The first teachers’ conference took place this February at the Academy of Theatre and Dance (ATD). The conference was organised to give the school’s (guest)teachers the opportunity to get to know one another and get them more involved in the way the School is run. The editorial team has since been examining the outcome of the conference. The following is a conversation between the departing editorial team member Thomas Spijkerman and new team member Bram Huijten.
Thomas and Bram greet each other warmly before the interview begins. Both began teaching at the ATD after graduation, Thomas from the School for Drama and Contemporary Music Theatre (ATKA) programme and Bram from Drama Teaching, and for both of them teaching is just one of their many responsibilities. Thomas, for instance, is also the course director of the two-year master’s degree programme Reinventing Daily Life at the Sandberg Institute as well as the artistic director of the theatre company Circus Treurdrier. Meanwhile Bram has directed more than 30 productions with non-professional actors and teaches acting and theatre directing at several theatre schools for adults and young people.
This hybrid professional life exemplifies that of many teachers at the ATD. As well as teaching at this and other schools, they act, direct, dance or maybe run their own performing arts companies. This industry experience makes them highly valuable as teachers, but it also limits the amount of time they can devote to teaching.
Thomas: ‘The biggest benefit from the conference was that it gave us the chance to get to know one another informally, chat about teaching, and swap thoughts and ideas about various issues, making us feel we were part of a team running an art school.’
Bram: ‘We all share a passion for training students, for passing on the fundamentals of our profession. Everyone’s teaching practise is rooted in their own vision and expertise, and this led to some very thought-provoking discussions, like the one we had in the workshop called ‘How do you keep your assessments free of moral judgement?’. This led to exchanges about how far you should nudge students beyond their comfort zone.
‘Thomas: ‘I joined a workshop about dreaming. We all dream, because art transcends our teaching. But the educational aspect is also important: you’re all learning together in the context of art education. Your default position is to try to enrich your teaching with knowledge gleaned outside the school, but there’s so much knowledge already right here in this building. The big question is, how do you tap into it?’
Bram: ‘That’s what makes the Teachers’ Room essential. The Teachers’ Room was launched as a new platform in the wake of the teachers’ conference. It is a sort of thrice-yearly salon for the school’s teachers, both current and past. We’ve also got a private Facebook group. The first Teachers’ Room was on 13 October and our guest was the ATD’s director Jan Zoet. He spoke very openly about his love for musical theatre, about dilemmas the school faces in working with guest lecturers, and about jointly developing and promoting the school’s vision. We’re definitely going to do a follow-up session.’
The next Teachers’ Room is scheduled for Monday 30 January. The editorial team is also organising a conference for all the teachers who active at the time. That conference is scheduled for March 2017. Bram: ‘A common task for the editorial team regarding the different platforms is to try to strike the right balance between guest input and the exchange of ideas and opportunities for getting to know one another. We get a lot from both.’
Thomas: ‘The current initiatives are examples of the sort of things that are possible at the school – there’s room for people to get involved in things that aren’t directly or obviously school-oriented. As a teacher, you’re free to start projects that go beyond your lessons. It's about our shared love of the arts and the development of craft in partnership with young people.’
The Teacher’s Room’s Facebook group is a private forum for editorial information and for teachers to exchange views. It includes write-ups and photographs of the first teachers’ conference and will shortly feature a report of the first Teachers’ Room. To join the group, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/200939300281824/ and click on ‘Join Group’.
You can email the editorial team at email@example.com