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TEACHERS ON THE TIGHTROPE

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Mr. Lawrence overheard this surprisingly insightful comment while getting his morning coffee: "Good teaching is one-third basic instruction and two-thirds theater." And that got him thinking:

A lot of people can be patient and explain a concept, but to make it "sink in" I'm starting to believe the "theater" part is the key—you need to "dress up" stale old concepts with flair to gain attention (and for the Playstation Generation, attention is constantly waning).
The trouble is, there's a fine line to it, too: recall that a major part of early theater were jesters, and the risk of looking like a fool (sometimes referred to disdainfully as the "cool teacher" or "just like the kids") is tricky.

So maybe there's a balancing act good teachers should master, treading the line between effectively creative and ridiculous. What do you think? Does "theater" have any role in your classroom? Do students learn better when concepts are presented with flair?

3 Comments

There is a certain amount of truth to the fact that more dynamic people will hold the attention of an audience longer. The idea of us having to be actors implies that a teacher is a sage on a stage anyway.

As technology becomes more and more integrated, teachers must think about taking on the role of a facilitator vs. the sage on a stage. Can someone be effective as a teacher without stage presence, of course. Teachers need to find their niche or talent and use that regularly.

Finally... having good stage presence doesn't not automatically presuppose humor. Al Gore has decent stage appeal and I wouldn't call him funny! Maybe a jester... but not funny.

Oh my word, yes. I agree. The "theater" is the largest part of my game.

See, math is just one long story that follows a small cast of integers through a series of adventures through algebra, geometry, and on. The end of the year is the pay off and every plot development along the way has to be carefully, coyly, and enthusiastically set-up along the way.

I'm not some Robin Williams-esque clown but the principals of storytelling and joke-telling reign supreme in my classrooms.

There's little question that other things' being equal, information presented by a sympathetic, engaging person will be accepted better than by someone who is boring. However, one of our roles as teachers is to further our students' self-discipline, which isn't necessarily aided by making things that required sustained effort seem not to do so. I agree that it's a fine line. The best teachers will do both--be engaging to pique their students' interest, be supportive to enhance their confidence in their ability to succeed with the material, and be demanding to encourage self-discipline.

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