Enabling Autonomy: I believe students should leave my classes with an increased capacity for making informed, autonomous decisions about their lives and the world around them. Director JoAnne Akalaitis once said: “It is the ethical duty of an educator to discuss unethical situations.” For students to grow their agency, I believe they must tackle difficult questions and be encouraged to draw decisive conclusions where easy answers are not readily apparent. In the theatre, this pertains to tackling rich, complicated texts, and delving into them not only as classroom exercises, but as working texts for artistic processes. Furthermore, I believe in emboldening students to take ownership over their own education and to take pride in the work they do.
Embodying Collaboration: For artists and non-artists alike, collaboration is an essential, practicable skill, not just a useful buzzword. As much as I encourage my students to be bold with their own ideas, I urge them to value the input of others just as highly. I want my students to voice their concerns, state their beliefs, and above all, ask questions. I want my students to listen to others because we learn the most when we encounter someone who does not think or believe as we do, and real listening only happens when the listener is willing to change. These situations can push boundaries and cause discomfort; again, they are not easy, but the classroom offers a safe environment to explore and confront them.
Appreciating Risk: I wish to cultivate students who are unafraid to run toward risk, whether they are burgeoning artists stretching their range, or accounting majors who are terrified of speaking in front of others but doing it anyway. I believe in enthusiastically celebrating mistakes and failures, because failures are living proof of taking risks. If we never fail, we are firmly in our comfort zones where growth is perpetually stunted. Make no mistake, I celebrate excellence and more importantly, hard work, though I would rather see a student fail gloriously than squeak by unremarkably.
Demystifying Feedback: I believe in consistent, individualized feedback for each student, tailored to their goals and aims. I assert that feedback is not wisdom given from on high, but an exciting conversation about process, work, and progress. Furthermore, feedback should be delivered with kindness, playfulness, and specificity. After all, students are people! They deserve more than a surly grimace and numbers in red pen on a page.
Having Fun: Learning should not always be easy, but it should always be fun. Having fun makes difficult things much easier and more enjoyable. Undeniably, theatre itself is difficult; undoubtedly, it has to be fun. It is demanding, vibrant, eclectic, and vast; it reveals uncomfortable personal and global truths; but for goodness’ sake, at the end of the day, it’s fun.
I believe teaching is: