Seven Of The Best Tips For First Time Theatre Teachers

Written by Amanda Leurquin

Date August 26th, 2019

We all have been there – the mixture of the excitement of teaching drama class, leading a theatre program, and dread that we are treading uncharted territory. Theatre teachers inspire. How does one endeavor to lead a successful drama program? Here are some tips that I’ve gleaned from starting two separate programs in different.

1. Communicate with administration

We need allies in the administration. If they aren’t there, then you have a harder climb in your school to get new shows out there, and acceptance for the work that goes into putting on a show. No matter what, though, keep the administration in the loop. Inform them about the show that you are going to perform. Warn them about anything that may be considered controversial. If you feel the need, ask how you should approach questionable material – you don’t want to marginalize the culture or diminish the original art.

2. Get ahead of controversy

What parts will be considered scandalous based on community standards? Get ahead by addressing any potential dispute early with the administrators. Consider a secretary or community member (even a parent that you trust), if you feel need be, to sit in and provide feedback about any controversial content for the show. More importantly, include a disclaimer on your poster if there is questionable language, content, etc. in the performance. It will be something you can refer back to should anyone say they were upset about the ideas presented in the show.

3. Network with the community (and co-workers)

It takes a village to create a robust theatre program. Ask for help at all turns, and accept assistance when people in the community are willing to aid the production. When done, be sure to get your students involved in writing notes of Thank You to those who volunteered and contributed to the production.

4. Foster healthy communication with students 

Communication is the crux of effective theatre education. The traits learned from positive, face-to-face interaction will help students deal with conflict resolution, creative problem-solving, and teambuilding. When you have an issue, or a student does, make them comfortable enough to confide with you, and be an objective, unbiased leader. If there are fights, direct them to the best person to speak with about problems. Sometimes it’s best to bring a school psychologist, student services advisor, or another teacher in, keeping the director as unbiased as possible.

5. Be a model – participate!

Modeling should come naturally for teachers – but it can feel awkward in a drama class if it’s your first day, month, year. It gets easier. I was worried I would forget to monitor while getting excited about participating. Natural leaders will step up to help as well, when I would forget to yell “time” for timed performance games, and assist in monitoring for rules during the games. Building trust with the class by putting yourself out there is incredibly important.

6. Communicate and utilize parents

You are not an island. The students have families (as do you) and they want to be involved. Hold a parent meeting at the beginning of the production rehearsals, where parents can volunteer for projects or committees. One of my favorite committees has been the meals/snacks committee. Parents joining forces, provide what feels like family meals during the crazy final weeks of practice and bring everyone together while nourishing the performers and crew.

7. Choose pieces that have meaning

We all have pieces that we personally love and would want to perform when we have the chance. To be honest, I have not had the opportunity to perform one of my passion project shows yet. I choose shows for the student abilities that I know I have, and I know will improve the skill of students. I’m not looking to fit them into a box that I desire. And you know what? It’s opened me up to some fantastic material out there because I’m challenging myself for the sake of the students. The most important thing, I believe, is to perform a show that will have meaning for the students and the community. What can they learn from the message?

Need some advice? We’ve got you covered.

Amanda Leurquin With over 20 productions under her experience, Amanda has been directing plays for 13 years – her entire teaching career. During the last six years, she’s also taught a drama class in addition to her Language Arts courses. She resides in Wisconsin with her husband and son, but travels as much as she can – mostly to a family home in Alaska each summer. She also enjoys taking students to New York City bi-annually to Broadway, reading, writing, and walking her two rescue dogs, Oliver and Hatcher. 
Photo credits: Barry Weatherall on UnsplashPhoto by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash, Photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash, Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash, Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash, Photo by William White on Unsplash, Photo by Goh Rhy Yan on Unsplash, Photo by Headway on Unsplash