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© Sarah Tan 2017-2019

TEACHING PHILOSOPHY

PreK - 6

My first experience as a performer was as an actor in my high school’s production. In our first rehearsal, my hand violently shook as I held the script even though I only had four lines to read. However, in the course of rehearsal I found value in my voice, opinion, and strong sensitivity to my surroundings—attributes that had been suppressed as a result of the patriarchal Asian culture when I was growing up. My continual growth as an empathetic and creative being can be attributed to my theatre and dance educators’ leadership in noticing the insecurities I had and teaching me to overcome them through performance. This is the type of educator I hope to be – one that uses the performing arts to instill empathy, promote personal discovery, and cultivate artistry in my students. 

The root word of the word “education,” comes from the Latin word “educare” which means to train or mold, and also “educere” which means to lead out.1 In my work as an educator, I strive to do both by providing opportunities for my students to contribute to the creative process and equipping them with the appropriate tools to shape it into a piece of art. My classrooms are spaces that are inclusive and diverse believing that every student, regardless of social identity or background, has a story and a craft to be shared and valued. Through shared experience, I hope to nurture students who become empathetic individuals interested in making rather than breaking connections between different cultures and crafts through performance creation. Through technique training, I hope to produce students that have a defined personal style as an artist.

The drama methods I use with students pre K - 6 take into account their developmental abilities—their learning styles and cognitive understanding of the self, dramatic play, and external surroundings. Believing in the importance of movement in the learning about oneself, my drama lessons often incorporate context- and character-building activities that require students to physically interact with their surroundings and bodies in space. These activities cultivate an awareness of oneself in relation to others – developing the social emotional skill that are still forming in with this age group.

To overcome differing perspectives of various environments, I strive to create a common language through visual arts. Its accessible quality allows for a story to be told while still providing opportunities for students to personalize and contribute to its narrative. The use of picture books, photographs, and in-class drawings are therefore common materials in my classroom. In a 1st grade class I taught, students created a tableau based on a tree they had drawn and created a narrative for earlier in the lesson. The image acted as a scaffold for the students when engaging in the thought process of creating a tableau. As drawing was a tool the students were confident in using, this interdisciplinary method not only paved the way for success but also created an inclusive classroom culture.

Drama classes with 3rd – 6th graders have the added component of personal stories. The sharing of experiences will allow students to learn creative problem-solving and communication skills as they learn to adjust to the cognitive and physical changes of growing up. Activities often focus on learning to communicate with and understand the challenges and consequences of human interaction, changes in their bodies, and maneuvering through what it means to be independent thinkers but otherwise highly dependent individuals. Through theatre and drama, I hope to provide spaces that allow for healthy and necessary exploration through these developmental stages.

Success to me appears in the performance and growth of the students. Depending on the class goals and levels of comfort and experience in the room, individual assessment may differ between students. On a larger scale, general assessment will consider the ability of my students to listen actively, propose and implement creative ideas, apply learned technical skills, and effectively identify areas of interest and preferred artistic styles. All in all, I strive to be an educator that effectively engages youth in drama and theatre, teaching an understanding of how the performing arts can be a relevant and useful tool in communicating with and comprehending the world around them.