The Importance of being a teacher-practitioner


The smell of the grease paint, the heat of the lights, the sound of laughter, the thrill of the applause….a life in the theatre. When I decided to be a Performing Arts teacher I thought I had to leave all of this in the past. That was, however, until I discovered other ways to fulfil the performer in me. I my case this was singing and amateur theatre.

On top of my full time teaching I joined a local amateur dramatic society performing in two full scale plays and several gigs a year. I’m not going to deny I was busy, but it was worth it on many levels. On a professional level it meant that I was up to date with current practices, new plays and keeping my skills and knowledge fresh. It also contributed to my credibility as a Performing Arts teacher as I was still able to speak with current assurance about experiences of working with a director, preparing for auditions and marketing yourself as a solo performer as part of Performing Arts Business.

On a personal level, I satisfied that creative door to my mind that was first opened when I was in secondary school. As much I gained satisfaction seeing my students develop, progress and achieve, there was a reason I was leading the classes in the first place and that was my own passion for the subject, my love for the theatre. On occasions my students would come to see me perform. I would always be nervous at these times as I knew that I would get an honest, no holds barred review. Thankfully they were always supportive and felt proud that their teacher ‘did it’ as well as talked about it. I organised a college trip to one of my plays for the students to study as their live performance review. In class following their experience at the theatre we were able to analyse the show together and I was able to give them some additional backstage information that only enhanced their knowledge, enthusiasm and study of the play.

On a practical level, I used my performing time to build my resilience as a teacher. Working in a rapidly changing sector with increasing workloads and pressure, my performance work served as a much needed distraction. For the hours I spent rehearsing and performing, my concentration was so highly focused I had no room to think, ponder, worry or do anything else. Therefore I had a true break from my day job and was able to come back to it fresh every day. So although tiring, it was also invigorating as both parts to my life complemented each other perfectly.

As an artist, you must keep learning, evolving and moving forward. This philosophy applies to teaching also. You must be as up to date with the industry you are teaching about just as much as those directly involved in it. The transferable skills go from industry to practice, from practice to students. I feel that I have been a positive role model for my students, modelling a strong work ethic, organisational skills, time management, commitment and self-discipline.