Sunday, May 13, 2018

Hang in there, teachers! We got this!

I wanted to post more on this blog throughout the school year, but of course, after working 10 hours a day plus random weekends, working out, training for a half marathon, and keeping up with my household I just didn't find the time.

And now it's the month all teachers dread: May.

May is such a touch time of the year for teachers, students, and administration.  We are on the home stretch, the finish line is in sight, but we have a huge hurdle called testing to jump over.  But once that's cleared, what do you do with anxious students for three weeks when you are exhausted yourself?

In the fine arts world, May is filled with end of the year plays, concerts, and trips.  We are the reason students come to school, and rewarding them with fun trips is one of the best parts of teaching.  But not when you are just plain exhausted!

If you teach middle school like I do, you know the struggle is real right now.  All year long we ask students do to the same thing over and over again, and have they learned?  Probably not.  "Take your gym clothes home."  "Sit down when the bell rings."  "This is your 12th tardy of the 9 weeks and it's the end of the school year.  You know your schedule by now." "Walk in the halls."  They still exhibit the same behaviors at the end of the year as they did in August, and it's frustrating as teachers to be on repeat this late in the year.  Lucky for me, I get some kids three years in a row, and you know what?  These behaviors don't change after three years, either.  Hang in there!

State testing in Texas starts up again tomorrow.  No more last minute tutoring; no more cramming; no more notes and emails sent to parents about their child's performance in class.  What these kids do in the next four days determines if our school is good enough; if our teachers are good enough; if the kids are good enough.  It all comes down to this.

But does it?  These tests don't see what I see in these kids.  When I look up their test information to get an idea of their reading level before assigning monologues and scenes, it really surprises me sometimes.  The results don't match up with what I see from these kids on a daily basis. There are so many victories in our public schools are not tied to testing.

Like the little 6th grade girl who was too shy to perform her monologue in front of the class in September, so after some tears, she performed for me and her best friend one morning before the first bell.  She grew so much in the last year that she competed at the spring speech contest and was cast in two roles in our spring show.  Where does that victory belong?

Like the girl who was so shy in 6th grade that I was happily surprised that she came to audition for the musical.  She was cast as an ensemble member, and the rest is history.  She went on to win several plaques and ribbons at speech contests and acting awards for one act play in her 7th and 8th grade years.  Where does that victory belong?

Like the little boy who doesn't seem to talk much, but when he does, it's amazing.  When I first met him, his parents did all of the talking, then when he left the room, his dad told me to go easy on him because he's shy.  Of course I deal with shy kids all of the time, so I treated him like any other student in my room.  I held him to the same expectations as the rest of my students and he rose to meet them time and again.  And would you believe that this child, who's parents do nearly everything for him, including talking, is excellent at impromptu speaking?  Where does that victory belong?

Teachers, don't let the results of this week determine your self-worth as an educator.  You do more than drill them with math facts and reading strategies.  You mentor these young people to think for themselves, solve problems on their own, and create.  You nurture their emotional health because God knows middle school is a roller coaster of emotions from day to day.  You are the parent that is absent.  You mean more than test results.

As summer is approaching, I find myself too tired to go out and enjoy life on the weekends.  I just want to sleep, eat, then take a nap.  I'm feeling the end of the year exhaustion as I know you are, too.

Hang in there.  It's all worth it in the end.


Friday, March 3, 2017

How to Run a Drama Club (When You Already Have a Full Plate)

Finally, an update.  I have had ideas for my blog all year, but it hasn't been a priority compared to other things I have going on.  Veteran teachers, you know what I'm talking about.  First year teachers, you may feel like you are barely swimming, but keep going!  We are one week away from spring break, and almost at testing season.  Once that's over, the pressure is off and we can relax and enjoy our time with our students.

How many of you are usually the last car in the parking lot, walking out when the sun is going down or already down?  We don't have windows in our classrooms or auditoriums, and we don't see the sun when we leave, either.  Don't let the lack of vitamin D get you down!  Remember the tips from the previous entry about survival.  We can do this!

My campus is always looking for ways to get disenfranchised students involved, even though we have a great fine arts program where many students are already involved.  How can you get more students interested in drama?  Have an official Drama Club!  Some teachers use an official honor society, which is great for your dedicated kids who come to every audition.  I'm talking about involving those kids that are flat out afraid to audition, or they can't commit to staying after school every day.  Yeah, those kids.  Here is what I require of my Drama Club:

1. Every September club members submit permission slips and membership dues for the entire year.   Many districts require paperwork and a procedure for collecting money, and collecting dues up front saves time before events throughout the year.  This year I charged $20.

