Directing Oklahoma

Top Seven Reasons Drama Education is Important to Your Student, Part 2

This is a two part series.  Click here for part one: https://dramamommaspeaks.com/2016/09/20/top-seven-reasons-drama-education-is-important-to-your-childs-life/comment-page-1/

Drama Class:

Teaches creative problem solving—In the best-selling book A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink writes,”In short, we have progressed from a society of farmers to a society of factory workers to a society of knowledge workers. And now we’re progressing yet again—to a society of creators and empathizers, or pattern recognizers and meaning makers.”directing-oklahoma

Oklahoma! First read thru–Presser Performing Arts Center  July 2009

When a group of students tackle any problem and solve it together using their imaginations to project an outcome and then produce it, they are incredibly valuable. I have the honor to work with some of my students for nearly six years.

They are very adept at creative problem solving. Recently, my co-teacher and I charged our musical theatre students with the task of creating of the wall, dying trees and flowers with their bodies in our production of the musical, Secret Garden.

Without discussing it very much, the students twisted and contorted themselves to make the atmosphere we intended.  We complimented them and they beamed with pride.

Through creative problem solving, we stretch the boundaries of what can’t be done to what can be. Voila!  Besides, creative problem solving makes one happy.

Lastly, drama is just plain fun!  Teachers know that humor helps students learn more efficiently.  We are joyful when we are relaxed.  When we are relaxed, we are more likely to learn. Through studying drama and performing, we laugh, poke fun at ourselves and develop a kind of camaraderie with one another that is rarely experienced anywhere else.

We create a strong bond that isn’t easily splintered.  Some of my best friends have come from working on a production together.  My play production experiences are the some of the greatest memories I have of my life.

Several years ago, a professional actor and director-friend of mine remarked that, “Theatre is history, psychology, sociology, anthropology, music, dance, art all wrapped into one.”  He’s right.   It makes us more human by “playing” at being a human. Where else can you find that?

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Check out part one here: https://dramamommaspeaks.com/2016/09/20/top-seven-reasons-drama-education-is-important-to-your-childs-life/comment-page-

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

I’d love to hear from you!

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.

teaching-on-the-floor

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.

    directing-oklahoma

  11. Over my many years of teaching, I have found students and parents to be much the same. It is the times 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.  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!

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17.  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.

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

  19. 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 that having another teacher in the classroom completely changes the dynamics and refreshes me more than it frustrates me.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

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

Middle grades drama class

How to Make Your Drama Class More Successful –Lessons Learned from 38 Years of Teaching-Middle School

This is a three part series.  This is part two of it.

Click here for part one and part three:

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

presser-kidsTwo of these kids are in middle school and two are in high school.  Can you tell the difference?

Novice drama teachers ask me what is my secret to success in the classroom. How do I make my drama classes so successful? Heck, I don’t know really.  I’m intense, have high expectations of all my students, energetic and enthusiastic about the subject matter.

Secondary level students, especially middle grade kids are a whole different bird than elementary.  It isn’t only their maturity level that sets them apart.  Obviously, their physical stature comes into play.

Every body part is changing rapidly.  In ninth grade, our daughter went through a different size of jeans every three months–one time this size, the next time a smaller size, the third time back up a size and needing a longer length. Around and around we’d go.

And boys?  It’s a little easier to spot their changing than the girls.  I’ve known many a young man who was a scrawny seventh grader grow to become a muscled ninth grader.  Prior to the maturing, the poor boy appears frantic that he won’t grow.   Then, whoosh! He turns the bend, grows four inches and carries a look of relief while developing his personal swagger.  I don’t blame him.  I would, too!

It’s the emotional quotient which divides them from the younger students. Think about when you were in seventh grade.  Oh gosh.

I was all over the place-confused, weepy, , silly, snotty and arrogant.  Remember my mother was quite ill by the time I was ten years old and I hid any negative feelings I felt because I didn’t want to exacerbate her health issues with the stress of raising me.

So what do we do in theatre classes?  We plop these smelly, sweaty emotional bursts of energy on a stage and ask them to show their feelings.  Yikes!  As if identifying their own emotions wasn’t difficult enough, we expect them to demonstrate someone else’s.

mahogany-et-al

Here are a few pieces of advice when teaching middle grade students:

  1. Give every one an opportunity for success every day.  Generally, this can be achieved through a warm up exercise that has no apparent “winner”.

