The Greatest Performance Art: Teaching

According to Wikipedia, the list of performance arts does not include teaching.  I know it’s hard to believe, almost unfathomable, so much so it actually takes my breath away.  Okay, I might be just a little facetious here, but teaching is an art and one in which the teacher must perform, right?  The list of 13 arts (lucky #13) from Wiki does include, in alphabetical order, acrobatics, acting, busking, comedy, dance, film, juggling, magic, marching arts, music, opera, storytelling, and theater.  Busking?  I have been teaching for 14 years and am convinced that teaching is, unequivocally, a ‘performing art’.

Arguably, the list of arts required for the profession of teaching includes acrobatics, acting, busking, comedy, dance, film, juggling, magic, marching arts, music, opera, storytelling, and theater.  These ‘requirements’ were never in any Edu textbook in academia.  There was never a college Prof that ever suggested anything beyond proximity control as a performance, or should I say, control method.  Every day when I come to school I am either practicing one of the listed arts or am witnessing a colleague practicing those that Wikipedia has declared the art of performance.  While some of these might be metaphorical, they are still being performed by artists, the teachers in our classrooms across the globe.  Please, just bear with me….

Teachers are:

  • Acrobats – each and every day teachers must perform extraordinary feats of balancing time, responsibility, and organization.  I see many teachers, not just phy ed teachers modeling agility and fine motor coordination.
  • Actors – Every day, no matter what is happening in my life (i.e., babies up all night, financial crunch at home, leaking basement, broken down car, loss of a loved one, etc.) I have to stand up in front of an audience and perform.  The positive energy of my classroom’s climate begins with me.
  • Buskers ?? – Do you know what busking means?  Well, according to Wiki, it is the performing art of performing music in public places for tips.  Well, guess what folks?  I play my acoustic guitar routinely in my PUBLIC classroom, and I would never shy away from taking a few tips.  The greatest tip I ever received was when a student gave me a piece of advice….”Keep your day job Mr. Steltz.”
  • Comics – Every teacher I know provides comic relief in their classroom.  There is no doubt in my mind that all teachers everywhere have a sense of humor.  This is a universal truth!!
  • Dancers – Dancing around budgets, administrators, and lunch duty allow me to work on my two step to any tune I like.  Furthermore, I have seen line dancing done by a team of teachers advocating for students.  I don’t even mind literally dancing to celebrate hard work in my classroom.
  • Filmmakers – My students enjoy when we film presentations in class then synthesize those presentation videos into one highlight film.  We get a good laugh with each other and learn from watching ourselves on film.
  • Jugglers – Time, Budgets, Discipline, Grading…the list goes on and on and on….
  • Magicians – The elementary school teachers I notice working with my own children are nothing short of magical.  I have seen magic done by teachers who are masters at motivation and engagement and can bring a student from the depths of despair to the climax of success as that student walks across the stage to receive his/her diploma.
  • Marching Artists – Teachers have students in their classrooms that march to the beat of their own drummers.  Teachers have to bring this symphony together to allow the different beats become one in harmony with the world.  This is not suggesting that teachers are creating conformists, rather it is suggesting that teachers are combining the individual strengths of the masses to create beautiful music with a wonderful rhythm.
  • Musicians – Music is made up of many parts that, when put together, creates a whole of complex texture and depth.  Teachers do this each and every day in their classrooms.
  • Opera Technicians – Okay, okay…this might be the only stretch of the bunch, but just hear me out.  I believe teachers have to combine text, or a libretto, to musical scores.  Let’s think about this metaphorically.  Teachers must create authentic learning activities, communicate that through some sort of text, and provide a scope and sequence (or the musical score) to guide students in their learning.  Pretty good, huh?
  • Storytellers – Is there anything else that needs to be described here??
  • Theatrical – As mentioned earlier, teachers perform as actors all the time in conveying a message, demonstrating a concept, or building rapport.  The classroom is the stage and all students and educators are the actors in this theatrical performance happening in schools across the globe.

Wiki needs to add teaching to the list as the 14th most common performing art.  The evidence provided here illustrates the true nature of teaching and the talent teachers must posses.  Teachers must be able to multi-task to engage all of their students in all sorts of different situations.  The art of teaching is demanding, beautiful, and creative.  Teachers are painting a most complex landscape, rich with texture and defining depth.  The tools to color the blank canvass with a love of learning and streaming success include the skills of each of the performing arts.  Each part of the symphony must be melded together by the maestro, soothing the ears and opening the minds of the audience to a whole new world.  Don’t let Wiki or anyone else ever persuade you otherwise, teaching is the most important performing art of all.


