drama teacher

Trevor Small – Drama Teacher at St. Mary C.S.S.

Trevor Small – Drama Teacher at St. Mary C.S.S.
About Trevor Small

Trevor Small (@TKS_Theatre) teaches at the High School that I (Sam) grew up at (St. Mary C.S.S.). He has a huge passion for Drama and Dance. In today’s episode, he shares some ideas about how you can continue your teaching practice in the arts virtually.

His goal is to provide theatre solutions to youth by using improvisational/sketch theatre in order to facilitate teamwork skills, communication skills, as well as problem solving skills.

He aims at developing an individual’s confidence in their presentation skills through the use of a variety of theatre games.

Connect with Trevor: Email | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.

Resources Mentioned

St. Mary C.S.S.

University of Guelph

CODE – Council of Ontario Drama and Dance Educators

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma (00:00):
Do you want access to all the past guests on this show? Do you want a network with like-minded individuals and meet other high performing educators from around the world? If so, go to www.highperformingeducator.com. Sign up to join the exclusive network and you’ll get access to live virtual networking events and other special opportunities that will come out throughout 2021. I promise you I will not fill your inbox. You might get one email a month. If that sounds interesting, go to www.highperformingeducator.com. Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker Sam Demma. Today’s guest teaches at the high school that I went to when I was younger. His name is Trevor small and he is the drama teacher. And as you can imagine, teaching drama virtually is a lot different than teaching drama in class. He has some unique ideas on keeping students engaged in how he can continue his teaching virtually and a also in unique other ways.

Sam Demma (01:04):

And I absolutely love this episode because the subject of drama is so important. Sometimes you don’t realize it, but the ability to share stories, tell stories and act is in a very, a very important skill, especially in the work that I do. So anyways, enjoy today’s episode. I will see you on the other side, Trevor, thank you so much for coming onto the High Performing Educator podcast. It’s an absolute pleasure to have you let’s start this off by having you share a little bit about yourself with the audience and why you got into the work you do with young people today.

Trevor Small (01:35):

That’s that’s a long question. I’ll start, I’ll start with easy stuff first, I guess. My name is Trevor Small. I’m a drama teacher at St. Mary Catholic secondary school. And I guess I had gotten an education because I wanted to give back. I was really lucky growing up high school, especially I had a lot of different mentors that had a huge impact on my life. A couple of them were drama teachers, but I also had a lot of football coaches, a lot of hockey coaches that kind of really shaped the way I see the world and what I wanted to give back to the world. And I guess that idea of kind of being in a collective, whether it’s a team or a play has always been so important to me. So I went off to university. I went to Guelph did drama Guelph played football at Guelph and then went and got my teaching degree and hopped right back into the education world.

Sam Demma (02:18):

Awesome. At what moment did you make the decision that you were gonna be a teacher yourself? Was there a defined moment or what led you down the path?

Trevor Small (02:26):

I feel like I wish there was like one like concrete moment, but there’s probably like a million of them. Like one of the first ones I really remember was being in grade 11 drama class and I had this teacher, his name was Mr. She and he gave me a monologue and said, this is the one for you to do. And I felt like, so SP I’m like, wow, you, you, you have chosen me to do this monologue. And it was like so empowered that I had to do it. It was gonna be the best thing I’ve ever done. And, you know, to kind of a long story short, it’s like still my audition piece today. Oh. So like when I go to audition, I still use the same one because, you know, I, I put so much personal attachment to it. It meant so much to me when he when he kind of called me out and said, this is something that you could do.

Trevor Small (03:06):

I went to university of Guelph and did their drama program there. And I had a couple teachers there as well, too, just really supportive, really encouraging I guess the whole student body to go out there and make your own art and kind of make your own impact. And to be honest, I think when I went to university, my dad and I had a lot of like arguments, cuz I’m like, oh, I’m gonna take drama. And his big thing was like, what are you gonna do with a drama degree? And I’m like, I don’t know. And like, he actually went online to the Guelph website and like actually looked at all the jobs you could get with a drama degree and he was listening them off like one by one, you know, do you wanna be a set designer? I’m like, no, not really.

