Department of Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies
Recipient, Faculty Award for Outstanding Mentorship of GSIs
Each spring graduate students are invited to nominate faculty members for the Faculty Award for Outstanding Mentorship of GSIs. Typically each nomination is supported by several GSIs who have worked with the honoree. The award is sponsored by the Graduate Council’s Advisory Committee for GSI Affairs and the GSI Teaching & Resource Center.
Martin Berman’s Statement of Mentoring Philosophy
One of my greatest pleasures teaching at Berkeley has been working with the GSIs in the Department of Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies. Each year, I assist a small group of GSIs in undertaking the teaching responsibilities for the first year acting courses in our program. By providing GSIs with constant encouragement, guidance, and contact, I aim to spark their passion for acting, thus increasing their confidence and allowing them to enter the classroom with enthusiasm. Cultivating this passion is at the heart of my mentoring philosophy.
In addition to informing GSIs about the guidelines and content of the introductory acting course, I’ve tried to nurture and develop their impulses, instincts, and creativity. I counsel them towards developing initiative, freedom, and a sense of individual responsibility. By taking this approach, I am mindful to not impose my own ideas about acting onto the students. Instead, I take care to find ways of serving individual GSIs so that they can develop their own methodologies. I view my role as one of a facilitator, trying to enable the GSIs’ self-discovery within the acting process, thereby allowing them to realize their creative and pedagogical potential. During the process of mentoring, I offer my knowledge, experience, insight, and time to make this kind of self-realization possible.
Teaching acting in an academic environment is unique since it not only requires intellectual rigor and organization, but also emotional intelligence and understanding. As I always explain to my GSIs, these are qualities that require time and patience to develop. In the theatre, a director brings about a fully realized performance by paying diligent attention to detail, and through continuous repetition and rehearsal. So too, the development of the GSI must begin early and have continuous reinforcement and support. Like any good director, I devote a great deal of time and attention to the rehearsal process. A year before teaching assignments are given out, I meet with interested graduate students to assess their capabilities. Once they are chosen, we set out to develop a comprehensive syllabus that will operate within the course guidelines. This process can sometimes take many weeks as we try to pare down material to what is realistic, practical and effective. After much research and discussion, we forge into mock classroom settings to test the methods and pedagogical principles we have introduced over a 6- to 12-month period.
Once teaching actually begins, I hold weekly meetings to discuss problems and successes, pedagogical issues and student-teacher interactions. These meetings help GSIs to see teaching itself as a learning process, rather than as something they’re supposed to pull off without any hitches. In addition, two to four classroom visits are scheduled during the semester in which I observe a GSI’s teaching style and effectiveness. After a visit, I always set up a conference with each individual GSI to provide them with feedback on their teaching and to discuss whatever constructive criticisms may be necessary.
As a mentor, my goal is to facilitate the explorations of GSIs to help them realize their own and their undergraduate students’ creative potential. I take this calling quite seriously, keeping in mind that for the truly talented and highly motivated undergraduate, this endeavor will lead them to the professional world of theater. For other students whose chosen fields lie in education, law, medicine, and politics, this kind of creative work will provide greater communication skills and a stronger sense of self confidence, poise, and presence. When taught effectively, the acting course will offer students an appreciation for the many elements involved in the world of a play (psychology, history, art, philosophy) and provide an opportunity for them to gain greater insight into the human condition.