You will find me here. I am on stage from 9:00-4:00, five days a week.
— a line I once overheard from an English teacher
I was born to be an actress.
However, I used to be shy. When I was attending college, we had to film ourselves in our speech class. I was so timid that I couldn’t look out at the crowd and my voice was barely understandable. I don’t think that my students would recognize me. This changed and developed with practice. Now, when I am in the classroom, I am animated, energetic, an entertainer, and I smile a lot.
I found my stage name: Teacher Bee.
Today I was thinking over what it is to be a good teacher. There are many ways to improve in our field of teaching, and there are many ways to become stuck and stagnate. While reflecting (and searching the web, of course), I happened upon an article called “Eight Rules Every Actor Should Know” by Phil Bremen. https://www.thebalance.com/acting-get-that-part-1283504
Some of his ideas hold interesting similarities to our field of teaching. In his article, he gives eight rules for aspiring actors. Using three of these rules, one can draw parallels between the art of acting and the art of teaching.
Learn Your Craft
One rule that actors, actresses and teachers must follow is that we all must know our craft. For teachers of English language learners, knowing our craft means completing a degree or certificate program, it means investing time in the study of language teaching and learning, and it means continued learning. One can join TESOL, her or his local TESOL chapter, take online courses, read books and articles on teaching, observe her or his peers, and so on.
Know Your Lines
Another similarity is that teachers, like actors, cannot forget their lines. I’m sure it has happened to all of us. You are in a room full of students and you momentarily forget what the next activity is or what the third rule of the present perfect verb tense is. Probably, most importantly for teachers, knowing our lines means having a lesson plan. It’s a pain. It’s time consuming, but it helps make for a stellar performance.
Lastly, in acting one needs to listen to the director. In teaching, one should take the counsel of the academic director and from one’s colleagues. It isn’t easy to have one’s craft critiqued. It hurts. It’s painful. It’s aggravating. However, there is so much to learn, and the view from a spectator or outsider has the advantage of teaching you a lot about yourself as a teacher. Do I like it? No. Do you like it? Probably, no. Can we learn from our experiences? Hopefully. Get angry if you must, cry if you want to, but then reflect on the advice and see if there is room for improvement.
To those just starting in the field of teaching, it may take years to develop your teaching persona and your craft. After 9 years of teaching, I am still learning, too. Don’t be discouraged. Your style will evolve. It is normal, and it is part of the beauty of learning and teaching.
Can you think of other ways that teaching and acting are similar? What do you do to improve your craft? Do you adopt a character when you teach? If you would like, you can leave your comments below.