Trevor Small (03:41):

He goes, do you wanna be a director? I’m like, ah, I don’t know. Do you wanna be an actor? Ah, I don’t know. Do you wanna be a teacher? I’m like, ah, maybe who knows? So he was going through all these lists, I guess, to make it like valuable that I was gonna get this drama degree, but really I was going for the experience and it wasn’t until I got there that, you know, he met other people that were really inspiring really mode students that, you know, wanted to go and create theater in the world. And actually a bunch of them actually started their own theater company, right outta university. Wow. And I was able to kinda like cross paths with them over the next few years and do a few things with them. And it was just really inspiring and really motivating.

Trevor Small (04:14):

And I think that that was probably the biggest takeaway for me that, you know, that old expression, those that can’t or those that can’t teach, I used to have huge problem with that. But a lot of my friends, you know, like they’re, they’re gonna be, you know, waiters working these really small jobs just at the chance of, you know, putting on a play or auditioning for something. But what I really liked is that they were trying to do it. And what we were doing is we were meeting in these, you know, basement writing plays. And then we put them on, you know, I, I, it blew my mind how easy it was to just, you know, rent space at a dive theater, downtown Toronto, you know, you get a bunch of your friends together, you write a script, you put it on, you bring people out, you do it three or four times in a row, and then it never goes on stage again.

Trevor Small (04:58):

And it doesn’t matter that it never exists again, it’s, you know having the courage to, to create something, to put it on. And then, you know, when you’re done, move on to the next thing. So I think that was really inspiring to me. And that’s kind of what I’ve tried to do. Like as a teacher moving forward is like, you guys do have stories to tell, let’s hear them, like let’s create something unique that’s never been done before. And I think that’s what I tried to do in my grade 12 drama class. It’s a collective creation. So we write the play and we perform it two months later. It’s really stressful. It’s really hard. Every year it’s different, but also kind of a little bit the same. But I want the kids to leave grade 12, knowing that one, their stories matter. And two, if they wanna tell their story, they can. And I think that’s probably the most important thing for me.

Sam Demma (05:42):

I absolutely love that. And I can relate to you on so many levels. I made a decision to take an early break from my post-secondary education and my parents are saying the exact same things. And when I told them I wanted to be a youth speaker and work in youth empowerment and, and my, my mentors were gonna be speakers who have done this professionally for years. My, my parents were like, you’re gonna get, you’re gonna get paid and make an impact talking. And I was like, no, like it’s possible. And, and I have this whole vision about a program I want to build and all these things. And, and sometimes I think we get so sidetracked by, you know, titles of, and jobs that we forget. Like, you know, let’s follow the thing that we’re most, most passionate about. And one of the things you touched upon that I thought was really fantastic was the fact that your teacher back in high school, Mr. Shea, he made you feel like you were chosen to do something like this was meant for you. And I wanna know, cuz you mentioned that you also try and give that feeling to your students. How do you do that? How do you make your students feel chosen as well? For whatever their role or their position is?

Trevor Small (06:43):

That’s deep. Like I, I hope I hope they have an impact on students. Sometimes you don’t know if you do or not. Yeah. I think one of the cool things about being a high school teacher is like that first month or two into a semester where you get the kids coming back from university. And I think then you find out that people that you’ve had an impact on. I’ll just share a couple of quick stories. Probably the, my, my favorite one, it’s about three years old now. It was one of my first grade 12 drama classes at St. Mary. And was the first time I was trying this collective creation play. I didn’t know any of the students cause I was still pretty new to the school. So there are kids that I didn’t know they didn’t know each other.

