Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What ARE We Teaching the Children?

My last post seems to have hit on something worth talking about some more: collaboration. When I said that schools are teaching collaboration, a number of folks chimed in to say that, no, they had been taught collaboration at their university programs. So let's talk about that more.

Jump in on the comments and tell us: If you were taught collaboration in a university program, either grad or undergrad, how was it done? Was it a workshop class where playwrights, directors and actors (maybe even designers) developed projects together? Was it a class focused solely on the collaborative process, tools and strategies for communication? What texts did you work from? Any textbooks? What models were you taught?

1 comment:

Nick Keenan said...

You are extremely lucky if you were taught collaboration in high school. As a periodic high school / middle school overhire instructor with a passion for teaching collaboration, I find that the "needs" of parents and the teachers that are overwhelmed or unprepared to deal with those needs often get in the way of learning true collaboration in high school environments. It becomes about getting it done more than understanding how to get it done.

Case in point: Any high school that uses lavalier mics (which are far too complex for most instructors to operate, let alone whizbang technically-inclined student crews) instead of teaching the principles of projection. It's an increasing trend, and I still don't know where they're getting the money for those things through the no child left behind act. That seems to be a symptom of a teaching style based on top-down choreography and sparkle rather than nurturing the aesthetic sense of a student. And that's amazingly what many parents demand from a theater program: audibility, rather than depth of experience.

The dynamics of especially large high schools often create an atmosphere of tension between the crew and the cast, if not between everyone, and it's amazing how fast those cliques are formed and reinforced. I've found that smaller high schools tend to foster more interdisciplinary kids who are then predisposed to understanding the value of the work of their collaborators, which breeds respect.

At the program I teach in the summer, we put specific emphasis on mutual respect and interdisciplinary experience between crew, designers, and performers. Doing all three seems to be the key to fostering a collaborative What's enlightening to me is that we often have to spend more time teaching the first year teachers this principle before we teach the students. So I'm not sure that all colleges are getting it right either!