Teaching Drama

The Jack of All Trades Myth

The Jack of All Trades Myth


Have you ever heard this? You have to be a specialist in order to teach something.

Or how about this? Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.

And then there’s this: Jack of all trades, master of none.

You’ve probably heard these statements. Maybe you believe them. When it comes to drama teachers, we think none of these statements are true.

  • It’s better if you’re a generalist rather than a specialist.
  • It’s essential that you have chosen to be in the classroom.
  • And EVERY drama teacher is a Jack of all trades! You have to be.

Most teachers believe they have to specialize in order to give the best to their students. That’s true for 99% of school subjects. But it’s not true for drama. Drama is different. Here’s why.

The physics teacher needs to be a specialist in physics. Because that’s what she teaches. But drama covers every subject area possible – acting, directing, playwriting, costuming, stage management, mask, movement, music, dance, and on and and on. Oh – it also includes sound and lighting (which is part of physics).

Students take your class for any number of the subjects above. But there isn’t enough time and training in the world for you to become a specialist in all of those areas.

You don’t have to be a specialist. But you do have to be savvy. To be the best for your kids you have to know something about everything in theatre and drama.

It’s not fair to say, “I don’t know anything about playwriting so I just won’t teach it.” What about your student playwrights? The ones who are terrified to get on stage but love to write plays? They should be included.

It’s not fair to say, “I don’t know anything about tech so I just won’t teach it.” What about your tech students who hate every other class but yours? They should be included.

You have to become a generalist. You have to become a “Jack of all trades” in order to give the best to your kids.

This is not accepting mediocre work. This is not an insult.

Let’s re-examine the phrase Jack of all trades, master of none. Did you know that when the phrase was invented, it was meant as a positive thing? It was a good thing to be competent in a number of areas. “Master of none” was added by naysayers.

Did you know that naysayers insulted William Shakespeare by calling him a Johannes factotum (Johnny do-it-all)? They weren’t wrong. Shakespeare did do it all. He was a playwright, a poet, an actor, a businessman, a landowner, and a fundraiser. I think you’re in pretty good company if you’re a Jack of all Trades.

Let’s look at another Jack of all trades. The Doctor. A GP is a generalist. A General Practitioner. A GP needs to know something about a lot of topics in order to take care of her patients. You’re not going to go to a GP for brain surgery and you’re not going to go to a brain surgeon to find out why your cough won’t go away.

Teachers are often put down with the insinuation that they “failed” at something and ended up teaching it instead. This is ridiculous. Would you say the same of a GP? Never. A GP is respected and necessary part of our lives.

Drama Teacher: you are necessary to your students.

Where can you learn to be a Jack of All Trades? Find out at the Drama Teacher Academy website.

About the author

Lindsay Price