Conventional Wisdom

I like the question this blog poses. I have had many professional experiences where I felt like I was working against conventional wisdom. Thoughts on some of them:

  • One Person Does It All Syndrome. There are cases in the professional world in which a handful of people take on several jobs, as in the touring show where the master electrician is also stage managing or driving the truck to the next stop. Outside of these limited situations, there really is no good reason for one person to be costumer, stage hand, and director all at once. It inevitably brings down the quality of the show, not to mention damages the health and well-being of that One Person. If you have the energy to put on a show, you can find the energy to network your way to getting assistance.

 

  • Shakespeare is essential. This one especially will get me in trouble with a vast number of my colleagues, but I feel that Shakespeare is grossly overdone in the high school curriculum while an entire canon of dramatic literature that students might find more accessible is ignored. I have seen amazing high school productions of Shakespearean works, and I have seen terrible ones. When comprehension of increasingly difficult text is already such a problem, I feel that there is a premature rush to build appreciation for Shakespeare before students are developmentally equipped or literate enough to get much out of it. Moreover, there are too many cases where the teacher is not able to teach Shakespeare’s plays in an accessible manner. If you adore Shakespeare and want to bring your passion to your students, do it! But the theatre has other writers, and some of them are even still alive.

 

  • That teacher is great– look at what he can do! Most teaching artists I know have an emergency lesson they can teach in their sleep. Most bring years of training and experience to their work. But just like any other profession, there’s a difference between evaluating a teacher based on a single class and evaluating their work over time. We all have good days and bad days, and so do our students.It’s easy to stick with old habits, or stick with theatre games that have worked well in the past. Part of a good teacher is what they do today, but the difference between good and great is measured in what they plan to do tomorrow. Truly outstanding teachers got that way through the sweat and tears of a full commitment to ongoing critical self-evaluation and professional development. I can’t imagine hiring someone for any position in theatre if I wasn’t sure they possessed  such a dedication.

Question for the World: What conventional wisdom do you encounter(and shatter, or live with) in your professional life?

Whither advocacy?

I guess I consider myself somewhat of an arts education advocate. I have this little blog here, and I post arts education related articles on Facebook, and when arts education organizations I trust encourage me to sign email petitions I often do. My life, or at the very least my livelihood, is certainly an advocacy for arts education. But beyond the above, I don’t feel like I’m active in a political movement to improve access to arts education. I suspect that there is much to be done, but, as is often the case with activism, it’s not always clear what actions exactly would be the most helpful. But more than that, of course, is making the TIME to make advocacy the life initiative it deserves to be. So I’ve been thinking lately, how, amongst all the many projects and responsibilities in my life, part of my contribution to the field might be to be present in a larger way in the realm of arts education activism. Anyone with me? If so, here’s ArtsEd Washington’s 2010 School Board Advocacy Toolkit with some thoughts on how to go about the business of making a difference.

Question for the World: I know that some  readers of this blog are active in a variety of political causes– how do you do it? What action steps feel the most “productive” to you? How do you balance your passion for a cause with your need to have a life?