2. Benefits of joining Drama Club: t-shirt, field trip to see a play, Christmas movie party, and Mystery Dinner party at the end of the year.  At the first meeting, members design and vote on the year's t-shirt, and vote for officers.

3. Students vote on what Christmas movie to watch for the party and what play they want to go see.

4. Before the field trip, I collect a $5 fee to ensure that students will follow through and show up.  Every year I have students who submit their permission slips for the play, I buy tickets, and they don't show.  It also helps pay for those unused tickets or a bus if you need one.

5. I use for our Mystery Dinner Parties.  I teach 6-8th grades, so I can use the same parties on a three year rotation.  I like to play along, but this will be my fourth year doing them so I know the killer now. :)  I cater in Zio's, they get character information in their invitation, and we have a blast.  It's like a banquet, but more fun!

6.  We hold one monthly meeting where we discuss the next upcoming event.  I would love to include a service project, but with all the contests we have going on, I am finding a hard time to plan and execute one.  Maybe something as simple as picking up trash along the roads to school.  Still in the works!

I hope this helps you generate ideas to get more students involved in theatre.  I have 60 kids in the Drama Club, and not all come to auditions for plays.  They get to be a part of theatre without testing their fear of performance.

I'm hoping to add more to the blog and more to my store over spring break and in May! :)


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Non-teaching Tips for First Year Theatre Teachers

Congratulations!  You got the job!  Your dream job!  You've been through new teacher orientation, staff development on your campus, and met a ton of new people.  Your students will be walking through those doors in just a few days.  You've been trained on teaching techniques, and behavior techniques.  Your passion for theatre runs in your veins.  You're so ready!

Returning teachers: finish your fruity, frozen drink, put away the swimsuit and floaties, and try to find your school ID badge.  It's time to inspire a new group of shiny students!  These tips could work for us returners, too.  As I was drafting this post, I realized that these tips are good reminders for myself, as well. We know that the day-to-day can be really hectic with all that we do.  It's good to step back and take it all in, and take care of ourselves.

The following are tips for new (and old!) teachers that have nothing to do with instruction, because let's face it: instruction only covers a percentage of what we do every day.

1. Buy a large, long-lasting water bottle.  I have a 32 oz bottle that I refill throughout my day.  Staying hydrated helps fight fatigue, headaches, and the grumps.

2. Train yourself to use the bathroom once a day.  I'm not kidding.  Last year, I had a morning conference, so between 11:20 and 5:30 I had to sprint to the bathroom if I had to go.  Those teacher memes about the bathroom are not jokes.  They are true.

3. Make sure you have a microwave and refrigerator near your room/black box/office/auditorium.  Lunch is precious, precious time and you don't want to waste it walking across campus to the lunch room.

4.  On that note: bring a lunch and sit down and eat it.  I mean it!  Preferably with other adults with whom you can engage in an adult conversation with.  Fellow middle school teachers: trust me on this.  You need a break from adolescents in your day, no matter how much you may enjoy them.  (Confession: sometimes I don't have food to bring, or I didn't have time to pack a lunch, so I get a tray in the cafeteria.  Some schools have a great lunch program; others do not.  Investigate first before it's too late!)  Also, keep plastic silverware, plates, and paper towels in your office.

5.  Don't wear your school shirt to happy hour on Fridays.

6. Keep healthy snacks in your office/desk.  Our days are long, and lunch times vary.  Our last lunch doesn't start until 12:20.  I would DIE if I had to wait that long between breakfast and lunch.  (for some reason I can make it from 11:30am-8pm with rehearsal and a workout before I get hungry.  Go figure.)

7.  Have instant coffee/a Keurig/tea.  I think scientific studies have been done that indicate humans need a siesta in the afternoon.  That's why it's the "afternoon slump".  Mine always hit during 6th period, with three classes, rehearsal, and a workout to go.  Caffeine in any amount is very helpful.

8.  Attend as many meetings on campus as you can.  Be visable.  Work with other teachers on campus.  Don't hide away and be forgotten.  Attend staff parties and happy hours.  Do Secret Santa at least one year.  Treat the office staff like queens (or kings), give treats to your custodians.  Participate in a pep rally.  Do the "non-theatre" fun stuff on your campus.  You are not an island; you are a part of a community.

