Teaching – Sailing & Navigating Through Change

This year I began teaching at a new school. I have just finished my first term. This is the first time in my career as a teacher that I have moved on from a school. I wanted to use this blog post as an opportunity to reflect on this “transition” as I have called it.

Preparing to Set Sail

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I feel I have been living this transition for some months now. It was late last year that I had to make the decision to accept an offer of moving to a new school.

I was ready to move on. In terms of the goals I had set for myself, of which most were Drama orientated, I felt I had achieved all that I could. I’d started a Drama Club, put on several Drama productions, produced the first musical at the school in many years, entered the kids into Drama festivals, competitions, sent them off to camps and auditions and just generally improved the profile of Drama within the school to something that now resembled respect. There was a solid foundation that someone new could come in and do something with.

Admittedly I was also a little burnt out and really wanted to focus on my classroom practice. Yes, I had survived the tumultuous first three years of being a new teacher but so much of those first few years had seen me focus on things outside the classroom that I felt as though the quality of my teaching had suffered at times.

My school was an absolute culture shock with its challenging students and constant loneliness due to my being the only Drama teacher in the school. I chose to swim rather than sink however, searching for every possible positive opportunity I could. I joined committees, became the Peer Mediation Co-ordinator and Year Adviser which, aside from every Drama thing I have achieved, is probably my biggest achievement and the most rewarding thing I have done as a teacher to date. I learnt about PLN’s and the power of Twitter and blogging and from there my teaching world opened and it was time to look for a new experience. I wasn’t an island any more. I had built a small raft and I wanted to try it out.

I had grown personally as well, outgrowing some things and growing into others. I became much more confident and comfortable in myself and who I was, no longer anxious, stressed and flighty.

Life however, takes you on its own path. Most things are beyond your control so I wasn’t sure when or what my next opportunity was going to be. I put a tentative plan into place and was happily working towards that. Of course, that is when life throws you its curve balls and forces you to make difficult decisions.

It was the most difficult decision I had had to make in some time due to, what seemed at the time, as really crummy timing.

To a degree there is still a part of me that feels enormous guilt at leaving some of my students behind, particularly my year group. I’m an emotional person. I became incredibly attached to them. Honestly, I felt somewhat mother-like and I had never experienced such appreciation from people whom I had shown genuine care for who weren’t my family or friends. It was overwhelming. My final term was bittersweet and very emotional for everyone, staff and students. Some of my most treasured memories that I will hold dear will certainly be from that time. I went from hating this school to struggling to leave. I never would have expected that in a million years when I started.

Sailing the High Seas

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I was familiar with my new school, having gotten to know some of the staff from the faculty through TeachMeet’s. One is now a very dear friend. Having a person to support me through this time made it a lot easier but also I was just much more confident in general because I now had experience under my belt. I knew what questions to ask, I knew that it would take time to get settled so I was patient with myself. Starting at the beginning of the year was also a massive plus! It’s amazing how much more structured school orientation programs for new staff have become.

I was most nervous about my senior classes. Having been in the school system a long time, they knew how to push buttons and also to let you know, very honestly I might add, as to what they expected from you. They wouldn’t let up until they thought I had earnt it either!

It was difficult not to make comparisons early on, something I was very conscious of, and still am because I didn’t want it to seem that my previous school was any better or worse than where I was now.

Treading Water

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I still feel as though I am settling. The transition is ongoing and will be for a while yet. I am in a bit of a lull on my raft. It doesn’t quite know which direction to go in because the wind hasn’t picked up yet. This does frustrate me because I am quite “gung-ho” when it comes to my work. I like to get in there and get my teeth stuck into things. I’d say my job forms a significant part of my identity and that without it I am lost.

In saying that too though, it has been good to reflect and to take time to think about where I want to go with things in terms of my teaching.

To be honest, I really don’t know. To a degree I don’t miss all the extra responsibilities and absolutely love being able to focus solely on my classroom practice. In the same breath, I do get bored easily.  It also seems, although most teachers won’t say it openly, it is expected that you take on something additional to that of your classroom responsibilities which I don’t mind doing, I just don’t know what to do. I don’t want to repeat what I’ve already done because I’ve done it. If you catch my drift.

The vastness of the ocean in front of me with no markers, no islands in sight, makes me uneasy. What do I look out for? Or do I just wait for the wind to carry me where ever? Part of the latter intrigues me but my controlling nature makes me want to have a larger degree of influence on my raft’s direction.

Yet, that’s life isn’t it? I don’t know where I am going with this whole teaching thing but I’m on my way to a new island and the unknown adventure is a little exciting but mostly completely nerve-racking. Everyone wants a little certainty right? At this stage I feel certain of nothing but I’m learning to sit quietly on my raft with that uncertainty by my side, getting better acquainted and trying to navigate this vast ocean together.

Photo Credit: Fiji 2014 by karlao

Free Resources

So, it’s that time of year when many of you are preparing for your classes next year.

