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March 24, 2016

prova duende (16)A recent graduate of The DUENDE School of Ensemble Physical Theatre wrote to me. She is about to start running workshops and asked if I had any tips….

I realised I’ve been doing this for 25 years.

I thought I’d attempt a ‘top-ten tips’. These encapsulate how I approach the wonderful, ungraspable and fascinating world of teaching and learning.

They are in no particular order. And they are based on nothing but that pesky 25 years…


1. You don’t need to know everything – you need to be further down a path than your students so you can guide them.

2. Keep traveling your path. Don’t stand still and wait for others to catch up. That’s laziness! Learn through your teaching.

3. You do not need to know where any lesson will lead, but you do need to know why you are asking students to do what you are suggesting. It is fine, sometimes, to refuse to tell a student why you are suggesting a certain exercise if, by explaining in advance, you might prevent them having a strong experience. It is not your job to be liked, it is your job to be effective.

4. We learn through experience. Even conceptual learning happens experientially – through the senses. Your job is to sculpt and guide the total environment of learning.

5. You cannot control the experience students have. You provide an environment – they learn what they are going to learn. You stand beside them as they learn, helping them decode their experiences.

6. They are not YOUR students. They are students.

7. You have earned the right to be their teacher through the work you have done on yourself. You do not need to apologise for your skill, nor do you need to apologise if they end up not liking what you do, provided you have honoured your contract with them. Your contract is to provide a place for them to learn, not to force their learning.

8. Learning is a complex process. It is never possible to define, to describe or to understand EXACTLY what has been learned. As time passes, we reinterpret experience. Today’s ‘not-knowing’, today’s confusion, today’s frustration might be essential to tomorrow’s insight.

9. If the student is not enjoying herself, at some level, she is not learning effectively. Encourage her to give herself permission to enjoy her journey, however tough. Learn to enjoy discomfort.

10. If you are not enjoying yourself, you are not teaching well.


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