Open Forum

Fifth Year Teaching, Still This Obstacle

  • 1.  Fifth Year Teaching, Still This Obstacle

    Posted 22 days ago

    This is my fifth year teaching and my first teaching theatre for every class period (I also taught band and choir before). Though I feel more comfortable with middle school, as most of my directing experience has been with that age group, I have this one teaching obstacle that has followed me to my new position - and nothing I've ever done to change it has fully worked: I am constantly having kids talk over me, interject, and waste class time with silly behavior. Each class has a few students who, when I tell them to do something (sit down, put that down, get off the floor, etc) often just look at me like I'm playing a game with them and make me repeat myself a few times before they agree. I don't smile or laugh. After the second or third time, I sternly tell them that I shouldn't have to ask more than once. Then they finally do it. 

    I'm particularly disappointed this year because I started at my new position so strong - and the kids are very respectful in this district. I thought I'd solved it...But I just finished my first month and they are doing what I was used to happening before this position. If I say "make sure your masks are on right and make a circle on stage," it takes 2 minutes to get them in a circle and another 15 seconds to get them to stop talking over me. When I'm explaining things, they call out and I have to remind repeatedly not to interrupt. When doing improv and asking for volunteers, they all shout - and some even get up and try to go on stage without even being called on. 

    Maybe it's not as chaotic as I'm painting it - as we do get a lot of learning - and it's mostly the transitions in my lessons that bring this behavior about, but I'm tired of somehow welcoming this behavior year after year. I re-direct. I get everyone quiet and efficiently and seriously explain what behavior I expect ... And it isn't a matter of writing students up, because it's clearly a teacher issue, and not a few students. I mean, I'm at least glad that the issue isn't students being negative or refusing to participate. But...I just really want to solve this.

    I don't in any way attempt to be buddy-buddy with students. Students aren't rude to me or trying to intentionally disrespect me either. My last move is usually pointing out that the behavior is disrespectful to me - because they don't want to do that. 

    Sarah Keene
    Theatre Director
    Keene, TX

  • 2.  RE: Fifth Year Teaching, Still This Obstacle

    Posted 21 days ago
    I've been teaching high school Theatre for fifteen years and this still happens depending on the group.  Two years ago I had a very large class that a group of very immature boys in it.  I was at my wits end because, as you said, so much time was wasted with discipline.  My solution was to give them a Participation Rubric which broke down their participation grade (which they receive for every unit).  A big part of this grade was listening to me and audience etiquette.  If they called out during a performance or interrupted me they were given one warning before points were deducted from their grade.  This worked like a charm and I now implement it at the beginning of every year.  I regret that it took me so many years to figure this out :)

    Laura Russo
    Teacher/Director of Theatre Arts
    School District of The Chathams
    Chatham NJ

  • 3.  RE: Fifth Year Teaching, Still This Obstacle

    Posted 21 days ago
    I teach at a school for students with learning difference. The largest learning difference is ADHD. I saw a huge change when I and the other arts teachers (photography, art, music) had the SAME expectations/consequences and same rubric (with subject adjustments). The key was following through badass wise with those consequences.
    1. Warning
    2. Take a rest
    3. Written Action plan (this was with 3 prompts that got the student to acknowledge which expectation was broken, how it disrupted the class, what expectation to follow next time written three times. This action plan was shared with their head teacher and education director)
    4. Student sent to education director (not sure what to do COVID-19 time...)

    And the rubric really helped.

    Meredith Akins
    New York NY

  • 4.  RE: Fifth Year Teaching, Still This Obstacle

    Posted 21 days ago

    Out of curiosity, do the students sign up for your classes or are they randomly assigned like some schools do with gym and art classes?

    I have learned that the strategies and expectations for cooperation in a Drama class vary significantly based on that answer?

    Stephen Benjamin
    Director of Theatre Arts
    Garfield Heights OH

  • 5.  RE: Fifth Year Teaching, Still This Obstacle

    Posted 20 days ago

    You're getting wonderful tips here - I will probably be using these suggestions, too! 

    Another tip I learned from a colleague that helps with transitions is to simply give them a countdown to move to a circle or to get into place... 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1. They have a little time to move to a circle or get ready to start a scene over. I have found that helpful. Depending on what we're doing, I can start the countdown at 10 or at 5 or at wherever. Sometimes it helps just to review the expectations for transitioning ... for their audience behavior... for the expectations during improv. 

    Have a great year! 

    Kate Lindsay, Troupe #1476
    Salina High School South
    Salina, KS

  • 6.  RE: Fifth Year Teaching, Still This Obstacle

    Posted 20 days ago
    Yes, the countdown works with 3rd graders and HS seniors!

    Suzanne "Mama" Craig
    MS/HS Theatre/Speech
    Lipscomb Academy
    Nashville, TN

  • 7.  RE: Fifth Year Teaching, Still This Obstacle

    Posted 20 days ago

    Thank you to everyone who replied - either below or in a private message. It really makes a difference hearing from theatre teachers specifically. When I've gone to admin or core teachers before, they always assume I need to work on relationships - as if the students pushing boundaries are rebelling against me and my class...But it's not the case in my class - it's almost like they are too comfortable with me and my classroom, and that's something that I really beat myself up over. If it was a question of not establishing a relationship, these students wouldn't be shouting at me in the hallways and at lunch asking what we're going to be doing in class.

    Still...I have this dread of developing the reputation of "that" teacher that lets kids do whatever they want. My first year, despite much success at contest and great performances, many veteran teachers loved to say no learning ever happened in my class, so I'm particularly sensitive to that - even knowing I've improved much in the area of classroom management. At least my biggest teaching struggle is maintaining focus and not getting kids engaged and buying in. I'd rather have my classroom than a silent, still class that doesn't welcome student ownership or creativity. 

    Anyway, done venting... I'm eager to use all the advice given! Thanks so much! 

    Sarah Keene
    Theatre Director
    Duncanville TX

  • 8.  RE: Fifth Year Teaching, Still This Obstacle

    Posted 19 days ago
    Arts teachers are notoriously bad at sharing the value of the work we do. It's important for other faculty members to understand that community building, empathy atunement, socio-emotional learning, character analysis, literary structures, interpersonal collaborative skills, theoretical research techniques, and ethical morality theory are just some of the 'hard skills' baked into what we do. Very few teachers understand the climate of play-based education (all of the Spolin stuff). But we navigate a complex line as we attempt to balance inviting students self-expression with creating structure. In terms of the faculty- defend your work. You know why you do what you do. Don't let them think it is an accidemt.

    As for your students:
    - speak honestly about the behaviors that make the studio not work for you. Make an agreement with those students for how to adjust that, and then be relentless about the enforcement of that agreement.

    have a great year!

    WT McRae
    Director of Theater
    Astoria NY

  • 9.  RE: Fifth Year Teaching, Still This Obstacle

    Posted 18 days ago
    Hi Sarah,

    We've all dealt with this type of issue in the classroom. One method I found reasonably successful was to address the issue with students individually. Co-opt a few of them to be your assistants. Find the one, or two that are more responsive and work with them to help the other students buy in. This is not a teacher's pet type of situation. It is enlisting the student's help to make the class better for them and their classmates. This can also help the student by a more direct relationship with you. We all have the students we are closer to and adding one to that list, even if they are sometimes irritating, can be really gratifying in the long run. I had one of those lackadaisical students become my right hand and go on to a professional life in Theatre. Named one of my sons after him too! :-)

    Robert Smith
    VA Co-Chapter Director
    Centreville VA