Trevor Small (07:19):

That’s the thing that I found like kind of mind boggling, I thought, oh, by the time you get to grade 12, you’re gonna know everybody that’s in your grade 12 drama class, but they really didn’t know each other that well. So it was this really cool experience of them coming together and sharing their stories. And then we took all of these individual stories, these individual opinions, and we turned them into this wild play. And one of the coolest things was, you know, this, this, this girl in the class she came in and she shared this really, really personal monologue about a relationship she had with her father. And it was like devastatingly heartfelt and like here a pin drop in the class and she couldn’t keep it other, even sharing the monologue. And it was really hard to see her go through that.

Trevor Small (08:05):

And then I had all those questions like, oh, like, should I even ask her if she wants us to be part of the play? Like this is, this obviously means so much to her. Maybe we shouldn’t be sharing it. Right. Mm. But she really wanted to put it on. She really wanted to be a part of the play. So we kept in and you know, as far as a performer goes, she was lights out. She was an amazing actress. Like she had a really powerful script and she performed it so well with so much intention with so much conviction that it was like a show stopper every night it went on and when it ended and the play ended and we were talking about the, the, the whole pro says, she told me that she hadn’t took drama the last three years. She took grade nine and dropped out two weeks into the course, cuz she was afraid of performing in front of people.

Trevor Small (08:50):

Yeah. And I think that was such a, a meaningful moment for me. Like how many of us, you know, knock something off our slate because of an early experience with it. Mm. And here’s somebody that like was terrified of performing in front of people, took this grade 12 drama class. I still don’t know why she took it in the first place comes in and then has this amazing impact. And I don’t know if I did anything directly to help that, but I think the environment that we create, we try and create this space in the drama room where we can share ideas and support each other. And I think by treating each other with that kind of level of respect, that kind of creative environment of respect, I mean the, the, the what’s possible seems, you know, boundless or endless, like who knows what’s gonna come out of it.

Trevor Small (09:29):

I think that’s the coolest thing. That’s the thing I’m most proud of are those like little mini things that pop up maybe every semester, you know, like you said, I had kids in here today doing their monologue pieces and they have to choose a monologue. And I had a couple kids yesterday pick a monologue and I read it over and you know, I, I look at it. I’m like, okay, well, that’s, that’s a nice one that you’ve chosen, but I I’ve kind of tried to pass it along too. I’m like, you know what? I actually think this one would be better for you. Mm. This, this is, this is something for you to do. And, and I think that if I can inspire them and say, Hey, you know, like I saw your mind scene, you’re a great physical performer. Here’s a monologue. That’s perfect for a physical performer like you. And you’re kind of like validating the work they’ve done already and encouraging them to take it that much further. I think, you know, if Mr. Shea’s kind of my inspiration I want to be doing that to other kids as well, whether I’m away of it happening or not. You know? So I think that’s a really long version of a, of a shorter question you asked. That’s awesome. Sorry, we’re talking so much.

Sam Demma (10:23):

No, don’t apologize. Educators are seed planners and sometimes those seeds take 10 years to grow or two minutes. And I guess we just never know until they blossom and we get to see the firsthand result of it, which is awesome. You mentioned briefly while you were talking in there about the fact that you know, some people throw something off because they have a first terrible experience with it. There might be some educators listening who are just starting teaching and are asking themselves, what the heck did I sign up for? Like, this is, this is crazy this year. If you can, could go back in time and speak to your younger self when you were just starting teaching and add in a potential global pandemic and the whole virtual scenario. What words of advice would you give to a younger educator or your younger self?

Trevor Small (11:09):

Yeah, I’ll try to answer this a little bit more succinctly, I guess. Oh, of course. I think, I think when I got in, I was totally blind. I think it’s one of those things as a, as a young young educate, you’re just trying to hang on. I mean, I, I can only, I can only imagine how stressful it must be for a new educator who might be teaching a course. They’ve never taught before and now you’re gonna teach it, you know, online and I’m doing it right now. I got, you know, live classes in the morning, but then I’m online in the afternoon and it’s, it’s really difficult. It’s really hard to kind of get all of the things I think we look, look for as a teacher, we look for all these like feedback cues, right? You know, people smiling, nodding, answering questions.

