I have been tagged by Laura Axelrod for her 5/5/ meme. I am to answer five questions about my area of expertise and passion. Here goes!
Name your area of expertise/interest: Teaching.
How did you become interested in it?
When I was working my my master's degree -- originally an MFA in Directing that morphed into a doctorate in Theatre History and Criticism -- I had an opportunity, as part of my assistantship, to teach an introduction to theatre class. I was totally engaged by the challenge of figuring out how to communicate the excitement of theatre to a general education student.
How did you learn to do it?
First, it was trial and error. Sometimes I'd try something and it worked beautifully, the next time I'd do something else and it would bomb. Then I started to read books on teaching: Teaching With Your Mouth Shut, The Paideia Project, and so on. It is still a combination of those two -- I learn something new every semester.
Who has been your biggest influence?
First, it was a professor I had at the University of Minnesota, who was also one of the most prominent dramaturgs in the nation at that time: Arthur Ballet. He taught an intro to theatre class in a 300+ seat theatre and you could hear a pin drop. His lectures were amazing! But soon, I started to see that lecturing wasn't really the best way to engage with the material, and I started learning about discussion. I was inspired by Mortimer Adler, whose attempts to revamp K - 12 educational techniques was fascinating. Lionel Trilling, the Partisan Review critic, made me look at literature from a moral perspective, by which he meant as an example of a way to live. Now, it is Paulo Friere, who book Pedagogy of the Oppressed is powerful.
What would you teach people about it?
It's not about the teacher or the subject matter, it is about what the student does with the subject matter, and what connections he or she makes to their own life. Teach theatre history, for instance, like the students are Indiana Jones and we are raiding tombs looking for riches to bring back. Teach dramatic literature like the questions being asked pertain to the way you live your life day to day. And always, always encourage creativity and innovation. It isn't about obedience and compliance, it is about independent thinking.
Thanks, Laura. And I tag thw writer at Intermission, Charlie Willis, Tony Adams, David Warlick, and Arlene Goldbard.