Is Teaching Right for You?

I have often wondered who came up with the phrase “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” Is this phrase true in the arts? Fine Arts educators are both skilled artists and skilled educators, possessing a broad range of talents in their artistic discipline and an understanding of how to teach their craft. In fact, for many of us in musical theatre, we would not be working professionals without a fine arts educator who helped us learn the skills needed to master our craft. But theatre education is often an overlooked profession when discussing careers in the theatre.

Fine arts education looks different in each context. Teachers come in all shapes and sizes, from a private voice teacher to a certified K-12 drama/theatre educator. Many people find themselves drawn to education after beginning a professional career as a performer, designer, or director. Consider the multiple Broadway stars that travel to teach master classes around the nation multiple times throughout the year. There are many types of teachers that can be grouped under the term “theatre educator.”

Is teaching right for you? To think about if you want to be a theatre teacher, ask yourself the following questions:

Arts education in action.  ("Suzuki violin recital" by Stilfehler - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.)

Arts education in action.
(“Suzuki violin recital” by Stilfehler – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.)

Who do you want to teach?

Do you want to work on putting a production together with high school students in an extra-curricular setting? Or are you more interested in developing artistic experiences for toddlers at a regional theatre? Thinking about the population (age and context) that you want to work with can help you figure out what type of training might be necessary. For example, certification is required to teach in a public school, but to have a private acting studio, knowledge of advanced techniques along with professional experience are a necessity.

What do you want to teach?

Theatre is a broad field and many educators focus on one specific discipline or area of study. Together, many diverse educators help shape a single student. Think about what specific area of the theatre you are passionate about and consider the multiple ways you can develop skills in that area to hone your craft as an artist first. As you gain an understanding of your craft as an artist, you will begin to consider the pedagogy underpinning it.

And, most importantly… Why do you want to teach?

Fine arts educators rarely work to be acknowledged themselves; rather, they do it because they love it. Theatre teachers find joy in engaging in shared meaning making with others. Educators are passionate about their craft and understand how to help a student begin a journey of self-discovery, risk-taking, and skill-building. Be sure you are entering the field for the right reasons!

Find out more:

There are numerous undergraduate and graduate programs where you can obtain a degree in theatre education or a post-baccalaureate certification. In addition, check out the national organizations dedicated to theatre education in the United States: Theatre Education Association and American Alliance for Theatre and Education.

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