Since 2006, I have been working primarily as tutor and lecturer in drama and theatre studies for FE and HE institutions. I have just come out of full-time education following two years as Head of Drama, Dance & Speech at City Lit in the centre of London.
In 2006, I decided to unload my touring suitcase for a while, and here I settled at Amersham & Wycombe College lecturing Performing Arts at BTEC and A’Level, and then subsequently into Higher Education – specialising in fields of Theatre History, Scriptwriting and most aspects of acting technique.
As a trained lecturer (gaining my Qualified Teacher Status (QTLLS) in 2009) specialising in performing arts, I have a thorough knowledge of educational requirements and syllabi for post-compulsory performing arts education.
Practices I now regularly applies to my work are: sound curriculum planning (formative/summative assessment modes, Schemes of Work and Lesson Planning), Classroom Management and meeting Ofsted/IQER/QAA expectations.
I enjoy working with a wide range of educational levels and is as au fait delivering workshops to year 5s as I am taking full on lectures with 21 year old undergrads. And I am exceptionally skilled at teaching students in their adult years too.
Ultimately, my style of teaching and workshop leading is dynamic, energetic and inclusive. All members of any cohort I work with ‘experiences’ the lesson as much as learns from it – I drive skills development as well as a theoretical understanding of the work being undertaken. Most of all, I personally strive for the learners to be enthused and excited by the new skills they are learning…
It is my personal mission to ensure that every learner leaves my lesson having learnt at least a new method of working plus a new fact plus a new key skill contribution – topped off with a smile!
My background and primary training are firmly grounded in the theatrical performance and production fields as a professional performer, director, playwright, designer, and manager, as well as in education/youth work. In his play, Man and Superman, George Bernard Shaw famously states: “He who can, does; he who cannot, teaches”. I entirely refute this statement; I have worked (and continue to work) extensively in industry, earning respect for my ability to ‘do’; and then, in 2006, I actively made the decision to teach.
As an educator, I continue to develop my industry practice through work and this greatly enriches my teaching. I chose to work in education because, through youth theatre work and as a director, one of my greatest joys is assisting in the development of talent in others. I am committed to the performing arts’ ability to enable exploration, development, invention, creativity and achievement through praxis and artistic contribution. I am a fervent advocate of the Gestalt teaching practice – providing the starting block from which students are able to explore and learn with me; encouraging them to continue independently and furnishing them with the tools to return and challenge me. I find developing performers inspirational – they have an ability to think outside the box (in part because some are not, as yet, contained by a box), and they challenge me and my perceptions constantly. I enjoy this; it makes me strive to inspire them further. I have a driven enthusiasm for, and dedication to, the performing arts (as an educational field and vocation) which has been described by my colleagues as ‘infectious’. It is my intention to infect my students with the same fired enthusiasm and dedication for the performing arts through the duration of their course.
For me, teaching is not just the imparting of vital knowledge and skills; those are given expectations. Beyond the tools, skills, and techniques – through which I will develop their acting craft – the subject provides opportunities for self-awareness, self-discovery and inner-exploration. I see my role, as a tutor and professional, to guide all students (regardless of age, experience or background) through this; cultivating an environment of trust and support. By fostering this, it is my continued ambition that all learners become responsive to their own personal development and growth. Performing arts education should provide a safe environment in which students can take risks, stretching beyond their prior experiences and working with the unfamiliar. Not only risks as performers, but also as individuals: taking ownership and responsibility for their own developmental journey, while also offering support to their peers and colleagues.
The opportunity for discovery begins with the diversity the student group itself can offer. Each student can contribute a wealth of prior knowledge, skill and experience. I promote the sharing of experience, anecdotes and connection with the studied material/skill to open a forum for discussion, dissection and debate. This dialogue enables the group to work collaboratively, but also engages them on a personal level. Directly, this ties in with specific practitioner theories, but it also provides a working ability to explore material to a deeper analytical level and sharing a dialogue in which ideas and understanding can be readily exchanged. In addition, it strengthens interpretative ability and openness to the unfamiliar: allowing for a collective and individual development of imagination, exploration and investigation of topic.
I am a firm believer in the establishment of the ‘Thinking Performer’. I ensure that my students are not only able to apply technique to their work, but are also consciously aware of ‘why’ and ‘how’ they are using them. On the surface, the theories, philosophies and practice of the performing arts can seem somewhat abstract. Many students enter the performing arts because of ambition or out of enjoyment, which can lead to superficial (or un/ill-informed) appreciation of the art form. I purposefully approach my teaching with an intention to acquaint my students with key vocabulary and terminology, concepts and personalities necessary for their continued study in performing arts. As well as this, I widely engage my learners with (at the very least) a basic understanding and enthusiasm for the performing as a vital art form with a rich history and living contemporary relevance. I work with students in building an intellectual application to their physical/practical work: seeking meaning or context to the work being undertaken through research into historical perspectives, practitioner theories, critical and cultural theories enhances the performers understanding of character, place and time. This deepens their ability to not only deliver a playwright’s lines, but also be so immersed in the character’s world and purpose as to appear ‘real’ and informed. Within this, I openly address issues of race, gender, politics, sexual orientation, religion etc. in my delivery where relevant.
