-m%ef%bb%bfy-life/comment-page-1/

Energize Your Classroom with Laughter

https://www.edutopia.org/blog/laughter-learning-teens-tough-crowd-matt-bellace

Energize Your Classroom with Laughter.  That’s an obvious one to me.

I was perusing various articles on the web and ran on to this one.

Oh my gosh!  This is me all over.  I use humor everyday to reach and engage my students.  If everyone is laughing, they are relaxed and receptive to the material I am teaching.  Plus, it’s so doggone fun!

Read on….

Laughter, Learning, and Why Teens Are Such a Tough Crowd

Laughter, risk, and novelty stimulate the teenage brain. Make these elements work for you by incorporating the strategies and rhythms of stand-up comedy into your teaching.

The teen brain is like a novelty-seeking missile, disengaged one moment, but capable of intense focus and attention when a task becomes rewarding. I believe it was the late Rodney Dangerfield who said, “The audience is like a dog and jokes are like biscuits.” In over 20 years of speaking and performing stand-up comedy for students, I’ve learned that using humor, interactive demonstrations, and even awkward moments are the biscuits that help students sit up and want more.

In the limbic system of the brain, the most important structure for memory (hippocampus) is located near and connected to a structure that helps produce emotions (amygdala). This anatomical relationship ensures that emotionally charged experiences will be remembered better than neutral events. This is the neurological basis for bringing more emotions (hopefully positive ones) to the classroom. In today’s world of decreased attention spans and distracting smartphones, students need all the help they can get to increase retention of the important information you’re teaching them.

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Engaging Teens With Humor

Here are some strategies for bringing humor, novelty, and engagement to classroom activities.

1. A Laugh A Day: You don’t have to be a stand-up comedian to bring one more laugh per day to your classroom. The key is starting with something that you think is funny, but that’s still relevant to the lesson. It could be a quick one-line joke, a bad pun, a funny video from YouTube, or a short story. If it bombs, poke fun at yourself for the attempt and try something else the next time. The best part is that it will spur your brain to look for humor in everyday life, and you’ll start feeling more creative.

2. Use Improv to Spin Classroom Disruptions: Have you ever been in the middle of making an important point and then there’s a loud noise and you’ve lost half the class? It’s frustrating. Well, you can’t stop the disruptions, but you can use improvisational comedy skills to get a laugh out of them. I love it when some weird noise or bell goes off during my program because it’s a real moment that we’ve all just experienced. Comedy comes from relatable events. The next time this happens, try working a comment about the noise into your point and see if you get a laugh. Express your pain over the interruption, and the audience will relate. Over time, you’ll train your mind (and the kids’ minds) to be more in the moment, and the endorphins produced by a good laugh will make getting back on track feel less like work.

3. Bring Students Up: Laurence Steinberg, a professor of psychology at Temple University, showed in a series of studies that teenagers take more risks when they’re in the presence of their peers. When their brains were imaged during the risk-taking activities, they showed an increase in blood flow in the pleasure center, a collection of neurons that activates during rewarding activities. In his book Age of Opportunity, Steinberg writes that teens take risks because that’s how they learn.

You have a unique opportunity in the classroom. If you use interactive demonstrations that allow students to briefly take over the class, you can leverage this built-in risk-taking mechanism designed to foster learning. These interactives don’t have to be funny, but by nature they will create awkward moments, which can be hilarious.

In my assemblies, the goal is to never embarrass the students who volunteer, but rather to amplify what they’re saying or doing. That technique of reflective listening, with some embellishment, can produce laughter. In many cases, I’ll run into students years after they’ve seen my program. They’ve long forgotten my name and face, but once I describe the interactive part of my presentation to them, suddenly it all comes back. It really makes my day when they immediately recite the point I was trying to make. That is emotional learning at work!

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4. Take a Comedy Workshop: I love watching and performing stand-up comedy, but using it in front of teenagers is the highest level of difficulty for getting laughs. If they sense that a joke is coming, you’re finished. In addition, their age limits their life experience, so not even the best mortgage joke will work on them. In my experience, teenagers respond well to brief anecdotes with jokes that they don’t see coming embedded in the story. It also helps when the story is about things they can relate to, like attachment issues (e.g. parents, sibling rivalries) or pop culture. If you’re interested, I highly recommend taking a comedy workshop (improv or stand-up) at a local comedy club. There are even courses online, but nothing beats performing for actual humans. Interacting with an audience will build your confidence for delivering a joke, and it can be a healthy outlet for you.

It’s Worth the Risk

If you choose to bring comedy into your classroom, you risk being vulnerable in front of your class. I believe it’s a risk worth taking, because the payoff will last long after the laughs are gone. Break a leg!

Matt Bellace, PhD

Speaker, Psychologist and Comedian

Dramamommspeaks

Why is the Name of My Blog Dramamommaspeaks? 

You may ask, Why is the Name of my blog Dramamommaspeaks?

I’ve often wondered why I chose Dramamommaspeaks as my blog’s title.

