14 January 2007

Teaching is like show business

My brother is in show business so I talked to him about my plan to become a teacher.

I knew that teaching young people involved entertaining as a part of educating so I thought he might have some tips that could help me as I embarked on a new career.

It turns out that teaching is like show business but there are differences as well as similarities.

During the times that my brother is employed on a show, he might have one or two performances each day, sometimes three. He works two or three days a week. Six days a week at most.

Altogether, an actor or entertainer like my brother might perform as many as ten times a week. Every show is the same and this can become boring after a time but you may have the opportunity to adjust the script to account for the audience reaction.

Teaching teenagers is like performing for a small but tough audience. The script has to be continuously adjusted to deal with audience reaction. You have to deal with hecklers.

In this regard, it is more like stand up comedy. The way you deal with the hecklers can make or break the performance and how the rest of the audience responds to it.

In stand up comedy, you still use the same basic script for each performance although you have to be flexible.

In teaching, you write your own one-hour script for a tough audience of thirty. At the end of the performance you immediately are faced with a new tough audience of thirty and have to present a completely new show.

This happens three, four or five times a day. New script. New audience. New hecklers.

It's a tough gig.

I asked my brother how he copes with a performance that is going off the rails – for example, if he is not feeling well or if the audience is reacting in a different way than expected.

He said that the main thing is to know where you wanted the performance to go. If you have a plan, then you are able to see how to get back on track even when you have been seriously distracted by a new thread of conversation with the audience.

That sounded familiar! A well prepared lesson plan will usually produce an effective lesson. It does not necessarily follow the script exactly but it allows you to find your way back to the punchline you want to leave them with.