Trevor Small (11:44):

And the fact of the matter it’s really hard are really easy for kids to hide online. Right. They, they mute their mics, they turn their camera off. You know, they give me a thumbs up emoji if they understand something and it can be really, really hard, I think, to make that connection with the students. And I don’t wanna speak for every teacher, but I think I got into education because of that personal connection for that one to one work we get to do. And I’m sure a lot of educators are the same. So I think that can be really disheartening. Whether they’re using something like zoom to pull people into like separate little breakout rooms and just get a chance to try and get some kind of one-to-one communication going on. I think that’s the, the most important thing you can do right now, to be honest is really hard to engage the students when they’re outside the classroom.

Trevor Small (12:29):

And I’m so excited for the in-class sessions we get, I think I value, I’ve always valued the work I do in the drama room, but now I value it so much more because I really do appreciate the things that we’re able to do when I see someone face to face. And I see someone make some kind of development or growth. It’s so much more rewarding being in this space with that student. So I think that’s the biggest thing. So I don’t wanna like scare the own teacher that might be online for the first time, but like, yeah, I think it’s just gonna be really weird and really different. And I, I hope that, you know, by the end of this year, end of next year, sometime the very near future, they get the experience at being in the classroom. Cause I know that’s what they were looking forward to.

Trevor Small (13:08):

And I know that that is probably their preferred environment. So I don’t know if that answers your question at all. No. Nice. As, as, as a young teacher, I felt like I was thrown to the wolves anyways. So whether you’re online or not, it’s, it’s, it’s just gonna be a battle. Like you’re just trying to keep your head above water. So whether you’re online or in the classroom, I don’t think it really matters right now. It, it’s gonna be a bit of a, a battle, no matter what. So keep going, stay positive and you’ll figure it all out soon.

Sam Demma (13:34):

Awesome. I had another educator tell me the state of the state of the world in terms of education is a like throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks and look that I’m curious to know if anything that you’ve tried has been a huge home run, whether in person or virtual that maybe is new, that you’ve never done before that you think might be worth sharing with other. And on the other side of that question, if you’ve done anything that was a massive learning experience and you think it’s worth sharing as well.

Trevor Small (14:03):

I think the only, and the only thing I can really take out of this whole online learning experience is that I think as educators, we had a lot of fears and concerns about move being online. And I think there were a lot of issues when we first started up where some of the things that we were worried about did happen. But I also think it’s been unique because I can’t believe how many kids actually are making sure they show up for the online sessions. And I think it’s pretty easy to see the kids wanting the kids that want to take owner of their learning. So like today, you know, I create nine different breakout rooms for my 30 kids in my grade nine drama class. And I think the first day, you know, it’s, it’s gotta be really difficult for them to be learning online and not really seeing these people, but now I drop into these breakout rooms and they’re already starting to talk and share ideas.

Trevor Small (14:54):

And it’s very rare now where I walk into a room and, and somebody isn’t on task, it seems like it’s easier for them to kind of buy in. Now, I don’t know if it’s, cuz they’re more used to being online and sharing their experiences or not, but it seems like it’s starting to level out. People are starting to figure out, okay, this is the way it’s gonna be. And I better kind of stay on task. We’re also gonna get left behind even more. So I think that a lot of our fears were kind of realized, but also it’s not as bad as maybe I thought it was gonna be. I’m kind of anti-technology in a way. So the thought of moving everything online, I just didn’t think it had the same, same kind of value, but at the same time, you know, we gotta adapt.

Trevor Small (15:34):

We gotta change at the times. And I think most teachers are probably pretty flexible people or at least I hope they are and they can, you know, change based on the needs of our students. So if we have to change the way we model our education system for a little while, I don’t really see the issue in that. So I think that’s the biggest thing that I’m taking away. I don’t know if I’ve done any, anything, you know, mind bending or you know, revolutionary in the way I’m approaching my instruction. But I will say this for someone that’s like in the arts or if you are in construction in technology, I really like having the kids in class for a longer chunk of time. They go home for a week, they’re online and we do all the stuff that we don’t really love doing in class.