To simulate industry practice, I rigorously maintain high artistic standards and expectations. I ensure the workspace becomes a disciplined environment demonstrating key etiquette and attitude striving towards high production values. Students are provided high levels of support in upholding these values and expectations too, encouraging their enthusiasm and dedication towards the higher goals. That is not to say that there is no room for mistakes within their classes.
Performing arts training should be a rehearsal for the real world of industry – a chance to make errors without fear of feeling inadequate. I believe that it is essential to allow for students to make mistakes in the safety of a rehearsal room or studio and ensure that they feel able to explore their mistakes. This is an important element of their learning process: identifying areas they may not be as strong at, and becoming cognizant of areas that require improvement. The skills they are developing do not necessarily have a ‘right’ application to their work – and it is important for students to be allowed to experiment with their skills and work out what works best for them and where to focus in their skills development.
Working with me, any student can expect a strong commitment to their individual achievement and targets for learning. I structure my teaching and lesson planning to allow for progressive acquirement of knowledge and skill, while being flexible enough to explore territories I may not have considered; but that arise in the course of delivery. My own desire to develop and understand my own art form becomes a positive role model for students as they see I am also capable of learning new things and engagaing in the investigation with them.
My teaching practice utilises an array of teaching styles and strategies; in both practical and theory-based/lecture sessions. Whether a lecture room or a studio, my classes are designed and prepared to ensure maximum activity can be used: I am a dynamic teacher; on my feet all of the way through a session and my aim is to involve the students at every step of their learning in the same way. Where it is necessary that one class may require the cohort to be sat down (lecture format, for instance), I strive to ensure they are engaged in the dialogue and contributing to the discussion. It would always be my goal to ensure that their next session would be designed to incorporate more practical activity. Alternative and varied approaches to subject matter will enable the learner to consider the content in a range of ways – exploring their craft through a range of learning opportunities.
I have grown as a teacher, and I am acutely aware of the need to occasionally think ‘in the moment’ when delivering a session. In these instances I have demonstrated an ability to work with new information, materials and exercises, previously unplanned, thereby heightening or altering the direction of the subject at hand. However, my sessions are always designed and prepared for – including a range of teaching aides dependent on the nature of the work-in-hand. Class lectures, for instance, are supplemented by extensive video and multimedia presentations so as to convey the dynamic and diverse visual nature of performance. Handouts, PowerPoint presentations etc are always designed to be not only an in-class aide, but also a reference source for the learner outside of the classroom.
Although they are attending a performance-related course, I firmly believe that all students should be developed in accordance to their preferred learning style and pre-acquired knowledge/skill. As such, grading should not be led by talent and a finished product, but rather graded through process and progress. In doing this, I evaluate and assess students on their participation, contribution and investment into the process; their attitude; their preparation and wider work ethic; their ability to make decisions and work autonomously as well as their collaborative skill. The emphasis is placed on individual learning goals and ensuring an enjoyable journey towards individual achievements.
Many students undertaking a performing arts course have the desire to perform professionally, and this is a motivation I actively encourage. However, I also ensure that learners are aware of the transferability of their performing skills to a variety of employable areas. All students should be given the opportunity to pursue their chosen career path, but there must also be an awareness that, due to the highly competitive nature of the industry, not everyone will succeed. In these instances, it is essential that students are made aware of the alternatives available to them.
Ultimately, my main teaching aim is to steer and assist my learners in becoming solid performers with strong presence, ability and discipline: being industry-ready as professionals in-the-making. This includes strong determination and dedication; wokring hard but also ensuring they play hard too – afterall, it is called play-making for a reason!
I am a professional in my art, and my teaching, but one who is not afraid of developing my own skills. My expertise is always ready for adjustment, and I am delighted when I am challenged by my learners and forced to reconsider my practice. In this way I remain fresh in my teaching, and continually advance my own understanding of an art form I am so passionate about. The vigour in which I am enthused is then transferred to my sessions and, in turn, works towards challenging the students to the high level of expectation required for industry.
Lending my performance skills to telling stories – whether this is as keynote speaker for your big event, or to enchant youngsters and captivate imaginations. Reasonable rates…