  2. Help those students who are the loner type.  Assign them to a group of students who are welcoming and kind.

  3. Do you know the “smile and nod” technique?  It is difficult for someone to say no to you, when you are smiling and nodding. Middle school students can be very disagreeable. Try to smile and nod with your request.

  4. Give plenty of time for homework assignments.  Students this age have a difficult time making priorities. Ample reminders and extra time that you have built in to the assignment (they don’t need to know this) should help.

  5. Be sincere with them.

  6. Be very organized and prepared for class.

  7. Be trustworthy.  They don’t like to be tricked and can tell when they are being manipulated.

  8. Play fairly.  If you say, “Everyone will have a speaking part in our play” you better come through on that promise.  They will hold you to it.

  9. Provide many hands-on learning experiences.  They need to get up and move around at this age.

  10. Establish class expectations right from day one which includes boundaries as middle school kids will test your limits.

  11. Teach respect through positive criticism.

  12. At the same time, be careful not to over praise them.  Over praising doesn’t help anyone to grow.  Research has found the opposite. Always have high expectations. They will raise to them if you first believe in them doing so.

  13. Use side coaching when directing or instructing.  Like a sport coach, the students will more readily accept your corrections of them if you phrase your correction in threes–a compliment, then the correction and end with another compliment.

  14. If you have a reluctant learner, note the smallest positive attribute you see.  By merely noting it, over time the student should open up to you and trust you.

  15. Fear and humiliation play huge roles at this age.  My advice: make a fool of yourself and laugh at yourself A LOT.  Teach your students how to do the same with themselves.

  16. Kids of this age are very sensitive about their clothing and hair.  Never comment first on either.  Let the student first mention it to you then you can say something.

  17.  At the beginning of each class allow a few minutes for sharing.  Some students always have something exciting they want to share with the class. It could be something as simple as a girl went shopping at the mall with her bestie. That means everything to her. Other students who don’t share might divulge something if you can ask the right questions of them.  Rather than, “How was your weekend?” try “Tell me about something exciting or unusual that occurred over your weekend?” Many students never have an adult listen to them.  You can be their listener.

  18. Be on your game. Students of this age are melodramatic, hyper focus on themselves and can change on you in a moment’s notice.

  19. You have a very lasting effect and influence on middle grade students.  Not only are they learning from you, they are observing you in the classroom and around the school.  They love with their whole heart, so take good care of it for them.

  20. In any situation whenever possible,  temper your true feelings and always think of the middle grade student first.

If you haven’t noticed all ready, I didn’t discuss the actual teaching of the classroom on this post.  Generally, everything I suggested with the elementary students will work with middle grade students.  But the biggest challenge will be their emotional growth at this moment in their lives.  If you can master how to ” ride the tidal wave” with them, you will most surely succeed.

bethany

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

I’d love to talk with you.

 

Goodreads Giveaway 

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Dear Dance Student, I Recognize You from a Mile Away

This is a four part series of posts (this is the second). Check out one, three and four here:

Dear Drama Student, I Recognize You a Mile Away

Dear Music Student, I Recognize You a Mile Away

 

I love arts students. They are fun to be around and never fail to entertain you, that’s for sure.  Honestly, they are pretty easy to spot. These are generalizations and just for fun, to be honest. I asked for a little help from the people who know–teachers, artists, dancers, musicians and directors. Let’s see if you agree with us.

hip-hop-dancer

Dance students: (Thanks to Keturah Grunblatt, professional  director of operas and choreographer)

  • have a natural turn out when they walk
  • are poised
  • have erect posture
  • are always moving, dancing, stretching
  • girls can put their hair in a bun in record time, in fact their hair is always swept up
  • hear a beat to anything and dance to it–the washing machine, hammering on a set, slamming of lockers
  • sit like large dogs, with their legs all folded up underneath them
  • a knowledge of classical music
  • unnatural stretching,
  • health conscious appetite at a young age
  • wear form fitting clothes
  • look at their image and check themselves in any window reflection or mirror

 

dancer

 

Generally, if you are an arts student you are involved in one of the other arts as well.  These kids are very busy and like it that way.

What is most interesting about arts students is their popularity hierarchy within themselves.  If a guy is a tenor and he can sing as high as a female, that makes points for him.  The same goes for a girl who can climb a tall ladder and focus a light on a set.  If you are first chair violinist, you are popular, too or at the very least, respected. If a guy is a bass singer and he can dance, that’s another biggie.  If a girl can tap the heck out of a combination, you are considered “cool”.

