Contradictory Teachers and How To Deal With Them

  • Becca Magson

During my time as a student, I've had many a teacher tell their class "Don't think, just do" when it comes to improvisation or devising workshops. After, these teachers would then ask why we chose to do what we did and would get frustrated when the response was, "we didn't think, we just did." This was extremely frustrating and confusing as these teachers would expect answers from no thought, if we are going by their 'advice,' leaving many students stumbling over answers and leaving sessions learning nothing but what to say to make their lecturer happy.

Contradiction in a teacher-student relationship is unnecessary; it does not develop the mind of a student, and only leads to overthinking their steps to ensure they're doing the right thing, which often ends up being wrong (or whatever the 'wrong' thing is in their teacher's eyes).

However, in the theatre; there really is no right or wrong, no boundaries, questions with no answers, and has the room to devise, try, and play with new ideas. Having to play Theatrical 'Guess Who' when nothing is set in stone in the first place, besides possibly a script, makes learning and/or trying something new near enough impossible.

So, you have a teacher who says one thing and expects another. Expects you to read their mind for answers from lessons they haven't even taught yet. What do you do? Who do you turn to?

  1. Set up one-to-one meetings with them and ask them to explain, in full detail, what the heck they want. Going directly to the source for the holy grail of answers is a very straight forward and simple way of moving on with your studies.

  2. If speaking directly to your teacher makes you too anxious, an email of the same regard will do. They can send you documents! Maybe even their own papers!

  3. If technology is your mortal foe, and things don't go your way, your research will suffice, and hopefully, the fact you tried in your free time should be more than enough for them. Right?

Teachers are passionate, intelligent, and sometimes the whole reason some kids pursue a theatrical career in the first place. But creating a convoluted relationship between your students will only make their anxieties a more substantial burden to carry as they understand nothing in the lessons you teach, especially when the theatre is about freedom of expression and rehearsal space is meant to be a safe space to play. No ideas are wrong, except for the way you teach.