‘Those who can’t, teach…’

shaw I never expected to teach. When I trained as an actor as a young man, I believed Shaw’s axiom, ‘those who do, do, those who can’t, teach’ but I have been teaching/facilitating now for over two decades. Now I am so passionate about teaching , that both teaching voice and Chekhov technique and directing plays ( and directing at whatever level, is still at least a kind of guiding) are the significant things in my working life. I understand that for me at least, when I teach/facilitate, I have to feel  that it is a beautiful and wonderful thing I am helping the student explore. I don’t need to work hard at this because whenever a student ‘gets’ something and something shifts for them, especially when you are teaching voice or Chekhov, it often happens suddenly, joyfully and visibly.

I have been writing busily this last week, and will mostly be doing the same thing for the next six weeks. Previously I have written a variety of papers, essays, a novel, and most of all a whole number of plays, many of which have been professionally performed, and have won two awards. ( check out my cv for details). What’s unusual and exciting for me is that this book I am writing now is for facilitators and teachers working with young people in theatre.

I have spent some considerable time teaching voice to lecturers and teachers at second and third level. But as well as teaching voice  in these courses we are also dealing with the philosophy of teaching and the well being of the lecturer and teacher themselves . I often invite them through exercises to consider and reconnect with the love and commitment they feel to their subject and to the whole process, which so many people lose sight of when working within an institution, especially when it is dysfunctional in some way. It is no good to just teach them tricks and games, but vital to get them to reconnect at a deep level with the whole process of sharing energy, and imparting knowledge. Chekhov’s ideal centre work, and radiating/ receiving are great for this work. When I started this work with teachers, one lecturer said, a little irritated, “we are not here to entertain them!” And I replied, ” but you are there to enthuse, share, and help them! If you are bored and therefore boring, how can you possibly expect them to be interested?” Teachers sometimes believe that the learning is enough, [i was a little like this at the start] without realising they are the pathway to learning for the student  and a pathway to learning much more than intellectual knowledge. One teacher said to me once, “how can I possibly put any intensity in teaching someone how to use this surgical instrument?” ( I can’t remember what it was) “Because if they do it wrong, the patient will die.” I replied.

It is easy to get seduced into feeling when writing workshop plans as I am for part of my book, that these are exercises you have done a million times, instead of infusing your workshop plan with the sense of an exciting journey and exploration on which you are taking the facilitator and their group. I have suddenly become fully awakened to the fullness of this opportunity. i am offering a map which teachers and groups can change, spend longer time in one spot than other , avoid certain areas they are not ready for yet, and so on, whilst hopefully being encouraged by my advice.

It is so important to me to present an ethos, not just a recipe book of games and workshop plans, to show how I brought myself to believing what is important about acting or Voice and how I try to help students find something of the joy that I feel about it myself. That way the book must be more helpful

As Michael Chekhov says in Lessons for Teachers.

“if you are teaching, you must be active. ….The teacher must radiate action.

oh well, back to work……


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