For the past two months I have been lecturing drama at a tertiary institution in Johannesburg filling in for the head of department who was off to do a play. When lecturing, even though I lecture in the arts I nonetheless believe in punctuality, and generally showing up for class and handing in assignments. Preferably they day that they are due. Now I imagine the teething process when being transferred to a whole new way of doing things, and a new lecturer for students can at times be jarring.
From my experience teaching acrobatics to little children, kids attempt to push you as far as they can in the beginning, to find out just exactly how far you can be pushed. Test your boundaries to see just to see where exactly the law is laid down. The teething process with drama students required a re-examination of the term ‘boundaries’.
In my first acting class with the students I prepared various exercises for them to do, to make the class slightly more relaxed, and to allow me to see exactly what level they were on. I also desired to create an atmosphere which would foster fantastic collaborative work, and challenge the students as actors. The first student took her shirt off, without reason and entirely unmotivated considering the context of the scene. The next group had some rather explicit sexual references. So much for the atmosphere.
The next day I did improvisations with a group of students. During one of the sessions two of the students were doing some really good work, but work which might be compromising for them if taken out of the context of the classroom. One of the students started recording them on her cellphone. I told her to put the phone away. I was ignored. I then placed my hand in from of her phone and when she wouldn't relinquish I took it out of her hand for the remainder of the scene. At the end of the session I had to explain to the students the importance of acting class being a safe space for experimentation. And two weeks later my car was stolen off campus.
I have found, among other things, that teaching is not exactly my passion. I also realized that while teaching I learned a lot about my craft from a different perspective. I also learned that as a teacher you had better have you P’s and Q’s together. In fact you had better have the entire alphabet at the ready. Because students can be reckless.
A large number of my students did not show up for my classes. And as they did not deem it worth the trouble to either see me, or to find out from their peers if there was anything they needed to do for class. So when the absentee student missed an important deadline I wasn't surprised. I was surprised however when a group of students decided to yell at me because they missed the deadline because they weren't in class. The formal complaint against me might have been upsetting, if they hadn't actually accidentally admitted their guilt in the complaint.