However, if you are too serious about your art, the opposite is true.  Although revered, your friends may not even think to invite you to social events because they assume you are more interested in dancing or rehearsing than a pizza.

And anyone who is comical or can make everyone laugh automatically accrues popularity points no matter which art form they love.

Like most interests, there is a fine line to balance.  What is too much and what is not enough?

I appreciate this hierarchy somewhat, because it makes room for everyone in the arts. This popularity has nothing to do with beauty or brawn.  It’s all about talent and hard work. Everyone is an artist if they allow themselves to be.  Look for them. You’ll see.

Which art do you enjoy the most?  I’d love to hear from you.

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

Purchase my book, Bumbling Bea on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Bumbling-Bea-Deborah-Baldwin/dp/1500390356/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
Information on this website may be copied for personal use only. No part of this website may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise, except as permitted under Section 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without the prior written permission of the author. Requests to the author and publisher for permission should be addressed to the following email: jadeandoak@gmail.com.

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Dear Drama Student, I Recognize You a Mile Away

This is a four part series of posts (this is part one).Click here for the other posts:

Dear Dance Student, I Recognize You from a Mile Away

Dear Art Student, I Recognize You a Mile Away

Dear Music Student, I Recognize You a Mile Away

I love arts students. They are fun to be around and never fail to entertain you, that’s for sure.  Honestly, they are pretty easy to spot. These are generalizations and just for fun, to be honest. I asked for a little help from the people who know–teachers, artists, dancers, musicians and directors. These are just tongue-in-cheek descriptions.  Let’s see if you agree with us.

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Drama students: (mine)

  • are expressive and look  for a “stage” everywhere (Our daughter used our front porch, small kitchen between the sink and the stove, the four and a half feet right in front of the television and even  performed at the end of  our bed.)
  • carry their script with them wherever they go and practice any time they can find or even when they are told not to
  • girls wear stage makeup as their street makeup, defending it because “It is the BEST quality makeup ever made!”
  •  everyday clothes are a kind of character–they like to make a statement (it could be a logo from a musical or maybe their current show shirt or a vintage skirt from the fifties)
  • perform an audition for you even when there are no auditions ( actors are always “on”)
  • speak as different characters, use accents, change their posture and gait to suit the character they are performing at whim
  • carry several plays to read whenever they have a chance or even when they are told not to
  • speak as different characters, use accents, change their posture and gait to suit the character they are performing at whim
  • carry several plays to read whenever they have a chance or even when they are told not to
  • lug around character shoes, rehearsal skirts or jackets, pencils, hi-lighters, water bottle
  • techies’ pockets carry nails, glow tape, screws, hot glue gun, left over gels for lighting equipment
  • clothing  is splattered in a recent set’s paint colors and left over saw dust is permanently engraved in the creases of their jeans
  • own A LOT of black clothing
  • change their hair color several times each year–usually something bright and bold
  • many love literature or language arts class (that only makes sense)
  • look at themselves in any window reflection or mirror whenever there is an opportunity
  • LOVE attention

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White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, Jr.
These kids are very busy and like it that way.

What is most interesting about arts students is their popularity hierarchy within themselves.  If a guy is a tenor and he can sing as high as a female, that makes points for him.  The same goes for a girl who can climb a tall ladder and focus a light on a set.  If you are first chair violinist, you are popular, too or at the very least, respected. If a guy is a bass singer and he can dance, that’s another biggie.  If a girl can tap the heck out of a combination, you are considered “cool”.

However, if you are too serious about your art, the opposite is true.  Although revered, your friends may not even think to invite you to social events because they assume you are more interested in dancing or rehearsing than a pizza.

And anyone who is comical or can make everyone laugh automatically accrues popularity points no matter which art form they love.

Like most interests, there is a fine line to balance.  What is too much and what is not enough?

I appreciate this hierarchy somewhat, because it makes room for everyone in the arts. This popularity has nothing to do with beauty or brawn.  It’s all about talent and hard work. Everyone is an artist if they allow themselves to be.  Look for them. You’ll see.

Which art do you enjoy the most? I’d love to hear from you dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or DeborahBaldwin.net

Purchase my book, Bumbling Bea on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/Bumbling-Bea-Deborah-Baldwin/dp/1500390356/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or Bumblingbea.com
Information on this website may be copied for personal use only. No part of this website may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise, except as permitted under Section 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without the prior written permission of the author. Requests to the author and publisher for permission should be addressed to the following email: dhcbaldwin@gmail.com

 

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