This life is filled with endless learning opportunities and this semester has exposed me to new ways of viewing education and teaching. Arts education is on the rise and with it comes a new influx of research and knowledge. Three concepts that have impacted me this semester are the importance of rules and structure, the value of teaching to all learning styles, and finally, the idea that creativity is an essential aspect of human nature and needs to be encouraged.
Rules help to create the society of the classroom. They set limits and expectations, so students aren’t filled with uncertainty and confusion. Like creating the world of a story, you need to define how day to day life functions, where consequences occur, and how goals are achieved. Classrooms that have these established elements of structure nurture creativity and allow time and space for students to grow and explore. It’s especially important with a theatre-based curriculum to have control over how the class is run because things can easily get out of hand.
These rules and expectations should be put in place within the first few weeks of school in order to ensure that no patterns of bad behavior are established. Ineffective teachers are the ones that give unclear instructions and lack a proper classroom procedure. In a study published by The Elementary School Journal it was discovered that teachers who possessed these faults “…lessened [their] role as the classroom leader and, by default, allowed students greater freedom to define the situation” (Emmer). It’s important to understand that establishing clear rules and patterns in the classroom isn’t an obstacle to students’ creativity, but rather “…it channels and… provokes creativity” (Kern 69).
Some may view rules as limiting to creativity when in fact, the two are linked together. “The human being does not react directly to his or her environment. Instead, tools mediate all activity” (Kern 69). Rules and structure are the tools we use to foster creativity. They provide the context that influences choices. It’s been said that “creativity is the “creative use” or rules” (Kern 69). Music is beautiful and creative because of how it follows and breaks rules, it follows appealing patterns and rhythms, but also surprises listeners with unexpected melodies.
There need to be established rules in order for creativity to even be recognized. In addition, the repetition and rules involved in the performing arts such are scripts and rehearsal schedules “…do not harm creativity but are a necessary part of it” (Kern 66). Rules allow collaborators to be on the same page in order to better create and exchange ideas. If students want to work in any professional field it is important for them to learn how to be creative and innovative within the rules of the environment, they are placed in.
There are so many different personalities and ways of learning. I’ve loved the emphasis we’ve had this semester on teaching to different learning styles, it’s opened my eyes to what teaching should really look like. Growing up, the moments that ended up making the biggest difference in my learning were the rare times where my teachers taught a subject from a new perspective. I think it’s so important to try and meet the needs of all your students, so everyone can find fulfillment in their education.
I was talking to a coworker the other day who mentioned that High School was a struggle for him, even though he was fascinated by many of the subjects taught, he felt like he was “going crazy” sitting quietly in a seat the entire day. He needed to get up and move and none of his classes provided him with that. After learning this I couldn’t help but clearly see all his very “orange” traits. I thought about what a simple change it would be for a teacher to add even small physical elements to their lessons, so students like him could concentrate better. If we use the concept of teaching within the “Nexus” by matching learning styles “…with appropriate teaching approaches, then student motivation, performance and achievement is more likely to increase” (Ashton-Hay 2).
Drama is a wonderful channel for teaching because it “…has the unique ability to engage many different learning styles…” (Ashton-Hay 2). I think it is a wonderful blend of different personalities and elements that all work together to achieve outstanding results. Theatre requires students to develop “… physical, mental, vocal, and creative disciple while using their individual skills cooperatively within a group…” (Swann). There’s a place for everyone in theatre, everyone’s strengths are needed, and everyone’s needs are able to be met. As a teacher it’s important to be conscious of not teaching purely to your own preferences, but to take the extra time to teach in ways that will help all the unique artists in your classroom to thrive. “Of all the arts, theatre is the one most concerned with the study of humanity” (Swann). This is something that is important to never forget. Teachers should try and create a space where their class, their small sample of humanity can flourish.
I’ve learned that creativity is an essential part of education, both in teaching as well as in learning. The concept of learning has a deeper and more complex meaning than just memorization, it’s about taking ideas and being able to make them your own, to manipulate them, to add on to them in new and wonderful ways. Creative lessons captivate students and engage a larger portion of their minds. Creative teachers are better able to make creative lessons for their students.
I know in my experience the lessons that have stuck with me are the ones where my teachers infused their own creativity into their teaching. Reflecting on this semester I think I would be able to recall the majority of the lessons that were taught in this class because of their creative elements. Creativity is one of the things that sets human beings apart and it should be nurtured in our students, as well as in our educators and within our school systems. Taking the extra effort to engage your students will make a huge difference in their learning and their ability to retain information.
The future is largely unknown, because of this it has been stated that “Creativity is our hope” (Saebø 205). Across the globe, there has been a “…growing knowledge of the value of creativity in developing a student’s capacity to learn in a wide range of educational subjects” (Saebø 205). Arts education has the special ability to cultivate creativity within students, which is why it’s something I feel so passionate about.
Everyone is born with creativity and imagination and as they develop “…education is the basic tool of managing this process” (Bejan 159). It’s crucial this valuable quality isn’t stifled when they begin to attend school. In order to foster creativity in the classroom teachers must be encouraging and willing to challenge their students in an environment without fear of mistakes. These teachers find ways to “…use imaginative approaches to makes learning more interesting, and exciting and effective…” (Saebø 210). Our success depends on raising a generation of students able to find new and creative ways to solve problems.
Over the course of this semester I have learned so much about the value of Theatre education as well myself as an educator. I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had to be exposed to new ideas and experiences that have stretched me, not only as a teacher but as a person. Through writing this paper I’ve gained an even deeper understanding of the qualities that make Theatre education so beneficial, such as structure, effectively teaching to different learning styles, and the power of creativity. Whatever my future holds I know the teaching skills I’ve gained and the lessons I’ve learned will help me to better articulate ideas and to express more empathy towards others.