When I started my college career, I was determined to double major in Theatre and Secondary Education. Many people, including some of my professors, wondered why I was interested in pursuing such a weird combination of majors. To be honest, I never really had an answer other than I loved Theatre and wanted to continue studying theatre, but I loved education and have always dreamed of becoming a teacher.
In 2014, I successfully graduated with the two majors I came in determined to complete: Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education. However, it wasn’t until I had my name on a classroom door that I realized the power of having a Theatre Major as an educator.
As I am concluding my second year of teaching middle schoolers, I think back to my education and I sometimes believe that I use my theatre background on a daily basis more than the knowledge I gained in my education courses and here’s how:
1. I am a professional at thinking on the fly.
In Theatre, I had to be prepared to improv if an actor around me dropped a line or did not appear on stage when they were supposed to. And that happened a lot! As a teacher, my lesson plans don’t always work (sometimes they may even crash and burn) so it’s extremely important that I find a way to salvage the lesson. Otherwise chaos will ensue.
2. I am really good at making boring things exciting.
Social Studies, especially history, gets an extremely bad reputation of being boring. As a Theatre Major, I was required to act in many Shakespeare plays. Like Social Studies, Shakespeare also gets a bad rep at being absolutely dull. As a Shakespearean actor, I had to find ways to get the audience interested. In my classroom, I have to make sure a group of 20 middle schoolers remains entertained. Rapping about the American Revolution for instance, is a great way to not only look like a fool but also to make the Revolution super exciting!
3. Acting has helped me hide my emotions and try to hide any frustration I may have.
Sometimes I get extremely frustrated and I even want to just lose my cool, but if I lose my cool, I’ve lost the control of my classroom. I’m beyond thankful for the ability to remain calm at all hours of the day in my classroom, even if it’s been a long day, of loud voices, and repeating myself… I may still come out of the day with a smile!
4. I can work on an extremely strict budget.
Being a theatre major, we often had to search through the aisles of Salvation Army and Goodwill over and over until we found some sort of treasure that could be transformed into a costume, prop, or a set piece. If we couldn’t find what we needed for less than $5, we were screwed. In my classroom, I love doing projects but I always remember that I need to work on a budget or work what I have. The Leaning Tower of Pisa, can in fact, be made out of toothpicks. It is also possible to mummify hot dogs to show the mummification process.
5. I’m use to late nights and having a second home.
Most nights, I can’t even recall when I would leave the theatre.. I just remember it was always dark outside. In college, I was a professional at all-nighters and late nights of sewing together costumes that were falling apart or memorizing two page long monologues. 24 hours can only go so far. As a teacher, most days I feel like I live at the school. I’m used to coming in early to finish up some lesson plans and make copies and I’m used to staying up all night and grading papers. The life of a night owl is real and there are still only 24 hours in a day.
6. I’ve learned the importance of working as a team.
I relied on my costume crew when we would be building costumes for a show. I worked long hours with the other cast members to ensure we perfected a scene. I needed my team and I learned quickly that despite our differences, we needed to work together. I’m fortunate enough to work with an extremely dedicated staff to make sure we do anything in our power to help our students. If we didn’t work well together, I couldn’t imagine surviving this life as a teacher.
7. Through my years as an actor, I can understand how to read an audience.
When I would be acting on stage, I would be able to look out at the audience and see if they were having a good time or not. As a teacher, I’ll look out to my audience of students and know if I am keeping their attention. If I notice some heads are down or the constant struggle to keep your eyes open, I know I need to switch it up and fast. It’s important to me to have my students enjoy learning and not being bored to death by another history documentary.
8. I always attempt to find a way to salvage a broken item.
Just this school year, I’ve gone through three tape dispensers, two staplers and who knows what else. My theatre background has taught me that you can fix almost anything. Whether it be a table that you bought with only three legs, a pair of pants with uneven hems or a zipper falling off a dress, you can fix it! So I’ve managed to try to salvage a tape dispenser with toothpicks, a stapler with some super glue, and a couple clipboards with some duct tape.
9. I understand the importance of gentle criticism and the importance of encouragement.
As an actor, many times I would end up crying after a rehearsal because of harsh criticism I received from my director. The theatre world can be tough and as an extremely sensitive person, I had many hard nights of disappointment and frustration. As a teacher, I know my criticism can impact a student. There are times I look back and remember getting an English paperback and a sea of red pen would have exploded all over my paper to fix the many errors I had made. Middle schoolers can get discouraged quickly and it’s my job to make sure my criticism is effective, yet gentle. Middle Schoolers have a hard life of changes and I always try to remember that a “Good Job!” can really go a long way.
10. I can keep a straight face at the most ridiculous times.
When things went wrong on stage, I always wanted to laugh. When the audience would be falling out of their seats laughing, I had to remain stoic and wait until their laughs subsided to continue on. If you have ever work with middle schoolers, you understand how hilarious and blunt they can be. There are moments where I bite my lip, trying so hard not to laugh, because of the responses they give me. “Name a famous explorer.” “Dora!” “Can you call the president and tell him that it is not fair that Rhode Island is such a small state? Why can Texas be so big, but Rhode Island is so small?!” Thank goodness for the ability to keep a straight face.