All too often, the word “drama” is synonymous with arguments, gossip, and all manner of other interpersonal distress. In that context, we’re all trying to get a little less drama in our lives! But drama is so much more than that. Long before it entered the zeitgeist as a way to describe eye-rolling interactions with other people, the word was used in reference to the dramatics that take place in the theater, and later in TV and film. When you put it that way, drama isn’t really so bad. Whether they dream of appearing on stage or on the screen, aspiring performers must get their start in theater somewhere. This is where a drama teacher must make their grand entrance! Drama teachers teach, inspire, and empower their students, many of whom will go on to star in the productions that we know and love.
Let’s get on with the show! Read on to learn more about how to be a drama teacher.
What Is a Drama Teacher?
Also known as an acting teacher, a drama teacher can work in a variety of settings or contexts to educate students of all ages about performing. Depending on their specific role, a drama teacher may focus on basic techniques, advanced methods, or anything in between.
Students come to performing with all kinds of skill levels and interests. Some possess natural confidence or a strong interest in becoming a star. Others will be more cautious, studying drama as part of a curriculum requirement or in hopes of gaining more self-esteem. It’s the role of a drama teacher to meet the needs of all students and to help them grow into more self-assured performers, regardless of their starting point.
Some drama teachers will also take on the responsibility of planning and producing theater productions. For educators with a flair for directing, this is a major perk.
What Does a Drama Teacher Do?
Theater has practically limitless possibilities, and so does the role of a drama teacher. Various drama teacher jobs will require different duties, but here are a few of the tasks you might be expected to complete in this field.
- Facilitate games that teach students the fundamentals of performance. Beginner actors often gain confidence by playing basic improv games. A drama teacher will introduce these games and then guide their students through them.
- Share performance examples. Drama teachers should be prepared to show their students model performances. Is there a scene from your favorite movie or TV show that serves as a prime example of a certain dramatic technique? Can you access film of a top-notch theater performance? It’s up to you to track down these materials and lead discussions about them.
- Teach acting techniques. As an acting teacher, you’ve gotta teach drama! In order to do this, you’ll need to be conversant in classical techniques and up to speed on more modern approaches, too.
- Provide practice material. In most acting classes, teachers will assign skits or scripts for students to perform. Finding the right material—that both teaches and engages all of your students—isn’t always an easy task.
- Direct productions. If the school or organization where a drama teacher works puts on musical or dramatic productions, they will surely play a major role in putting them together. They’ll need to coach actors through their roles and help direct the action on stage.
As you can probably imagine, no two days as a drama teacher are quite the same.
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How to Become a Drama Teacher
Are you ready to combine your passion for performance with your interest in educating others? Do you want to share your love of being onstage with aspiring thespians? It sounds like working as a drama teacher could be a fantastic match for you.
Check out these critical steps on the road to working as an acting teacher.
Consider Education Requirements
A specific degree isn’t necessarily required for all drama teacher positions, but if you plan to work in an educational setting, you will likely be asked to provide some proof of expertise and study. A teaching degree or acting degree is a good place to start, but various school districts, colleges, and universities will demand different certifications, so make sure you’ve researched those requirements before you start looking for jobs.
While a degree might not be a prerequisite for positions outside of the educational sector, having one will certainly give you an edge on other candidates with less expertise.
Put Your Acting Skills to the Test
In order to teach others how to act, you need to have some acting experience yourself! The more performances you have on your resume, the more you’ll have to offer your future students. Whether you’ve picked up experience in school, community theater, or on the professional stage, you should keep a careful record of every role you’ve played so you can share that with prospective employers. If you have a video reel of your acting skills, all the better!
It’s also helpful to have experience working in other elements of theater. Aspiring drama teachers should seek out opportunities to direct, work in set design, or design costumes. These skills will come in handy if they are asked to take the lead on student productions down the road.
How Much Does a Drama Teacher Make?
According to ZipRecruiter, the average drama teacher salary in 2021 was $51,033 per year. Since drama teachers can work in so many different settings, there’s a lot of variation in the industry. A drama teacher at a private school, for example, might earn a great deal more than someone offering their skills as part of a nonprofit community education or arts program.
Jobs for Drama Teachers
Speaking of the many different settings in which a drama teacher can work, let’s talk about a few of those options.
Many film, TV, and stage superstars discover their passion and talent for performing when they’re teenagers. It’s up to a high school drama teacher to identify students with that passion and guide them through those early years in front of the audience. Acting teachers who hold these positions will often act as mentors to their students, too.
Universities and Colleges
Hopeful actors will often pursue drama degrees of their own, and colleges and universities need faculty to teach those classes. Students at this level will probably enter the classroom with some baseline level of talent. Teachers will then be responsible for supporting those artists as they refine their craft and look for more opportunities to perform.
Most towns and cities offer arts education programming for students of all ages. Teaching in these programs is a meaningful way to share your skills and passion.
If you’re a drama teacher and have flexibility in your schedule over the summer, you might consider exploring jobs working in summer camps. Some camps are entirely focused on theater, while others offer an acting or performance elective for campers as part of a broader curriculum. What a fun (and fulfilling) way to spend the season!
It’s time to take the (proverbial) stage and spread the joy of theater to others. If you’re interested in teaching drama or acting, there are many places where you can do so. You have the opportunity to share joy with so many aspiring thespians!
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