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Claire Meade: 5 tips for working in arts education

Claire Meade. Photo: Brandon Bishop Claire Meade. Photo: Brandon Bishop
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Claire Meade is an arts practitioner, performer and storyteller. She trained at the University of Birmingham and East 15 Acting School, and has worked in arts education for eight years. She has toured the UK in theatre in education productions both in English and her native French. She is currently working as festival coordinator for Shakespeare Schools Festival (part of Shakespeare Schools Foundation). Claire also works as a storyteller for Exchange Theatre and is an educational tour director for Worldstrides as well as volunteering for All Stars London, a grassroots project that enables young people and their community to grow and develop through performance. Here are her five tips for working in arts education:

1. Challenge yourself

You can get involved in so many varied projects through arts education. So keep taking on new projects, even if they are unfamiliar and daunting. The best projects I have worked on are the most unexpected ones. Take on the work you know will test and challenge you. It will undoubtedly build your confidence and expertise.

2. Set up a project

Once you have built up experience of working with a range of young people, think about how to further your experience in other ways. Try setting up a grassroots project in your own community or join an organisation that works with young people in new ways. Leading an educational tour for 20 teenagers around France not only furthered my skills as a practitioner but taught me to be resilient and manage all manner of logistical challenges. Such valuable experiences make you more employable.

3. Support and inspire

Be generous with your fellow practitioners, teachers and support workers. They are your allies and the more you build a rapport with them, the more you will learn new skills to further your career. In a workshop environment, involve them when you can and inspire their practice. Remember that they are the experts in their own young people so turn to them for behavioural management support. If a teacher is reluctant to join in or engage, always remain positive and enthusiastic. Make sure you reflect and check in with your colleagues after a workshop or project.

4. Prep, prep, prep

It may seem obvious, but always prepare as much as you can before a workshop or project. I like to go through the plan step by step, rehearse exercises and make bullet points in a pocket-sized notebook that I keep on me. Whatever works for you, though. Sure, you cannot pre-empt what might happen during a workshop, but the better you know the content of what you are delivering, the more confident and natural you will be at improvising around it. Furthermore, the young people will certainly notice if you are not ready.

5. Be flexible

Gauge the room. The key to working with young people is to be flexible and considerate of their needs. The project may start to go in a different direction because of the students’ interests and needs – let it. Steer and lead the group but remember to be adaptable and to listen. Think about how to adapt your techniques and exercises to be fully inclusive. Within a group, learners will have different skills and levels of ability, so tailor your approach to support all participants. Remember to reflect and lead discussions. It will improve their confidence and help build a tight company.

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