I schools are in so much trouble.
I've seen schools that are
that have lost their accreditation,
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
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
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
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.
WHY AREN'T WE
So - what will
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:
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
scholarships SPECIFICALLY for Title I teachers who have NOT attended
Conference...scholarships large enough
to cover travel, lodging, and conference fees
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' &
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
on a national level, some form of “Starter Packet” (could be
online) for new/newer teachers
for FREE) which includes the National Standards for Teaching Theatre
outlines which incorporate & account for the standards &
would be able to build or expand from there.
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
partnerships, use of state EdTA Community, focused FREE
workshops, a packet of info about
EdTA, State Chapter, events, activities, National Standards, etc.,
our EdTA “Advocacy” position to include addressing the needs of
in high poverty or Title I situations. Maybe ask that each Chapter
have a Board member
task is to develop an advocate role in state for Theatre programs,
students, AND teachers.
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.
we need to something before these
classes, and teachers go away.