Moving Forward with Compassion


Every activity explored in Teaching Teachers with Theater! has ultimately one goal: To help us become more compassionate teachers. Compassion is the ability to see, to listen, and make thoughtful considerations of another’s feelings, point of view, and behaviors with little to no judgment. Compassion is what holds space for others and is what allows us to be considerate of our world. It is with compassion that a teacher can create a space where a student can find safety and comfort. When we help a person feel comfortable, we give a person permission to be more vulnerable, open, and communicative. A person learns best in a space where they feel comfortable. Our compassion can only spring forth from our very own ability to be comfortable with who we are, in feeling safe. It is through training and increasing our very own comfort levels with the theater techniques explored in this text that help us to feel safe when the spotlight is on us. This allows us to focus on matters that are more important than us: the student and what they are learning. If we are not comfortable with who we are we cannot possibly hold space for others to learn about the world and their place in it. This is precisely what theater trains; a performers ability to be as comfortable as possible so the audience may watch, not the actor portraying the story, but the story itself. If the actor is not comfortable neither is the audience, and the story is lost. The audience could have learned from that story. The creation of great theater is an act of compassion. The act of great teaching is an act of compassion as well.  

As you'll see throughout the book, in the study of theater everything is a process. It takes time and practice to increase one’s comfort level, particularly when it comes to getting up in front of others and interacting with them. Yet it is most important for a teacher to be as comfortable as possible because, as we know, it is not about the teacher. It is about the student and what they’re coming to understand about the world. Plus, finding compassion for every student and every class can also be a process. There are days, for a variety of reasons, we are not up to the task and cannot find the energy that compassion asks of us. It could be personal reasons or it could simply be because there is an individual student or group of students that continue to test your reason, judgment, and patience. As great teachers it is integral for us to find our compassion and use it at every turn no matter how we are feeling.

These factors are reason enough to train and practice increasing our comfort level and find more confidence. The more practiced a teacher is, the more comfortable a teacher is with performing, and they will use compassion more regularly. Teaching is a profession of necessity, and it is here we realize compassion becomes a responsibility. The educated have the responsibility of compassion. We must continue to practice it, as practice does not make perfect. Instead we must realize—to adopt a phrase from one of my favorite teachers—practice makes permanent.

As you finish the book and continue your training, remember how important you are. As we continue to reconcile the needs of education and the demands of school, it is the teacher’s compassion and connection with their classrooms that creates the most change and conserves the most precious elements of any community. In our current world, knowledge, education, and passing it on has come to be a fantastic responsibility. The educated in our communities must take the time to see, listen, and process the world around them so that they may better understand it for themselves and for their communities. You have already or will be hired to teach. This means you must be one of the best at understanding the world around you. This can feel daunting. So simply remember you are a representative of the ultimate human service. You already have the amazing ability to communicate in ways that help others find a sense of belonging. Keep practicing, keep performing, keep finding new ways to become comfortable. Keep practicing being you.

So in the end, remember:

Be vulnerable and you will become comfortable; become comfortable and you will become compassionate. Then go ahead and let yourself teach.

Jason Vande Brake