Thursday, September 29, 2016

Ten things performing arts teachers wish parents would understand

In the every growing popularity of Mama Roses and Stage Moms, parents and teachers are bound to have conflicts.  As our stage parents become more involved, there needs to become a better understanding between parents and teachers. First let me say that I think it is very important for parents to be involved in their children's life and Fine Arts experiences. I also think that it is very important for you to advocate for your child. Sometimes things are genuinely not fair and you need to make sure you are doing what is best for your child. I also think that having wonderful relationships between parents and teachers benefits the whole program and makes everything run smother. The better relationship you have with your parents, the more help and support you get in your productions. I think it is very important for parents and teachers to "play nice" Now here are a few things that Performing Arts Teachers wish that parents knew.

1. We want what is best for your child.  I have one son, but I realistically have 500 children. When your child is with me, they are my kid. I love them and I want what is best for them. I am there cheering them up before tests, encouraging them before they go onstage, and celebrating with them when they succeed. Even when something doesn't go your child's way, we are still pushing for them to succeed. 

2. We are trying to be fair to all children. I once had a parent yell at me because I would not let their child redo their audition three times, because they didn't do well the first time. I tried to explain that it wasn't fair to let one child repeat their audition numerous times if we weren't going to let everyone else repeat their audition. We try our best not to play favorites. That being said, we have to try to teat everyone as equally as possible and sometimes that means setting a hard line.

3. We wish we could let everyone in the production. This year I had over 150 elementary students audition for the play. If I could, I would have had everyone in the show. But for the quality of the shows we have to put a cap on our numbers. Our stage just can't handle that many kids dancing at once, and my patience can't handle that many kids in the gym for rehearsal. Most teachers try to offer many different opportunities to perform, there will always another way for your child to be involved.

4. Tech is very important. Tech is a wonderful way for children's to develop leadership skills and independence, It is also a great place for students to contribute who aren't quiet ready to be onstage. I love tech crew. It was where I found my "Place" in the theatre world.  It always breaks my heart when parents down tech theatre because their kids won't be the "star". Without tech, the actors would be standing silent in the dark. 

5. We spend more time with your child then we do with our own. If you break down the amount of time I am at school (roughly 8 hours) and then add that to the amount of time we have rehearsal (usually about 2 hours) that is almost 10 hours when I'm away from home. Given that my child goes to sleep at 8PM. That really only leaves me 2 hours if I am lucky. I spend so much more time with your child on any given week. I do it because I love and care about your child. But please be respectful of my time, nothing hurts worse then when you are 2 hours late picking up your child from a rehearsal and I miss my 2 hour window to see my child.  

6. We have a family and sometimes emergencies happen. I know that it is a huge inconvenience when a rehearsal gets canceled. No director cancels rehearsals "just because" but sometimes emergencies come up. My husband and I both work, sometimes when my child gets sick I have to stay home from work to take care of him. Most of my students' parents understand this, but occasionally I will have a parent who goes and complains to the principal when an emergency happens. I know that if the situation was reversed they would want understanding. That is all we want as well.

7. We love pushing your child artistically. Directors love to see what their students can do. Often these kids amaze even us with their talents and abilities. All we ask is that parents trust the process. Just because a kid comes home and says their part is too hard, don't automatically go to the director and try to get them to make it easier.  We know what our students can do.  No director will put an unprepared child onstage, we will get your child ready. They might just have to work harder than usual to achieve this goal.

8. We try our best not to play favorites. I do my very best not to put the same students in lead roles every show. I know students think that directors always choose the same kids but that is rarely the case. For example, I have a student who played a very minor role in the musical last year. It was a very very small role but she did a wonderful job with it. She did so well that she was one of the main characters everyone remembered.  So when she was cast as a main character in the next play everyone complained that we were playing favorites.  It wasn't the case, but that is how people viewed our casting because they all remembered her from the last play. 

9. Your child feeds off your reactions. It happens every year. We announce the cast of every child is thrilled with their parts. Even if they have a small role in the chorus they are so excited to be a part of the production. Then they go home and their parent makes a comment about how that role is not that great. The student starts to question their part and aren't as excited when they arrive to the first rehearsal. Please remember if you are excited about a small part, they will be too. The kids just want to make you proud, show them that you are proud of their accomplishments (even if you do think they should have been the star). 

10. We love what we do. Must fine arts teachers become directors because we grew up in school fine arts programs. As students, this is where we found our place and our extended family. We do our best to provide this same experience to your child. All Fine Arts students form a bond that you don't usually find in the regular classrooms (very few people talk about how their math class is their home away from home). We want to provide a place for your child where they feel safe, loved, and accepted. We want your child to feel like they are needed at school. That is why you child loves their fine arts classes so much, we help create a home away from home while your child is at school. 