There is a lot of programming and resourcing happening.

I always like this time of year for that reason. The anticipation of a new year, new group of students and a chance to try teaching things in a way that you haven’t before.

A couple of times on the blog I’ve offered my programs and resources. I’m more than happy to do it but now I’ve found a more efficient way to do it. So many people were asking for copies of my programs and such and I was emailing so many different people at different times I was becoming confused as to who I had or had not sent things to!

So now, there is one central place where you can find PDF’s of the resources, programs, scope & sequences I have created and used. Just check out the Resources tab at the top of the blog. My first addition is my Stage 6 Approaches to Acting program that I wrote about a little while ago. I’ll keep adding things over time. Also, let me know if the viewing/printing quality isn’t too crash hot. From the test I did it was looking a little pixelated.

I hope you find it useful. Enjoy the last few weeks of term.

The World’s Biggest Theatre Ensemble’s Debut!

I’ve posted about the World Theatre Video and the World Theatre Day projects before (here and here) and today I wanted to share with you our first video for the project. Performers were given one of the hardest monologues in the English language – Hamlet’s “To Be or Not To Be” monologue from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Already I can see huge improvements from our initial video back in March in terms of performance quality and cinematography. All the performers have done a tremendous job.

I have been presenting at a number of TeachMeets in Sydney spruiking our project in the hope of getting more schools involved. It’s definitely getting a lot of positive feedback so hopefully more young performers will get involved.

This month, November, we are looking at Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem The Raven. It is another challenging piece so the more schools we have involved, the more we can share the challenge of performing each of the stanzas.

For more details please visit worldtheatrevideo.com

You can also share and use the Slide Share presentation I have been taking round to schools to promote our project.

Enjoy the video.

52 Plays in 52 Weeks: Week 16

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time

Adapted by Simon Stephens, Based on the Novel by Mark Haddon

I had been meaning to read this play for some time. I finally got around to it and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I started the novel some years ago and didn’t finish it. When I saw that the National Theatre company was producing it I was keen to watch it as part of its National Theatre Live program. For one reason or another, I missed that as well, unfortunately.

I just had a feeling about it when I heard it was going to be turned into a play. That it would be interesting to see how they could bring the story to life on stage and capture the essence of Christopher’s character as a boy with tendencies that place him on the autism spectrum.

I watched a couple of clips on the National Theatre’s YouTube channel and was amazed to see the set and the way the director had manipulated the performance space to create various locations in the story and to capture what is going on in Christopher’s mind.

Reading this play reminded me that a Director’s Concept can be anything you want it to be and to think beyond the script. I think I am someone that tries to be far too faithful, realist and literal in my interpretation of things.

In thinking about the classroom, it would be possible to piece together parts of Christopher’s dialogue to create  a monologue for a performance. There is also a particularly lengthy section after the curtain call that would be interesting to play around with on stage.

I’m keen to produce this at school. I’ll keep it up my sleeve as a possible production in the new year…

Check out the website for the London West End Production here.

I’ve also embedded the two clips I watched from the National Theatre YouTube channel below.

Photo Credit: kimrose… via Compfight cc

Fantastic Find: monologuedb.com

I’m in the process of preparing my Year 9 students for an upcoming performance. It is a selection of “monologue moments.” I wanted to use it as an opportunity to direct my first piece that had something more of a refined directorial vision than the mish mash pieces I’ve put together in the past.

The theme for the concert is “colour.” I wanted my directorial concept to explore movies that had colours in the title and the characters and moments within them. I initially began searching for movies with colours in the title to see if I could find short monologues from them. Things like The Colour Purple, Pretty in Pink and The Thin Red Line. It was harder than I thought to find pieces online until I stumbled on this website monologuedb.com

It has a great selection of very short, monologues, no more than 3 minutes or so. In the end I decided to go with “movie moments” as my theme rather than “colour” because it really was proving harder than I thought. The kids have responded really well to the monologues I chose for them because a) they suit their personality (and for a first monologue I do think that’s important in order to encourage a sense of success) and b) they know the movies that they are from which means they know how they are supposed to sound and at this stage you want them to be emulating tone and facial expression to get them comfortable with working with scripts and standing up on stage alone.

Definitely worth checking out.

Happy Birthday Shakespeare

I was skimming through my Twitter feed over the weekend and realised a rather important individual’s birthday was coming up this week. I did a bit of a Google search and found out that some pretty big celebrating happens in Stratford-Upon-Avon in the lead up to Shakespeare’s birthday. You can check it out here. I thought I’d share some cool clips I use to teach MacBeth (my favourite) but I thought I’d also ask: how do you incorporate Shakespeare into your drama classroom? What have been some memorable moments? Happy Birthday Will.

You might also like to check out:

BBC’s Shakespeare’s Animated Tales (MacBeth)

and/or

Video SparkNotes (MacBeth)