It made a lot of sense to me and still does.

I teach drama.

I am the momma of two wonderful girls.

I talk about both many times in a day.

Plus, it came from my personal email address many years ago. I’m fairly right brained so anything I can do to keep my life organized always helps me.  Having some funky blog name or website name would frazzle me.

I took one of those very serious tests on Facebook.  You know the kind….and it revealed Helen should be my name.  You know what?  My MIDDLE name is Helen.  Spooky.

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I was called Hogan when I was a Girl Scout about a million years ago.  We were training to be camp counselors.  I needed a name for the girls to call me other than my real name.

I remember I liked the TV series “Hogan’s Heroes”.  Why, I haven’t the foggiest idea.  You know how sometimes you remember the strangest things, but can’t remember what you ate for dinner last night?  This is one of those.

I chose my name as I made my bed,  while I was listening to the “Hogan’s Heroes” theme song playing on the TV.  Gosh, isn’t that exciting to know?

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In college my nickname was Coonrad.  Some people even called me Coonie. People liked the nickname so much I was given a raccoon stuff animal in honor of it.

My maiden name is Conard.  It’s German and our ancestor’s names were Kundr.  My understanding is that when my family came to America, the name was changed to make it easier to say and spell.  There aren’t a lot of Conards in the country.  We are NOT Conrads. Ugh.

My students call me Momma B., Mrs. B. and Mother Baldwin.  It depends upon where I am and with whom I am working.  Some students desire the intimacy a nickname gives a teacher, so it’s fine with me.

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I taught the last group of students for six years straight.  Some of them loved theatre so much they took every class I taught progressing through each grade level.  Those are the most beloved students of mine.

Even their parents call me Mrs. B.!  That’s when I know I’ve made an impact on a student’s life.

It doesn’t always occur that a teacher is fortunate to teach a student over many years, but I taught in an unusual public school program for home schooled students.  We saw them once a week for one or two hours for the entire school year.

That isn’t a lot of time, but when you think about how much a child develops over nine months, it is marvelous to observe and be a small part of their lives.

dramamommaspeaks

Most of my good friends call me Deb or Debbie.  I call myself Deborah Baldwin when I speak as an author to separate the author image from the teacher/director image.

Some times people call me Deborah when they are feigning that I am guilty of something.  When you stretch out the De-bor-ah, it has a nice lilt to it.  They usually sing it like a doorbell ringing, “Oh, De-bor-ah!”

My family called me DB when I was a child.  My oldest brother teased me with stressing the second syllable of the word, so it was “DeBORah.”  His name was Kent. There isn’t a lot you can do with his name to torment him and he knew it.  Argh.

Names are so important.  I’ve taught kids with names that made absolutely no sense and those poor kids knew it.  One student was named after a tree in India and another was named after a type of dwelling.   You could always tell they wished they’d been named Mark or John or Allison or Sarah.  My mother warned me to select names for our daughters which they could use their entire lives. That was a good suggestion.  Their names are dignified and classic.

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And now….I’m called Grammie or Grandma.  Whichever name my granddaughter gives me, I’ll accept. She’s only six months old. Maybe she won’t name me those.  Maybe it will be something like Meemaw? (actually, she calls me Maamaw) I suggested  to her mother she could call me Your Royal Highness, but that didn’t seem to go over too well.  I had to give it a try, you know?

Oh well, there’s always the next grandchild…..

Dramamommaspeaks works for now.

If you’d like to know more about me check out how theatre saved my life: https://dramamommaspeaks.com/2018/05/07/how-theatre-saved-m%ef%bb%bfy-life/

Or an interview of me and my book, Bumbling Bea ,https://dramamommaspeaks.com/2017/01/20/authorblogspot-another-author-interview-of-me/

P.S.  The photos in this blog have nothing to do with the theme.  I mean, what do I use for names?  I especially like the cow.  You’re welcome.

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or DeborahBaldwin.net

 

 

 

 

 

girl holding crystal ball

The Unofficial Fortune Teller’s Guide to Becoming a Fantastic Teacher in 12 Steps

 

fortune teller's guide

Here it is—the unofficial fortune teller’s guide to becoing a fantastic teacher in 12 steps. Although, I speak specifically about teaching drama, this post will relate to any teacher.

People don’t ask me for the guide to becoming a fantastic drama teacher.

They never directly ask me. They ask around the question.  I think they are afraid of what I might say.  Teehee….I’m known for being honest.

So they say, “I was thinking I would like to do something in life that uses my love for theatre.” Or “I don’t think I would make it on Broadway, but I’d still like to be involved in theatre and make a living from it.”

They look at me with a smile hopeful for the answer they desire.

No pressure there….

I’m not a fortune teller, although one time for a radio commercial,  I portrayed the fortune teller, Madame Zula, a  wacky woman who extolled important facts about crop fertilizer. (My producer won a regional award for it, BTW.)

You’re laughing, I know.

fortune teller's guide

Although I might think you have the talent to succeed on Broadway, that isn’t something I can promise or even prophesy. Nor can I project whether you’ll be successful as a teacher.

