Teaching: Extreme Sport or Performance Art?

Earlier this week pleasure of gate-crashing a lecture. When I was doing my teaching qualifications I recall we referred to this lecture as “The Lecture”; the one you have before you head out on your first teaching prac.

The title of the lecture was “Teaching is an Extreme Sport”, and it was delivered with the right level of humor, grace, inspiration and fear. But then I started to think, what if teaching isn’t a sport – although sometimes it feels a little bit like a blood sport – but more of a performance?

Each lesson we set the scene (Act I), it needs to be engaging, grab the attention of the audience before Act II begins and they begin to throw fruit (or planes). Most lessons will have about IV Acts, and as the performer you need to know when you are about to lose your audience and they are heading for the door. Of course along the way you have hecklers, and how you handle them can define you. You need to build a relationship with your audience, you need to be able to entertain them and take them on the right path for things to work out.

Act III can be a challenge, it is over half way through the performance and if the first two acts haven’t gone quite as planned it takes some skill to bring it all together, sometimes you need to go for some free verse or improvisation in order to have it all happen. The final section of your performance, the final act, brings it all together. You are setting things up for the next show, looking back over what you have been doing and leaving them wanting more.

At the end of a performance you will be reviewed, sometimes weighed measured and found wanting, other times the performance will be given a standing ovation… generally in the form of “that wasn’t as boring is it could have been”, “that wasn’t all that bad” or “I didn’t mind doing that”…

As teachers we perform all the time, we are on the stage in the classroom trying valiantly to keep it all together and engage our audiences to bring them a message.  The important thing to remember in all of this is that we need to make sure that what we are doing works. That the essential message has been communicated, and that the relationship  you have developed with your audience is a positive one.

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One thought on “Teaching: Extreme Sport or Performance Art?

  1. Love this post!

    I just discovered your blog and would love to get your advice. I am from Australia and work in the corporate industry – howevery I do not feel it is right for me. I have always been drawn to teaching (business or history) and feel it would be a very challenging and rewarding career. Unfortunetly all my old teachers are advising against it. What are your teaching experiences like?

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