How do you inspire students to strive for excellence? What do you do when the majority of your class or cast is starting at a low level? How do you convince a group of students that start at an "aspiring to standard" level to believe they can be "at standard" or even perform "above standard?"How have you convinced students at the lowest levels that they can achieve greatness in their theatrical work?
David,When I started teaching at the middle school level I structured the program so that in-class work (with the exception of my tech class) was solely about skills building- and everyone did public showcase performance each semester. The after-school programs was audition only. Our shows operated on the principle of "We don't want our audience leaving saying it was a good middle school show. They should leave saying it was a good show." The fact that we were a middle school was irrelevant; it had no relationship to producing a creative work that others would want to see. Each cast, at our first rehearsal, decided what 'a good show' would look like- and verbalized it...regularly....throughout the production process They began uncovering for themselves what they had to do to push the show to be 'good' beyond the expectations the wider world might have for a middle school production. They rose to the challenge each time, and my role became one of supporting choices they made in search of a 'good' show.
What was cool was that, as the after-school productions pushed to a higher performance standard, the in-school work and associated showcases became stronger. As the kids in classes saw their peers perform well, they recognized that, even if they didn't want to be in an after-school show, they were capable of upping their game. I am not saying every kid in drama class always came skipping through into the room loving every aspect of the production process- but they did know that they were part of a larger group that was capable of creating to a high standard... and that had a positive effect on their work.
Currently, I am dealing with the same question at the elementary level. The jury is out on this one- as I am finding that positive feedback to inspire participation in the first place is more necessary with my current students.Good luck!