Thursday, October 8, 2015

New Student, New Year

New Student, New Year
Erica Hill
I never thought that I would go back to school after undergrad. In fact, I vowed that I would never go to school again.  After a couple years of not practicing my artistry as the triple threat I once boasted to be, I took a position as an administrator at the Gold Coast Arts Center. My focus was the school for visual and performing arts. I answered phones, and discussed class options with parents, sometimes for hours. I was invested in the program and forged relationships with students and their families. There was a moment when I became overwhelmed with the feeling that I needed to do more. To be in a position that made more of an impact in the lives of others.  I watched a drama teacher drive students away from theatre, with his techniques of teaching. I answered complaints, and on several occasions heard a phrase that broke my heart, “MY CHILD NEVER WANTS TO DO THEATRE AGAIN BECAUSE OF THIS PROGRAM”. I reassured parents that not all drama teachers conducted themselves in the same way that our current teacher did. I knew I had to make a change to our program. So I began teaching an Intro to Theatre class for younger students between the ages of five and seven, and made sure this teacher was evaluated and alerted of what he was doing to his students. I could not let the children of my community be put off from theatre because of one bad experience with a teacher. Working so closely with arts teachers and their students, made me realize that I could no longer sit behind a desk, I wanted to be in the classroom as a drama teacher. But first, I needed to equip myself with the education and skill set of a true theatre educator, so, here i am.  

            The Educational Theatre program at The City College of New York is exactly what I needed to further myself and my career. I know this is where I’m supposed to be and I am so grateful to be part of such a innovative, ever changing field, with a mission that goes further than merely theatre history or putting on plays. It seems that the leaders in the educational field have a greater concern for the whole child; in developing creative and empathetic citizens of the world. During my first week I looked around my Drama in Education classroom, at my peers, from all walks of life and who are all in different stages in their careers, and it was quite intimidating. I don’t think I spoke for a couple weeks. I mean, some of my peers were drama teachers for years! Some, are already working at famous institutions that provide theatre for youth, and some even have their very own theatre companies! In my Theatre for Young Audiences class, the second session, I caught part of a conversation so dominated with educational jargon that I thought, “Maybe nobody would notice if I just packed up my bag and backed out of the room slowly...very, very slowly...How will I ever compare? The people sitting around me really know what they’re talking about.”
  A couple more weeks passed, and the realization that my a lot of my peers are already professionals in this field became a mode of encouragement, because as time has gone on I realize how much of a collaborative effort this program demands of its cohort, and I’m excited, and so eager to learn from my peers, our students at PS 161 and of course, my professors. In Fundamentals of Teaching Theatre, the first week, we were  given the chance to speak of how each of us would like to utilize our future degrees and certifications, and it really became clear that there was something that truly united all of us, and that is passion for the field of educational theatre and a thirst for knowledge.

            We all do our best to create lesson plans and rehearsal schedules and execute them. We can do this because we are for the most part, actors, dancers, choreographers, directors, and designers with background and various degrees in theatre arts. Or we’re teachers, with interests and experiences in the theatre.  However, there is a art to this field and a necessity to being trained in the art of teaching drama. In my short time in the Educational Theatre program at the City College of New York, I’ve already been given some knowledge, language and tools to be a more effective educator in my current position. I’m excited to embark on this journey.

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