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Expectations: decrease vs. adjustment

Teachers are special people. Yes you are! You do so much for your students and you wear so many different hats. But teachers are also human. You may feel frustrated by the students’ apparent lack of interest or effort. You may feel that your students are not performing at their level before the pandemic. You may notice that things take longer than before.

And all this is true. Although things have changed drastically since March 2020, we are still dealing with the consequences of the pandemic. Students, teachers and parents are still getting sick. Students relearn how to function in the real world. Their concentration and endurance are low, and their coping skills have been stretched and tested. We’re all tired of pivoting.

Thanks to social networks, students are also very aware of current political issues and more in tune with their mental health. There is a lot to solve, in addition to the usual problems of adolescence. So it is no wonder that students may not live up to our previous expectations. It’s too much pressure.

Instead of thinking you have to lower your expectations from your students, look at this as adjustment your expectations. Sometimes we are caught up in the drama of theater classes and we have to take a break and reframe things. So take a deep breath and read the following five tips to adjust your expectations – not only for your students, but also for you.

1. Find out what students need.

Your students are probably doing their best. Remember that they are relearning their social and emotional skills and that everything they do best can change overnight. Observe your students during class and see where they are fighting. Ask them what they need to do to succeed. Do they need more time for rehearsals? More time to practice new skills? Do they need shorter scenes or alternative lesson plans? For example, if you have a reluctant class of performers, could you focus on analysis, technology work, assistant directing, or theater writing? The Theater Teachers Academy (please include the link) has over 1000 lesson plans to help you mix them up.

2. Simplify.

If you work on a production, what can you simplify? Before you start, can you choose a shorter script or can you choose fewer actors? Does your set have to be built entirely from scratch or can it simply be curtains or a few apartments? Does each costume have to be sewn by hand or can you rent or borrow from another school or local theater? If you direct a musical, could you reduce a harmony from four parts to two or three parts? Can choreography be simplified (weather permitting, of course)?

Simplifying the show helps students by reducing additional “things” and allowing them to focus on their lines and character. Be gentle with yourself and you know it’s okay to simplify. Don’t stick to impossible standards. On this noteā€¦

3. Adjust your expectations of yourself.

You may also not be operating at full capacity at this time. Teaching the theater can be exhausting (especially if you do extra work, such as directing a show, organizing a fundraiser, or overseeing the theater club) and you may be exhausted. Your students will probably understand how you feel and you don’t want to push yourself towards the disease. Try to delegate or eliminate some tasks, if possible – maybe a student teacher, assistant principal or volunteer team member can help. Know that, like your students, everything you do best will be different depending on the day.

4. Rebuild and restructure.

At this point, it takes students more to learn. Accept him and let him go. Take this as a moment to rebuild and restructure yourself in your theater department. The curriculum evolves and changes over time. Go back to basics and help your students build a solid foundation of skills they can develop. If you are doing a class or school production, you may want to add a few rehearsals to your schedule than you usually do. You can cancel a few rehearsals at any time closer to show time if you find that your students are doing better than you expected.

5. Remember that the theater course should be fun!

Yes, we have a lot to teach, assign work and grades to offer, but when it comes to creating plays in the theater, I don’t know about you, but I think the purpose of the drama is to be fun and entertaining! Don’t get stuck in the details. A play is called a “play,” so let yourself play and enjoy the process.

Click here for a free teacher reflection.

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage fighter from London, Ontario, Canada. She writes on the blog at www.kerryhishon.com.

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