Below is my teaching philosophy. Please contact me for the PDF of my full teaching portfolio which also includes CV, syllabi, lesson plans, sample documents, forms of assessments, and evaluation.
Teaching Theatre for Life
The Teaching Philosophy of
Maya Michele Fein
As an artist and an educator, I passionately believe that one of the greatest assets a person can possess is the confidence to reveal one’s authentic self. After in-depth studies in theatre, psychology, and educational pedagogy, I am making a positive contribution to the lives of others by challenging my students to also confidently be themselves. My classroom is enriched by the sharing of one's world view, the summation of life experiences, ethics, and diverse backgrounds that create an outlook original to the individual. I advocate for a symbiotic learning relationship. While I’ve gone through a higher education teaching certificate program, attended and presented at conferences, and researched pedagogy, my learning and teaching philosophy has been most impacted by my students. They have inspired me to try different teaching strategies, to go on unexpected paths, and to adapt in order to educate them more effectively.
When I began teaching, I mapped out an entire term with detailed topics and homework. Now, after years of experience and unexpected events like Covid, I’ve evolved to be more organic. While I still accomplish all the learning objectives through a framework, the students have a voice in shaping the course. This “choose your own adventure” student-led approach has led to an increase in the quality of work and student investment. While I might have taught the same course code multiple times, no term is ever the same and that’s what the magic of collaborating with students does. Students know that their education is, in part, being curated to their interests and goals.With a class of diverse students who may learn differently, my teaching style is aimed at being inclusive through kinesthetic, visual, and auditory activities. I vary my class format between discussions, interactive lectures, projects, presentations, workshops, and engagement with additional theatre professionals.
For example, I listen to topics that are important to the students, form a selection of plays based on that, and then let the class vote on which one we will work on. This has resulted in diverse works such as Fences by August Wilson, Anon(ymous) by Naomi Izuka, Lydia by Octavio Solis, and Angels in America by Tony Kushner. In my Digital Applications/Drafting & Rendering courses, students propose a project that would demonstrate competency while focusing on their individual learning style and apply it to their specific area of interest. A student that was studying theatre and creative writing decided to create a photoshop storyboard. Another student created a 3D Vectorworks drafting of an art exhibition space. A performance emphasis edited a reel and additional headshots for their website. A student wanting to become a TD translated scenic drafting into working build plans. In my lighting technology course, students picked their own songs, concepts, and artwork to develop designs. They had the options of diving further into wiring/soldering, programming, or design. For an even more tailored educational experience, I’ve created several independent studies and practicums. The foundations are always covered, but through this approach, I find my students to be more inspired, and they further skills aimed at their goals whether that be as a designer, technician, or another field.
In many of my classes, the learning objectives address more than just the academic material. They include developing a confident voice and point of view by creating imaginative designs, experiencing the world in a different way by re-examining the familiar and dissecting the unknown, exploring one’s self and relationship to others through a combination of reflections, discussions, and collaboration.I think these are as essential to students becoming artistic and empathic humans as their ability to control lights.
Generally, my curriculum is scaffolded with various assignments building to the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy such as critical thinking and creation of original work. I strive to maintain a classroom that thrives on original thought and supports each student. Interactive lectures based on fundamental facts of history, science, math, and theatre that are complemented by activities that focus on developing the self through theatre. Assignments build on in-class learning through essays, readings, observations, partner collaboration projects, and group work. For instance, the objective of the day might be to identify design principles, qualities of light, and the functions of lighting design. My lesson would consist of a presentation of images of lighting designs and programmed lighting instruments to help students connect, dissect, and apply the terminology they’re learning. This begins with a discussion led by me as a model for expectations. Students have the time to write down their observations on a chart I’ve provided, so they can develop their own ideas. Once the guidelines have been established, an open forum allows students to bounce ideas around. The second part is students experimenting with the physical applications of these lighting principles.
Based on Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, I want to celebrate the knowledge gained. For lighting students, I challenge them to articulate evidence supporting their design ideas and go through a full process which includes script analysis, research, sketching/rendering, lighting lab practicum, drafting, paperwork, and an oral presentation. Students who may be more reserved about voicing opinions aloud have the opportunity to show their understanding in writing or visual demonstrations. Others can demonstrate comprehension with verbal and practical lighting techniques. I ask students to find connections to their lives so that they can understand what motivates their own reactions and the initial impressions of other people, places, and events encountered throughout life.
I teach what I practice professionally, and I hope to inspire my students to do the same. Beyond the technical aspects, my students develop essential life skills such as effective communication, collaboration, public speaking, active listening, assertive writing, thorough reading, original thinking, empathy for others’ perspectives, and an expressive point of view. It is through theatre that I hope to enrich the lives of individuals, communities, and the world. I’m not just teaching a student, I’m fostering a person.