Sue Burke (mount_oregano) wrote,
Sue Burke

Teaching and acting: a lot in common

I’m a bad actor and I know it, but I know a few things about acting. I don’t know if I’m a good teacher, but I think teaching is a lot like acting — especially teaching English as a second language.

In a classroom, the teacher is the star: always “on,” always performing. You don’t have to be an extrovert, but if not, you have to be able to put on another personality like an actor.

Study your lines if you’re an actor. Plan your class if you’re a teacher.

Release your inhibitions on stage or in front of the camera: the audience isn’t seeing you, they’re seeing your character. And your students are seeing your lesson, not you, provided you’ve planned a compelling lesson and are teaching it attentively. Otherwise, they’re still not seeing you, they’re daydreaming about who knows what.

Project your voice on stage. In the classroom, too: a teacher must learn to use a “teacher voice.”

Enunciate and speak a little slowly as an actor. Likewise as a teacher, particularly when you’re teaching English as a second language. Speak clearly and slowly enough, which may be very very slowly, with each consonant pronounced and a little pause between each word.

Stay in character if you’re an actor. Stay at the student level if you’re teaching English. Be sure to use vocabulary the students know, and just like an actor, your gestures and body language can reinforce what you need to get across. Every gesture and word counts — that’s why both acting and teaching can be exhausting work.

Emote if you’re an actor, which means controlling what you do and how you do it to transmit the emotion. If you’re a teacher, control yourself, too. You can have fun: nothing is better than getting students to laugh (appropriately). But never get angry because that’s a loss of control. Especially if you teach adolescents, you always want to emote control, a tricky emotion that is sometimes best conveyed by a confident smile.

Finally, don’t rush. The audience needs time to react. The students need time to think. My students say I’m patient. That’s part of the act. It seems to have played well.

— Sue Burke
Also posted at my professional website,


  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.
  • 1 comment