What do students need to optimise their learning and understanding? How do teachers get the best out of their students? At Theatretrain we believe that kindness is key. Our teachers inspire their students by showing them not just how to act, sing, dance and perform on stage, but by demonstrating warmth and respect, and treating everyone equally so that everyone is valued and encouraged.
How children learn
Have you ever stood on stage, or at the front of a class or group of people, and been terrified, so terrified that you can’t think, can’t remember what you should be saying and you know in about 30 seconds everyone will know. You’ve frozen, time slows down and you just want to run? This is an extreme example of the stress hormone cortisol flooding the brain. It’s flight or fight, and we’re a deer in the headlights. Ask what 2+2 is and we wouldn’t be able to answer straight away.
Being in a stressed state inhibits our ability to function at an optimal level. It inhabits our ability to learn. When we feel safe and relaxed, our brains stop wasting time on the basic function of self preservation, and we can retain new information, learn new things, be creative, come up with new ideas and thrive.
Children learn by being curious and they need a kind, relaxed, nurturing environment to feel safe enough and encouraged to learn. A kind teacher is the first step to overcoming nervousness and the fear of failure, building self confidence and trying new things. We learn better when those around us believe in our capabilities and can empathise when we face challenges.
How to create a kind space to learn
We know kindness improves our ability to learn, and that’s why at Theatretrain we cultivate a healthy community of kindness at all our centres led by our amazing Centre Director and teachers. Here are 12 ways we demonstrate kindness to help our students.
1. Making genuine connections: Knowing that your teacher is genuinely interested in your progress and seeing the smiling face of encouragement at every attempt you make, every brave step forward, is incredibly powerful. Teachers who really care and want to see their students do well are priceless.
2. Encouraging a two-way dialogue: In the past, teaching involved teachers talking and students listening, but thankfully the world has changed. Learning is a collaboration between the teacher and the student. We all learn in different ways and have our own unique barriers to learning which a good teacher wants to understand.
3. Focusing on progress not outcomes: Progressing little by little is the ultimate goal of learning. We prefer the phrase ‘practice makes progress’, rather than ‘practice makes perfect’. Each step forward is ‘woohoo’ and a thing to celebrate.
4. A culture of open and honest sharing: Having a safe place to be open and honest without judgement, and having your views and ideas respected and valued makes for a creative space to really excel.
5. Genuine listening. Being heard is important if we want to cultivate a great learning environment. Collaboration is only possible when we are taught to listen, reflect and form our own opinions.
6. Inclusivity at our heart: Treating everyone fairly and exactly the same, with no exception, means students not only feel valued and included, they build trust with their teachers.
7. Freedom to make decisions: Having the freedom to make decisions means we often find it easier to be brave. We can push ourselves without being forced, and ‘giving it a go’ is relaxed and fun.
8. Encouraging reflection: In a busy world we don’t often get time to reflect on our progress. In a supportive, kind environment we have the luxury to look back at how far we’ve come and celebrate. At Theatretrain we encourage all our students to celebrate their progress.
9. Recognising effort: A successful learning environment values effort over outcomes. Turning up every week and practising in spare moments seem like small things. But they are important.
10. A sense of humour: Humour is the best way to put people at ease and makes for a positive happy environment. It helps us connect and conquer our nerves and anxiety, and helps our students in every aspect of their learning.
11. Modelling empathy and kindness: To create a kind environment, modelling empathy and kindness is key. Kindness is contagious. One happy smile often creates a class of smiling faces.
12. Encouraging self kindness. Most important of all is encouraging our students to practise self kindness so they avoid the feeling of inadequacy, feel more compassionate towards others, become more emotionally stable and are more optimistic.
This is the final part in our series on kindness and we hope you’ve enjoyed reading it. If you have, why not do a small act of kindness by leaving a comment on Instagram or Facebook and tell us your thoughts on kindness? Or why not, right now, do something kind for someone in your family, a friend, a colleague, a neighbour or a stranger. The good thing is that they’ll benefit, but you’ll benefit more. And don’t forget to tell us about your kind act.