Mz. Zena's Z-Battical: Saving Title I Theatre Teachers

By Zena posted 03-03-2014 14:30


Title I schools are in so much trouble.

I've seen schools that are struggling,

schools that have lost their accreditation,

and schools that are being shut down.


As I visit more and more Title I schools, I see more and more theatre teachers who, as amazing and vibrant and passionate and intelligent as they are, are NOT being supported.


And I don't mean just by their schools. Because we already know that is a mixed bag.


I mean by the rest of us.


These teachers sometimes have no idea what the Educational Theatre Association is. They often don't know any other theatre teachers in their area. They may or may not have a degree in Theatre, much less any authentic teacher training/certification. They may not know about the soon-to-be new National Standards for teaching Theatre, much less the old National Standards. They may not even know how to write a lesson plan, much less understand what high school students can/should be able to do in theatre in high school.  OR, they may know & have all of the above, but EdTA cannot (or does not - ultimately, a teacher first has to find EdTA, not be found by them) help or support them. They may be veteran teachers who are experts in their field and amazing teachers, but have not had any recent training or conference experience because of the financial state of their schools. Or their student body has changed radically but the teachers approaches have not been able to. They may never have seen what other theatre teachers are doing with their same (or similar) populations in order to feel empowered or inspired.


And so Theatre classes and programs struggle.


And who actually pays the price? The students. If our #1 focus really is the students (as we all keep saying), then the support of the teachers must become a priority.


If we want high school theatre to survive, if we want to have a national multicultural theatre-going audience in the next 30 years, if we want theatre to impact EVERY HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT IN THE U.S., then we MUST do something to retain these teachers and help them to continue to have the strength to thrive.


I have been asking Title I teachers for the past 13 states - and will ask it for the next 12 -
what it is that they most desperately need.


I KNOW that we cannot solve the issues, the inequities, the challenges...but we aren't doing ANYTHING.


So - what will we do?


Here are my brainstorms – very undeveloped, but based on the answers teachers are giving me, and they could be a launching point for coming up with better ideas and then taking action & making them happen:


**Via EdTA, create a grant-writing specialist whose task is to find/warehouse grants/monies for

          Theatre teachers in Title I schools & train or assist teachers in writing for these grants/monies as

          well as do outreach to find teachers in need


**Develop scholarships SPECIFICALLY for Title I teachers who have NOT attended an EdTA

 large enough to cover travel, lodging, and conference fees


**Offer workshops at EdTA Conference which focus on HANDS-ON CREATIVE NEW APPROACHES (by professionals in the field           or higher education instead of just current teachers) to teaching theatre in addition to the traditional 'warm-ups' & lecture

        workshops – teachers need to be ACTIVE in their workshops to truly learn, especially teachers

        who are in challenged schools working with kids who thrive in hands-on environments


**Create, on a national level, some form of “Starter Packet” (could be online) for new/newer teachers

          (provided for FREE) which includes the National Standards for Teaching Theatre AND BASIC

          lesson outlines which incorporate & account for the standards & vertical/horizontal

          alignment...teachers would be able to build or expand from there.


**Via Chapter Directors, have an element of each Chapter Board that is responsible for identifying &

          developing outreach to Title I schools within their state & creating a support network (what

          form that takes would be site specific)

                    ~examples: mentoring partnerships, use of state EdTA Community, focused FREE

                    workshops, a packet of info about EdTA, State Chapter, events, activities, National Standards, etc.,


**Grow our EdTA “Advocacy” position to include addressing the needs of teachers, especially

          those in high poverty or Title I situations. Maybe ask that each Chapter have a Board member

          whose task is to develop an advocate role in state for Theatre programs, students, AND teachers.

I know there would be challenges in creating or implementing any of these ideas, if they are even possible. But we need to start a national conversation about how we are going to help teachers who do NOT have the luxury of a degree, years of experience, support, etc. so that OUR STUDENTS  can thrive.


And we need to something before these

programs, classes, and teachers go away.

1 comment



03-04-2014 14:15

Great ideas Zena. Thank you for documenting them and being specific.