About jpsteltz

Proud husband and father of four; Literacy Specialist; Reading Teacher; Literacy Coach; HS ELA Teacher; Published Author
This entry was posted in #edchat, Education, Education Administration, Educational Leadership, students, Teaching and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to The Greatest Performance Art: Teaching

  1. jsteltz says:

    This from a colleague of mine via email:

    I totally agree! Some of my past performances are stronger than my other performances too…depending on the year, “theater” setting, and fellow actors/actresses. That is the beauty of performing!
    Thanks for sharing your comments!


  2. Mark Schmoll says:

    Steltz – The beauty of Wiki is that you can add whatever you want.


  3. Paul says:

    Teaching is definitely a performing art. Some days I experience the thrill of being “on” and then there are days when I wouldn’t mind coming to work and hiding in a cubicle. Nice job with opera–The Supreme Art Form!


  4. Madame says:

    This blog posting is totally inspiring to me this time of year. I found myself nodding as I was reading it. Yes, the show must go on even if your child is sick or your head is pounding. I love how we as educators try to inspire our students with our passion for learning. I have been trying to step back more in my classroom and help the students be the performers. My juniors just created a video for middle schoolers teaching them some basic French. It was fun to see them try to inspire and be motivators.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Cece says:

    Technology! ugh. My first post was from Madame 🙂 I sent a response….it went something like this….sorry if it posts again later.

    This blog is inspiring this time of year. I found myself nodding as I was reading. As teachers, we really have to continue teaching even if our kids at home are sick or if we have a headache. I love inspiring my students through different means. I’m trying now to step back and let my students be the performers.


  6. Uncle Rog says:

    Hi John! Excellent illustrations of teaching as a ‘performing art’ from you and your readers. As you know, I taught science/math, junior high. Science was fun; it was like putting on magic shows and arouse their curiosity about the planets, stars and beyond! To me it was far easier to make interesting then, to say, teaching English–your forte’! But, that was 30-some-odd years ago for a couple years; I left to make more money as a firefighter; now retired.

    I admire those of you who have taken on the task and devotion to teach English–and for that matter, History! I hated them both! Diagramming sentences, time-lines, yada, yada, yada. No offense, but I wanted to know about physics, the universe and more about life itself and where it was evolving.

    Now that I mention that (sag-way?), I’ve seen too often that teachers–at least back then in the 70s–were put in positions not relative to their major/minor. To me that had to be even more challenging; a challenge to perform in an art that wasn’t their choice to begin with. But often, it meant securing a job and hoping to move back into their field.

    Your Uncle’s observations, though perhaps far outmoded! Keep up the great work! I wish I’d of had this type of support and interaction 30-some-odd years ago! Rog


  7. Joan Biese says:

    John, thank you. This is a perfect discussion topic to share with my student teacher, as she nears her final weeks in my first grade classroom. It’s the kind of stuff I can only tell her about, then let experience be her teacher when she jumps hip-deep into the profession. In a recent class I’m taking, regarding the multiple intelligences and teaching, I find myself thinking along the same lines…there is so much we DO, and such a wide variety of opportunities we offer our students, that goes above and beyond the adopted curricula. We are all, indeed, artists of the craft of education. Long live creativity!


  8. Trish Rogatzki says:

    Since Wiki is interactive, did you try adding teaching, or are the definitions static? I have never tried it. I do think you would get a huge amount of support from the profession, however. I am quite sure your list is why so many of us go home exhausted at night–what other performers are “on” 5-8 hours per day (more if you are also working with kids after school in some capacity), 5 days per week, in front of so critical an audience? And, 2/3 of the “audience” –parents and administrators–havn’t seen the performance, but feel free to critique it anyway. The enthusiasm for our subjects and students helps us keep the energy up during our classes, but, whew, sometimes it’s hard to stay awake driving home at night…


    • jsteltz says:

      You hit the nail on the head Trish! Awesome! 2/3 of the audience never see teachers teaching but yet can be critical…interesting.

      You are the second person to suggest going into Wiki and trying to add teaching to performance art…maybe I should try it.

      Thanks for your thoughts!


  9. Julie Steltz says:

    Bravo ! Bravo !!!


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