9. SLEEP.  I confess that this is something I struggle with during the school year, and I LOVE sleeping.  I slept a lot this summer and I don't regret it.  My body needed it.  I'm pretty sure that I read somewhere sleep studies have shown that you can't "store" up sleep that you missed, but man it sure feels good!  One of my goals this year is to go to bed at a certain hour (especially during my peak running training).  It's so hard to multitask and not be grumpy when your body is lacking sleep.  Lack of sleep also leads to missed workouts and bad food choices, which leads me to...

10.  Make healthy food choices.  I'm not saying you should do a Whole 30 or even count calories.  Eat more fruit instead of processed food.  Avoid fast food on those evenings when you are just bone tired.  Mental exhaustion feels like physical exhaustion, but you can still muster up the energy to eat better to keep your body functioning the way it should.  Without that, how can you be there for your students?  Along those lines, schools and teacher's lounges are filled with junkie goodies.  For example, the first day of training we had candy scattered on our tables.  Tomorrow, the PTA is providing donuts.  (YUM!  You know I'm going to eat one, but the key here is ONE.)  It's ok to say no to free junk food.

The bottom line is: Take care of yourself.  We give so much to our students (it's THE reason why we go to work every day).  It's so easy to forget about taking care of yourself in this profession.  But, if we teachers don't take care of ourselves, how can we be at our best for our students?  Veteran teachers, I hope this was a helpful reminder for you, as well.

We have such an important job.  Do little things to make sure you are the best that you can be every day, from August to June!

It kind of feels like Christmas, doesn't it?  New school supplies, new clothes, new scripts, new faces.  Drink some night time tea and get to bed early, and have a GREAT school year!



Wednesday, August 10, 2016


Howdy!  Only a few days left to soak up the summer!  (And I'm working from home; it never really ends, does it?)

My goal this summer was to blog like crazy and add more to my TeachersPayTeachers account.  (As a runner, I need a little extra change to pay for new gear and races...)  Guess what I didn't do?  Blog and get on TeachersPayTeachers.  Sigh.

Well, I got on today and added the CHAMPS posters I tried to share in Google last year.  I updated the link in that post, as well.  You can find them here: CHAMPS posters

I also added a Melodrama Playwriting planning sheet that I use with 7th and 8th graders in the spring.  Middle schoolers are all about melodrama and they LOVE it!  It includes the elements you must have to make it a true melodrama, and a timeline at the end for both students and the teacher to keep track of the writing project.  I gave them three weeks to write (or type.  We use Google Drive.), then three-four weeks to produce their work.  They LOVE writing and producing their own scenes!

I'm going through my files right now to see what else I can add to the store before school starts that would be beneficial to all theatre educators, veterans and newbies.

What resources are you looking for the most?


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Teacher Burn Out: It's Real!

Howdy, folks.

I haven't posted anything since January.  It is now July.  Fellow teachers, you already know what I'm about to say: life is hectic as a teacher in the spring, no matter how many years you have under your belt.

January brings new challenges in my world: we jump right into our One Act Play contest rehearsals, and that's all I can think about until March.  Spring break hits, and I lose my drive.  The kids are antsy.  It's getting hot outside.  They can't bare to turn in any assignments, even the easy ones.

I wanted to write a complete post about how Interactive Notebooks worked for me this year.  I took pictures of how the storage area became a mess and stayed a mess all year long even with classroom jobs.  I don't even know where those pictures are right now.

Here's the deal with Interactive Notebooks in middle school theatre:  The idea is nice, and admin loves it, but it just doesn't work well if that's what you are basing your curriculum around.  I found out that I wanted to fit as much as possible into those notebooks, and by February we were all sick of them.  I kept supply tubs at each table with glue, scissors, rulers (aka swords), colored pencils and markers.  By Thanksgiving they looked terrible and I needed to reorder supplies.  Middle school kids will fiddle with everything they see, so those tubs lived on my bookshelf for most of the second semester.

Even though kids kept their notebooks in their class period's bin, they still lost them. (!!!!!!)

I want to continue with the notebooks, but here's what I'm going to change:

Don't fit all the notes into one semester.  It's ok to take half the notes one day, the other half the next.  Hey, you could even ask kids what they remember to keep them in engaged in the unit!  My theatre I kids this coming year will take the same amount of notes, but spread out throughout the year.  My need to get them ready for contest makes me rush through the notes and students hated it.

