top of page
  • Writer's pictureJason Simms

A BALANCING ACT: Designing & Teaching

When I was in graduate school, when asked how a designer balances teaching and maintaining a freelance career, she responded "You have to do both at 100%". In other words: BE DEDICATED.

Time Managed is Time Gained.

One of the joys of being a freelancer is being in control of your schedule; yet, teaching demands a rigid routine. When one does both, it's almost as if you have two different clocks running in your mind. This requires expert time management. Keeping track and scheduling hour-by-hour (and sometimes minute-by-minute is essential to not only getting thing accomplished, but also getting enough recharging sleep. I also believe that having restorative free time, or down time, is essential to maintaining a healthy, productive, growth mindset. Being honest about how long tasks will actually take, from grocery shopping, to building a model, to grading projects, is necessary to forming a functional schedule for one's self. Just as I believe strongly in solid time management skill, so to do I teach my students the same thing. "Keep track." "Be honest with yourself." But more importantly: "Get some sleep."

Everything is an experiment.

In the theatre, it is not uncommon for us to try new things. Sometimes these things fail, and sometimes they succeed -- this is learning. Just as the best storytelling demands risk, so does life in the classroom. Because nothing is truly 'constant' everything is an experiment in the arts and in the classroom. Mistakes are made. Success demands failure. It is imperative to provide emotional and psychological space for missteps, wanderings and explorations. Teachers must take what is learned outside of the classroom and use this "life tool box" in order to chart and navigate the learning process. Students must learn to work outside of their comfort zones by pushing themselves in new directions in order to grow. Allowing a safe place where risks can be taken is essential for the best teaching to happen, but also for the best theatre to be made.

Everyone is always learning...

...and always unlearning; and the correlations between what I learn as a freelancer and what I learn as a teacher are symbiotic. Teachers must be malleable and aware of what is working and what is not -- as do designers. Teachers must always be aware and honest about their own strengths and weaknesses -- as do designers. Teachers learn from students how to be better teachers; and designer learn from collaborators how to be better designers. Wether designing a set, or designing a class, refinement is always the goal. Maintaining a growth mindset is key to keeping the scales even.

48 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page