The First Time

Year: 2012

Author: Ludecke, Michelle

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Abstract:

The work you see is derived wholly from the research participants' stories. Interviews were conducted with 12 first year teachers throughout 2011 about their 'first' experiences. In selecting and shaping the performance I was looking for the teachers' moments of identity transformation through their 'first' experiences. I used the participants' actual words, with only minor editing, to create the script. The script and performance evolved from the research as both a tool to analyse the data, and as a means to tell the stories of the research participants in a format that can reach a broad audience of the teaching community at the same time, in the same place.

It was important for me to cast actors who would approach their roles with the sensitivity required to interpret others' stories. I turned to teachers with the skills to act, rather than actors playing their own interpretations of teachers to retain the participants' intense feelings of surprise, shock, and excitement by honing in on their 'first' events, rather than a characterisation of each teacher. Non-naturalistic theatrical conventions were used to convey the variety of feelings and emotions experienced by the research participants in their first year of teaching. Using narrators to address the audience is an attempt to portray the thoughts of the participants after they have had time to reflect on events. Time is manipulated- presenting a present (the teachers' thoughts) and a past (the 'first' events). When we share a 'first' with others we create two different selves. They're the same person, but they have a different view of the event. The use of transformation of character throughout is intended to highlight the multiple roles teachers enact in their practice.

The research participants were sent a copy of the script, and invited to our first rehearsal where we read through the play. We discussed the actors' interpretation of the text, and the participants made suggestions as to the meaning behind their words. This validation rehearsal was an important aspect of the process to maintain as much of the participants' words as possible in shaping the performance, and to respect the voices of the research participants, while creating a piece of theatre. During rehearsals we often discussed our own teaching experiences in relation to the ones being represented here, and acknowledged the aspects of our own practice that we brought to the interpretation of the script.

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