Trevor Small (16:16):

A lot of the paperwork, a lot of the content, but then when they come back into class, I mean, all we have to do is the practical stuff. So it’s been really exciting. And I’ll say this, I don’t know if it’s the kids have really appreciated being in class or, you know, they’re just so happy to not be online anymore. But last like what five weeks when the kids are in class, there is zero off task behavior. We’re in class for two and a half hours straight. I don’t have kids asking to go to the bathroom. I don’t have kids on their phone. We don’t have kids sitting down not doing anything. It’s really interesting. So I don’t know if the shift has been, the students really appreciate the in class time more or because they’re being treated more like adults in a studio session where, Hey, we’re here for two and a half hours to figure out this play let’s work through it. So they’re either really buying into the creative process or just really happy to be back in class. But either way it’s been amazing. Like my mornings are the best part of my day. It’s so inspiring. There’s so much energy and it’s so focused.

Sam Demma (17:12):

Awesome. Amazing. There’s so much inspiration to pull from students like young people just blow your minds consistently, the more you work with them and speak with them and witness their greatness. And so I’m wondering in your personal case, you know, what motivates you and inspires you with what you do because there’s obviously ups and downs for all of us in education, yourself included maybe months ago when COVID first hit, you know, you were burnt out a little bit or educators listening were burnt out. What kept you going? You know, what, what, what gave you hope to keep moving forward?

Trevor Small (17:43):

I think I’m a pretty positive person. Anyways. I think I, I kind of live off of positivity and there’s that old expression, you know, you, you gotta be the positivity in the world if you wanna feel it. So I feel like I’m naturally pretty outgoing. But yeah, I think coming into class every day, the opportunity to do the work, I got really I got a quote that I share every year. But I say drama is immediate, right? It’s always happening. It’s happening right now. And I think the the opportunity me to get back into class and to just have this happen again, has been so rewarding because for like, like three months, we didn’t have it. And you know, all of our end of year projects were kind of, you know, wasted. We started a musical last semester and had to scrap the whole thing and then we’re like, okay, we’re gonna get it going again next year.

Trevor Small (18:26):

No, we’re scrapping that again. So that was pretty like dis heart. Yeah. So I think I really do appreciate being back in the classroom again, because I just love coming in here and seeing what kids come up with. It’s like you said before, there’s so much inspiration in students. I don’t think they appreciate how excited I am. Yeah. For them to have a cool idea or present a scene in a new way or perform a monologue that I’ve never seen before. And I don’t think there’s any way I can really communicate that to them until they see me in rehearsal. And I’m just like dying with laughter or I’m having like a really like emotional response to something powerful they’ve done. And if that kind of continues that cycle of positive motivation, then, you know, so be it that’s I’m want to be doing here. So I think that’s it for me.

Sam Demma (19:13):

Awesome. And if there’s an educator listening to this, who’s enjoyed the episode and is getting some positivity off of you while you speak right now. How can they reach out to you and continue this conversation, maybe bounce some ideas around and just connect.

Trevor Small (19:26):

Well, if they could follow anything I was saying there they could find me at trevor.small@dcdsb.ca. So that’s my board email. And as well too, like if you’re interested in the arts, I just can’t recommend the Code Website enough. That’s the coalition of dance and drama teachers. So check that out. There’s a lot of awesome information out there and there’s a group you can join on Facebook for every region. So I think that’s a great way to reach out if you all are interested in dance or drama. Especially if you’re like you’re an elementary school teacher, I think now with you know, you’re in class all day you’re looking for different ways to break up your day. Maybe some drama activities could really help do that.

Sam Demma (20:07):

Awesome, Trevor, thanks so much for taking some time to do this. It’s been a great interview.

Trevor Small (20:12):

Sam, I really appreciate that. Thanks a lot.

Sam Demma (20:14):

And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an amazing interview on the High Performing Educator podcast. As always, if you enjoy these episodes, please consider leaving a rating in review. So other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show. If you wanna meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network, you’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise I will not fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

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