It has been a strange thing, over the years, making the transition from student to teacher, especially when I feel I have so much still to learn. Part of me had a hang-up, from school I guess, that if you are a teacher you have to know everything. Finding a balance between being authentic about my limitations, while also honouring what I have learned over the years has been challenging. Seeing a group of participants become less and less comfortable as I start a session by saying, ‘I don’t know anything, I’m probably explaining it wrong…’ was a lesson in the importance of knowing what I know. I have learned some valuable things, and I am able to communicate those things clearly and with authenticity.
Over the years I’ve been taught by many wonderful clowns and teachers - all of them have enriched my practice one way or another. But it took me years - until I worked with Ira Seidenstein - to realise that the trick isn’t to want to please your teacher, but to want to please yourself. If my intention is to learn how to make more people laugh more often, then I can measure this and practice this in a workshop setting for myself. If I’m not making people laugh, but they are engaged and interested, maybe I can learn something else about my practice that might be of value, or maybe I just need to change what I’m doing. If my only intention is to please my teacher, to fit into their particular school or style of clowning, then when I leave the workshop I will have very little to go on other than to mimic their style and school.
As an artist or clown, you can investigate, go and see and test in any way that you want, in any context that suits you. Your practice means that you are responsible for setting your own intentions and goals, and for holding yourself to account. You can monitor your own progress on your own terms, analyse your practice, find weaknesses that you want to build on and follow your own interests. Your aim isn’t to become your mentor, but to become an artist who can express themselves fully and freely.
The reality is that studying with any one ‘maestro’ doesn’t make anyone a good clown. Studying with Gualier requires time and money but zero skill, aptitude, talent for clowning. You pay, you go. It’s not to say that his teaching isn’t highly respected, admired and that he hasn’t witnessed the birth of many a wonderful clown. But paying for workshops isn’t the only way to learn and grow and progress as a clown - the point of arrival isn’t at the end of a 2 week clown intensive.
I have realised that as a teacher and coach, firstly, I can only be myself. I know that practice is important to me, and that I am constantly learning. My aim is to provoke you to think and reflect for yourself. I can give you feedback on how well you are achieving your intention, but I won’t tell you if the content of what you are doing is good or bad. I’m not, and never will be, qualified to do that. As a healthcare clown, you have to be able to analyse what you are doing and what you have just done. You have to be compassionate and non-judgemental about that in order to be objective about what is connecting and what isn’t so that you can continue to serve the people you meet to the highest possible standards. That applies to my teaching practice too. All of us are part of a lifelong learning process, constantly evolving and growing and ultimately responsible for ourselves.
I am a therapeutic clown and performer. Writing here is part of my wider practice and maybe some of my thoughts will trigger some thoughts of your own and I hope that helps.