Teaching Is A Performing Art

Teaching, proper teaching, is theatrical.

It is a performance that has to pulsate with engagement right from the get-go otherwise it is two-dimensional.

Unfortunately, many pupils are on the receiving end of plenty of 2D teaching.

Sarason (1999) makes the point that teachers have to galvanise their audience and to do this requires real artistry.

Performance-based pedagogy isn’t something teachers in training get to ‘do’ as part of their courses yet learning how to be authentic and take students to another world is key to grabbing and keeping attention.

To be a teacher is a privilege that some exploit to its full potential because it allows opportunities to explore and act out many different roles and to continually rejuvenate the life of the classroom stage.

Then there is the opposite end of the spectrum where teachers ‘teach’ minus the drama.

Teachers need to experiment with different ways of being in the classroom and that means performing and acting.

‘To act like a teacher’ isn’t actually great advice as many simply adhere to stuffy stereotypes about how teachers talk and behave.

We need to think much more about interpersonal skills, classroom presence, classroom atmosphere, group dynamics, teacher’s voice, non-verbal communication, motivation, rapport, improvisation, and preparing for the unexpected (Almond, 2018).

Consciously shaping their voices and bodies involves embodying awareness, presence, poise, confidence, courage and honesty. It involves improvisatory performance skills and a battery of intra- and interpersonal skills. How many teachers get trained to do this?

Using performance-related techniques makes for more effective and affective teaching.

Think about a live matinee performance you have seen at the theatre. It can often be magical and make a long-lasting impression. You come away on a high and comment to your friends that “they have to do that all again tonight”….and they do.

The actors make every performance as fresh, enthusiastic and energetic as the first time they did it. How many teachers do the same?

We have so much to learn from actors because they can teach us about how to use space, how to move and how to use humour to manage an audience and provoke reactions.

They can teach us how to use our voices and bodies creatively to convey meaning and maintain audience attention by changing energy in the room.

If teachers are given the opportunities to learn acting techniques then this could significantly help reduce anxiety and tension in the classroom.

It would help us to cope with the continual need to improvise and be spontaneous.

It would also help us convey enthusiasm and energy, improve behaviour, make lessons enjoyable and memorable and develop productive rapports across the class.

Teaching is a high-energy performance profession and requires teachers with fire in their bellies and smiles in their hearts who know how to engage with their students not go through the motions.

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