“Leadership is based on inspiration, not domination; on cooperation not intimidation”
~William Arthur Wood
Being the first person in my family to graduate high school, college and to attend graduate school, education has been the one quality that keeps me unique in my overly large family. I have teachers throughout my personal educational experience that empowered, supported, and inspired me to succeed. I now have the privilege to start my journey as an educator and to pay it forward to my present and future students.
Creating and maintaining a safe learning environment is tantamount in my process. I encourage open discussions while promoting a positive atmosphere. I embolden my students to ask questions — to start dialogue and suggest ideas; this keeps the communication open giving each student the confidence to inquire and learn from each answer. This technique helps build confidence in my students; they are willing to take more intellectual risks in a safe atmosphere and they find it is acceptable to volunteer answers and demonstrate their knowledge. There is safety in knowing that even if the answer they provide is incorrect, the environment is structured to provide everyone with a chance to learn together.
Taking risks is important to the overall education and confidence of a student. Learning to take risks in an educational setting gives them the confidence to take risks in other aspects of their lives; this manufactures a solid foundation of successful adults and future leaders. Much like STEAM, used in secondary education, I encourage my students to look at other means of problem solving through different venues. They use math techniques in design, history lessons in dramaturgy, and English rules in playwriting. Students earn a chance to open their minds to different opinions; through class discussion and collaborative learning. When my students work together, they make more educated decisions and take intelligent risks as a group to understand the materials being taught.
As a professor, I start every semester with my stage management students with a simple assessment of their previous experiences with stage management. I give half the class a common problem that any stage manager would encounter; and the other half becomes the stage manager solving the problem. The way they react to their classmates and the problem shows me what kind of stage management they have had in the past. It helps me create a specific criteria tailored to my students and their level of experience. I have a chance to meet my students where they are –and help them grow in a personalized way.
Arts education establishes the confidence to solve problems and show ownership over a project. Problem solving is an integral part to stage management as well as in the classroom. One of my favorite discussions with my theatre students is “What goes into a stage manager’s kit, and why?” This discussion starts the process of what could happen in the theatre and what could we have available to solve it. This assessment gives them a chance to make a choice and defend it.
Technology is also a big part of theatre education. We can enhance problem solving techniques and communication strategies with technology. With numerous applications at our disposal, collaboration, communication, and organization are becoming easier to attain. Production meetings can happen via video chat, to-do lists can be assigned and adjusted between the groups; the possibilities are endless. Utilizing the technical advances to continue to grow the process of the show is an important part of my philosophy. I am very interested in digital stage management and I hope to find a program that will help me realize that goal with the students.
These are all tools of communication that make our process even more collaborative. Technology is also used in research for class studies. These advances can help collaborations for group projects, class discussions, and public forums that the students can reference during study times.
Theatre education is based on community and support. Without these, our students cannot be successful in theatre. I value the cooperative ways that students and faculty members can work together to create. Arts education builds confidence, creates successful problem solvers, and gives the community a chance to come together.