Add more opportunities for students to reflect and evaluate in their notebooks.  We had plenty of room in notebooks at the end of the year, so I pledge to give them more opportunities to reflect and evaluate in their own words.  I used to be really good at getting gets to evaluate performances and reflect on them.  I don't know what happened, but this year I felt their writing about theatre hadn't improved.

My returning students will already have the basic notes from last year, so they will definitely have less writing.  (And I can create assignments based on their notes for when I have a sub!!)  I packed up all of the notebooks in May, and come August I will unpack them and recycle those who are not in the class any longer.

Another thing that did not work again this year was getting students to do their warm ups.  In previous years, their notebooks were warm up books. They would write a paragraph or vocab word as their warm up in their notebooks.  Many students didn't do it, or lost their notebooks (in the classroom again), which is why I moved to interactive notebooks and I changed my warm ups.  They were a question with a short answer each day, written on a paper Monday-Friday, turned in every Friday.  Students did not even do this simple task, and I put them on my website.  Many students earned a C because their warm up was a daily grade every week.

Y'all, I even had an entire class that would not do active theatre games/activites, NOR would they sit and do worksheets!  They sat and did nothing all year!!  I got burned out from trying to motivate this class every day.  What can I do with a group of middle school students who don't respond to any type of activity or lesson?  I don't like to just put movies on; that's not my style.  But every day, that class wore on me.

So, after taking a good long break from even thinking about school, I think I am ready to dive back into it and try to retool my classroom, yet again, because that's what teachers do.  We are always trying new things to engage our students and help them grow.  I want my theatre students to grow academically, so I will not take writing out of my curriculum.  However, I know they need more hands-on, active learning.  As a teacher, that type of learning in the middle school environment is hard to monitor and control.  I will spend the rest of my summer figuring out how to do just that.

Sorry for the lack of posts.
Sorry for no pictures in this one.  (ain't nobody got time for that in the spring semester).

I'm going to direct you to my TeachersPayTeachers page where I have my "Make Your Own Lesson Plan Book" documents on sale until Saturday, and I will be adding more resources to my store in the upcoming weeks, as well.

Ms. Korth's Theatre Classroom and Other Tools

I hope my fellow educators are getting the rest and family time they need to be the best they can be for their students in August!  Enjoy the rest of your summer!


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Career and College Prep in Middle School Theatre

I don't know about you, but I am feeling the pressure to include more obvious college and career prep lessons in my curriculum lately.  Administration and parents love to hear that children are being offered this kind of instruction and support these days, but they do not realize they are already receiving it in their Fine Arts electives.  It's not in an obvious way, but the skills we teach in theatre directly pertain to college and life skills.

In Texas, the standards require that we teach theatre careers to older grades.  This year I had my advanced class (7th and 8th grade) create a theatre resume and I took a "headshot" (they ended up calling them mugshots) and laminated it to put on the wall next to their resumes.  This is something I saw my  high school director do with his advanced kids as they prepared for college, prep school, or a career.  Since schools are forcing kids to think about their future as early as 6th grade (!) I figured my kids could do their resumes, too.  My advanced kids participate in every production in some shape or form and are required to attend our speech contests, so they had plenty to put on their resumes.  I checked out a cart of chromebooks and had them do the assignment in Google Docs in a shared folder.  I can monitor their progress, give them feedback, and print the final product.  Easy.  This three days, starting with an interactive notebook lesson on jobs in theatre.

The next project I had them do was partner up and research a job in theatre, using local theatres as an example.  They had a week to research, analyze, and create a poster to present to the class on their career.  The poster had to be sturdy enough to be displayed to my other classes, and they did an assignment on this "Career Fair" while I had a sub.

Here's the finished Career Fair! (as you can see, one group didn't realize they were under a deadline...)

I've included the lesson plan, rubric, and PowerPoint for this lesson on my TeachersPayTeachers store for FREE!  It won't be free for long, though! Click HERE for Careers in Theatre Unit!


Tuesday, January 12, 2016


TeachersPayTeachers is a great collaboration and sharing site for teachers.  I just set up my own account to sell a few things I've created.  I've added documents for the Make Your Own Lesson Plan Book that I blogged about last year and still make!

Check it out if you want to customize the way you organize your days.  It's not just for Theatre educators, but the weekly template has the Theatre TEKS on it that you can take off.