There are many factors which create your success in the field of professional theatre, many of which you and I have no control. Any worthwhile pursuit has the same challenges.

If you listen to many successful performers, they will tell you that some of it is a.being at the right place at the right time b. fortitude in the face of many rejections c. a willingness to do anything and everything to make it happen and maybe d. talent.

Technical theatre artists will share the same experiences with you.  They worked at it.  They created a resume.  They worked for little pay and so on.

Here’s a secret:  If someone tells you it was easy to become wildly successful in a certain profession, (doctor, lawyer, counselor, nurse, banker, actor or teacher) they are lying. 

fortune teller's guide

As your unofficial fortune teller, here is a guide with twelve steps which will help you become a successful drama teacher over time:

1. Attend a college or university with a strong theatre AND education program and enroll for classes in both.  If you desire to teach in a traditional school setting, you’ll need your state teachers license.  Just like many other professions, teachers must study certain pedagogy from basic theory of education classes to student teaching.

The same will be expected of you if you want to receive a theatre degree.  Study as many facets of theatre as you can then you are an easy hire for someone.  If you only focus on technical theatre or performing, you are less likely to be hired in a school or maybe a theatre company.  You want to be versatile.

2. Participate in professional organizations in theatre, drama education and general education.  You need to be versed in the latest trends in all areas.

3. Participate in your school’s productions.  This is such a duh.  Some schools require backstage hours for their performing majors.  My college did, Stephens college, and I am forever grateful to them for this.  I learned heaps.  Some thirty-eight years later, I still use the lessons I learned in my college classes when I teach or direct.

An employer wants to hire someone who is very knowledgeable, not someone who spent all his or her time socializing rather than broadening their horizons.

fortune teller's guide

4. Get involved in a community theatre.  They will welcome you with open arms, because they need volunteers to support their productions– running lights, designing costumes, acting or serving on staff as a stage manager or even a director. Accept the job even if you are not offered a stipend.  Think of the work like interning.

Build your resume with various experiences.

5.  Volunteer your time to a school mentoring students through an after school program or an organization such as Scouts or 4H.  This gives you insight about how best to work with students.  It also helps you become accustomed to their latest social behaviors and slang.  This is invaluable experience.  I can’t stress this enough.

If you can, volunteer for different organizations with a diverse community.  Our classrooms are multicultural.  There is an art to teaching students simultaneously from all walks of life.  If you have never helped a disadvantaged student or an immigrant, you’ll have a  bigger learning curve to overcome.  Their lives are very different from yours and it’s your job to figure out how to support them.

6.  The best teachers are passionate about their subject matter and sincerely interested in bettering the world through teaching young people. So be that!  Please do not become a teacher because you didn’t know what else to do with your degree (or you thought you’d have your summers off-hahahaha!).  There is nothing worse than a bitter teacher. You know the kind who mumble how she wishes she had been a professional actor and are stupidly arrogant? Yeah, we won’t need that kind of person in our classrooms.

Trust me, teaching is difficult enough on its own.  Compounding your classroom challenges with apathy is a crime in my book.

7.  Teaching is rigorous work.  It is very tiring and all consuming.  Unless you’ve had previous experience teaching twenty bursts of energy and emotion all at once, you’ll never understand it. You gotta get in there and try it–at least for three years.     Like those professional actors that you can’t tell are acting, good teachers make it seem easy to do.  It. is. not.

fortune teller's guide

8.  Once employed, although you may think your career has finally begun your education has not ended.  Now, you’ll learn about the inner workings of your school, bureaucracy, policies, regulations, etc.  You’ll  practice becoming more organized, keep yourself healthy,  juggle your professional and personal time, become a shoulder for others to cry on, learn to listen to your superiors and to a student who has lamented continuously for several months to you about their life.  That’s okay.  It’s part of the deal.

9.  You want to be good at teaching?  Buy clothes in your school colors.  Wear them. Buy the school spirit wear.  If your cast buys cast tee shirts, you do so, too.

10.  Attend other school sponsored activities–football games, fundraisers, band concerts and TGIF’s for staff.

11.  Help other teachers and staff members.  Take their lunch shift if you observe a teacher who needs a break.  Take out your own trash for your janitor once in a while and THANK THEM for their work to keep your room tidy.  Get to know your school head secretary.  They can make or break you.  Trust me, if there is anyone who knows the school’s scuttle butt, it’s the head secretary.

12.  Finally, be the teacher you wanted when you were a student.  I liked my teachers who were organized, funny, clever, innovative, challenging, held high expectations and sincere.  Guess what?  I’ve become that teacher, too.

If you look at your life as a journey, you’ll appreciate and accept that any journey takes a long time to prepare, depart, travel and arrive at your destination. Teaching is much the same way.

fortune teller's guide

I promise you, it can be a wonderful journey.

Bon voyage!

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or my website DeborahBaldwin.net

Following me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DeborahHBaldwin

on Facebook at BumblingBea