What Does a Drama Teacher Do?

Cathy Crenshaw Doheny

A drama teacher educates students at various grade or skill levels about the theater, stage presence, and acting. The job can encompass a number of different things depending on the circumstances. In most schools, drama education involves a combination of practical skills like public speaking and stage presence as well as theoretical elements like the difference between genres from comedy and tragedy to farce. Some drama teachers also head up entire theater departments, and as such are often responsible for staging student productions and helping with all elements of putting on a show. Like most teachers, this person’s primary focus is on student education, but there can be a lot of extracurricular commitments that can also come into the job description. Sometimes these are compensated with additional pay, but not always.

A drama teacher instructs students on self-expression and putting together a play or show.
A drama teacher instructs students on self-expression and putting together a play or show.

Drama Education Generally

Theater and dramatic arts are an important part of school-aged curriculum in most parts of the world. Though drama isn’t always immediately useful in the way science, math, or language are, education experts often think about theater and other fine arts as an important element in any well-rounded education.

Drama teachers often educate students about costumes and makeup.
Drama teachers often educate students about costumes and makeup.

There isn’t always a fixed curriculum for dramatic education; a lot is usually left up to the individual school districts and educators. There can be a lot of variation from place to place when it comes to what the job actually requires, though the core elements are usually about the same everywhere. In general, a drama teacher educates students about acting in the theater, as well as all of the other aspects involved in producing a show. Lessons may revolve around set design and construction, costumes, stage make-up, theater history, directing, dance, singing, and diction.

Many middle and high schools have a drama department, and offer classes as well as produce plays.
Many middle and high schools have a drama department, and offer classes as well as produce plays.

These educators also help students to improve confidence, public speaking, and self-expression. They may also help to plan school drama productions, and will usually help students to audition for and perform in these productions as well as more advanced shows in which they may participate in the future. There are often a number of parallels between drama or theater teachers and sports coaches, both in terms of their role in nurturing natural talents in students and in teaching a specific skill that takes its root outside the physical classroom.

Drama teachers use different techniques to get students to emote their scenes.
Drama teachers use different techniques to get students to emote their scenes.

Typical Exercises and Assignments

In a typical drama class, the instructor may begin by having students practice a few stretching or warm-up exercises, as well as diction drills. These sorts of drills usually involve speaking exercises and “tongue twisters” that are meant to prepare the lips, tongue, and teeth for proper enunciation. Pantomime games, which help to assess body language, may also be used, as well as improvisation games, wherein pupils must rely on characterization rather than memorized lines to dictate their next actions on stage. The instructor will often have students work individually on monologues, which are scenes with only one speaker. He or she may also have the class rehearse ensemble scenes that require interaction among several characters.

Drama teachers may put an emphasis on an actor's body language and being able to emote.
Drama teachers may put an emphasis on an actor's body language and being able to emote.

Learning About the Theater

Theatrical education is also usually part of this teacher’s responsibilities. Much of the analysis of plays as literature is left to language arts teachers, but drama students often read famous scripts or screenplays as a foundation for discussion and practical applications. Teachers also usually spend time discussing some of the different theatrical genres with students, and help them identify some of the major trends in each.

Staging Productions

Many schools have only one drama teacher, so that educator will, therefore, be expected to create and run an entire drama department. These responsibilities may include evaluating students for appropriate class placement, selecting a play for which any member of the student body may audition, conducting auditions, casting the roles of the play, and scheduling after-school rehearsals and performances.

Even in well-staffed departments, staging school theater productions usually falls to one or more teachers. Once the rehearsals begin, the teacher may also be responsible for finding students or other faculty to assist with things like stage management, lighting, costumes, music, props, and set design and construction. Leading up to the opening of the performance, the teacher may also need to plan for publicity and ticket sales.

Different Venues

Drama and theater teachers may work in several venues, including public or private elementary, middle, or high schools, as well as colleges and universities. The opportunities available usually depend on current demand in the job market, and the teacher's education and experience. Almost all situations require that the instructor have at least a bachelor's degree, and some require a master's degree.

Drama teachers may use diction drills to prepare the lips, tongue and teeth for proper enunciation.
Drama teachers may use diction drills to prepare the lips, tongue and teeth for proper enunciation.

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Discussion Comments

anon320547

Can you tell me what would I do if I were a drama teacher? I have been given a job for school and it's a drama coach (teacher).

subway11

@Crispety – I agree. Out of all of the teaching jobs this one sounds like the most fun because you get to transform yourself into someone else. How fun is that?

Crispety

I think it would be fun to become a drama teacher. Drama can really be incorporated into so many areas like literature, social studies, and film study.

I really think students enjoy becoming a character and study the character’s background. It is a really fun art form that allows you to become someone else.

I was reading that a lot of acting students are actually quite shy. It makes sense because although everyone is looking at them when they are practicing or on stage, they are playing a role and do not have to reveal too much of their own personality.

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