Teaching Drama

Want to teach theatre? Here’s some advice for you.

I posed the following question the other day on our Facebook page.

How would you advise a high school senior interested in becoming a theatre teacher?

Wow did we ever get some great responses. I’ve assembled them here. Thanks so much everybody!

I would advise them to go for it, but to also have a second specialty (English, Social Studies) because the Arts are being cut at many schools.

Spend time working in a variety of theaters doing all the different jobs. You can’t teach what you don’t know. THEN get your teaching degree.

Run! Run like the wind! Better a starving actor than a starving teacher!

Unfortunately- I would tell them it’s going to be a challenge finding/keeping a job in the public schools in ‘the electives’ at this time. However- they can and should look for work outside of the US if they wish to become a theatre teacher. It will not only pay better but will educate them far better than simply sticking around the American system. I am happy to teach Greek theatre to Greek, Russian and English students whereas my former American students didn’t seem interested in learning. Also- they should Do theatre- as many aspects as possible while they are getting their degree (which they will need if they plan to teach)- so they really understand what it is they are teaching.

Get your BFA and then B ED. You’ll be prepared to teach Theatre and another subject. Get involved in local theatre.

I would tell them to marry money…

Be prepared to fight school boards and to pay for props and scenery from their personal budget, but to continue to do what they love. Bringing their love for theater to students is the only way to build and grow love for the arts in America. Looking to be employed in wealthy school districts is a wonderful goal, but bringing the arts to under-privileged students is far more worthy.

I taught theatre and English for 25 years in the American public school system. Everyone has given excellent advice. I would add this: Before making the commitment to the course study, volunteer to work on a regular basis with a high school theatre teacher. The job is much more than doing the theatre we all love.

Get in the classroom before heading down the road to becoming a teacher. Teaching is incredibly demanding, and the demands have little to do with the core of what you teach. I find that especially with drama teachers – I’ve never met a harder working more committed group of folks.

step 1: get your Theatre Arts degree.
step 2: get a few years of life and career experience
step 3: if you still feel compelled to teach, find a good university. get certified in other subjects and grade levels. it is not an easy gig, but is a wonderful and fulfilling career. there is much more involved than you would expect at 17 years old.

Get your BA Theatre Arts Ed. K-12; then get your masters or doctorate as well… then, you can teach community college/college/universities.

Go for strong liberal arts B.A. degree; then consider ways to start teaching on graduation (without regular ed courses) like private schools, Teach for America etc. And do lots of theater.

Don’t just study acting. I think a BAH in drama or theatre studies will prepare you more than a BFA in acting. There are also amazing programs tailored to drama in education such as at Brock, Windsor, and Queen’s (i went there! Not a specific teaching program but it allows you to cover all aspects of theatre and drama). High school drama teachers are also resident techies, props and costumes, counsellors, producers, and really everything else that goes into doing theatre. Volunteer with your high school teacher or another one to help out and get a feel for all the other stuff that goes into it. Remember that being a drama teacher isn’t just doing theatre; it’s also doing drama. Also, become a member of CODE by visiting www.code.on.ca and attend our annual conference in October!!!

Drama curriculum in Ontario and many other parts of the world is very much indebted to the tradition of drama in education and not just theatre teaching. Drama in education is the main mode of learning at the elementary level, and a good high school program offers drama in education AND theatre experiences. In addition to working in theatre, learn about practitioners like David Booth, Dorothy Heathcote, Larry Swartz, Patrice Baldwin and Jonothan Neelands. Their books and the resources available on the CODE website are a great place to learn about this important tradition.

As someone trying to do this right now. I would say similar things that many have already said. Learn about all aspects of the teatre. If you can while you are studying find a way to get involved with a local theatre company to stay in touch with all aspects and to learn more. Also pick a core subject to teach. One thing that I have learned is that it is better to start in a school or district in a core subject. You will likely get first dibs on any drama class openings that come up and you will get some much needed teaching experience. I have a BA in theatre and now a masters in Secondary ed. And finally be sure that this is what you really want to do because it is a long hard road and it is not all tap dancing and monologues. Good luck!

About the author

Craig Mason