Bonus: We need parents' help! Being a parent of a fine arts child is rough. We know that we demand a ton from the student and family. Rehearsals after school require extra transportation requests and time away from family. Depending on the school, sometimes you need you even have to pay to rent the instrument or be in the play. We recognize your sacrifices you are making for you child and we really really appreciate it. We also really appreciate all the times parents volunteer. I cannot tell you how amazing my parents are. So many of them have come in on Saturdays to help me build sets or stayed late after plays to help load up cars and take down back drops. They have helped sell tickets and concessions, and even applied makeup and costumes. Our parents are amazing and we could not do what we do with out them. 

So what did I miss? What do you wish you could tell your parents as a Fine Arts teacher?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

How the Arts Shapes Future Citizens

Recently Wells Fargo came under attack from the Fine Arts community for the ads they published to promote their teen day. People claimed that they didn't respect Fine Arts as an ultimate career goal. That these ads said that when kids grow up they must choose "real jobs" and stop trying to be dancers or actors. Many people were outraged!
Wells Fargo Teen Day Ad
While I agree that arts for art sake is very important, we should not diminish students who dream of becoming actors and dancers. However I would be very naive to say that only students who want to grow up and be actors should attend my classes. As Fine Arts Budgets constantly get cut, it is up to Fine Arts teachers to find ways of advocating for the importance of their classes. The simple fact is that Administrators and County Office will not see the importance of Fine Arts if we are only creating great actors, we have to create great students.

More than any other subject, I think Fine Arts has the ability to create amazing scientists, teachers, CEOs and many more careers.  As teachers today, we are helping to shape students who must be prepared to work in a 21st Century environment. The arts help shape students' future. There are so many wonderful benefits to the Arts. 


As you can see arts are so important. Students who participate in the arts: 

-are more likely to graduate high school.
- are often more able to empathize with other who are different from them in some way (racial, gender, socioeconomic)
- often have better attendance records.
- are less likely to use drugs
- participate in more community service projects and are more politically active

The Fine Arts help create better citizens. These students are creative, critical thinkers, who have confidence and resilience. The Arts helps develop all of this.

Yes as Fine Arts Teachers we hope that our students will grow up and win Tonys, Grammys, and Oscars. However, no matter what students decide to be when they grow up, whether actor, singer or scientist, the arts will have helped shape that student into an amazing citizen. As teachers that is our job to create future world leaders. So whether our students are Actors yesterday and botanist today or dancers yesterday, today and tomorrow, Fine Arts teachers should be proud of our contributions to the world!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Scripting Word Problems
Combining Theatre, Wrtiting and Math into one awesome lesson.

Math, my least favorite subject. I do not like math, when we had to take math in college I literally took a class that was nicknamed among the Fine Arts students as "math for actors and their goldfish." I do not like math, but I realize that I and my students need to be exposed to more math. So I am trying to step outside my comfort zone for some of my assignments this year.
Students love turning Math word problems into scripts. 

Last week my third grade students were working on elements in a script. They learned the parts of a script and how to compose simple scenes. Then it came time for the closing assignment. Students had to form groups of three and write a script. Typically I just let students pick their topics, but as I said I'm trying to push myself this year. So I walked myself down to the math teacher to see what they ere studying in math. Turns out in math my students were studying two things (oh good more challenge!) 

The students were studying 100s grouping and greater than less than. So when we set about creating our scripts they had a choice in topics.

Here is how I organized this lesson. I am including my instructions and one of my student's scripts. I will also link to my TPT store for the rubric download for acting and rehearsing.
Basic Theatre Rubrics

1. Choose a standard- students needed to choose what type of math problem they wanted to solve.
2. Write your numerical math expression- I am not sure if this is the correct terminology but basically have your students write and solve the math problem they want to tell a story about (7 groups of 100=700 or 27>25). If you want to control how hard a problem you give, you could also assign them a problem from a textbook or worksheet.
3. Brianstorm your story- this is where we start integrating in story elements students had to write out their characters, setting, and conflict. Beginning, middle, end, etc
4. Rough draft of script- have students write out their script. To help ease problems I make sure to tell them that each student is responsible for writing their own lines. Helps stop a lot of fights.
5. Check your math- this is a very important step that I skipped when I first was assigning this problem. Students sometimes get so excited writing their script, that their math goes wonky. 1,200 becomes 12000 or something else. Just make sure they go back and double check the math.
6. Rehearse the play- remind students about finding entrances and exits and useing levels to create stage pictures.
7. Perform the play- let students perform the plays and have the audience solve the math problems. 

I love how they use stage directions and that one of the characters makes a mistake in the math. These scripts don't have to be long, they just need to solve the problem!

Well this is my idea for math word problem scripts. I love that this assignment integrates math, writing and theatre. It was a great way to get some cross curricular lessons for my kids. I hope you will give them a try! Let me know if they worked out for you! What math problems did your kids solve?