Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The Art of Self-Discipline

Can self-discipline be taught?

That's my big unanswerable question for this installment. Over my time teaching in all areas in and around the course and to a whole range of students the notion of self-discipline and being able to motivate/challenge yourself seems to be a recurring theme.

Over the past few sessions I have been using a lot of work by Tadashi Suzuki. Suzuki is a Japanese practitioner who focusses on the stillness of the Actor, creating a strong centre to the body and feeling movement from the core muscles. He puts the body through an endurance test, not unlike the early martial arts training, and sees how the performer copes with what is thrown at them.

I love this work because it gives students responsibility for their own actions. Students seemed shocked that I wasn't interested in their aches and pains, how difficult they were finding it or if they were struggling with the point. Instead they had to find their own justification for the work, work through their pain, play games with themselves in their own minds and ultimately overcome them. This work also shows development very quickly to those who respect it and are willing to give in and 'play the game'. Likewise it highlights those who lack focus, discipline and awareness very quickly. A good student will see these issues and continue to work on them, develop and improve. Other students will see the work as a waste of time, blame others, berate me and ultimately learn nothing.

But should I be worried about how students react to the work? Surely the role of a teacher/lecturer is to give students the tools to facilitate their own learning. But do the students today have the skills within themselves to self-motivate, self-analyse and self-discipline? In short, I don't know. And more pressing, is it my responsibility to give students these skills?

I know that we rely heavily on the skill of self-discipline to function as a Drama department. Turning up to classes, completing the reading, reading outside of the reading lists, going to see theatre, engage in community projects, turning up for rehearsals.................students finding their own learning outcomes for all of the above! (that last one is the most important, and one which I bang on about all the time). I am still learning every day in my job here at St Mary's, because I want to and what I do interests, inspires and involves me. I hope our students are doing the same.

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