Thought I’d just pop up an informal report on today … a standard day in the life of a high school Drama teacher.
The day began with every one of my Year 12 Drama students attending a Period 1 written examination preparation session at 8.45am. Doesn’t seem too special until you realise they all agreed to come into school (after lessons had concluded for the year) the morning after their Graduation Ceremony. Bleary-eyed as some of them were with only a few hours sleep, you’ve got to be mighty proud of their commitment and discipline. I even scored a lovely gift and card from one of my students.
The next lesson of the day was interesting. With our school preparing to become a laptop school in the near future, the folks at Apple have loaned us a class set of Macbook Pros. One of my Year 8 Drama classes had been chosen to be the class with all the tech gear for the next few weeks. I was looking forward to being able to use the technology, but knew these laptops would arrive at busy time of the year for me. Consequently, I rearranged the next topic on the fly in front of the students, rearranging a costume design assignment into a research assignment on a professional set, costume or lighting designer, with the aim of transferring the information into a small website for each student using iWeb.
Nervously “making it up as I went along”, once the students hit the laptops to do the research, I was really struggling with a way to find an angle that would get this assignment inside a 14-year old girl’s head and make it interesting. Hell, I was embarrassed (with myself!?) that I could only think of one costumer designer off the top of my head (Julie Taymor – The Lion King), so how were my students going to find some? Well, they thought of the angle that I didn’t, of course. The “way in” was to think of a show (usually a musical with this gender and age-bracket) that you have seen and then recall the part you loved the most (set?, costumes?, lighting?), then research the designer for the original or local production and off you go! My lesson went from nowhere to everywhere in 15 minutes! It was like a bullet train and before I could finish a cup of coffee (woops!) I had students quietly discussing with others what they were doing. We had students researching set and costume designers for productions of Mary Poppins, Wicked (a popular choice), Hairspray and many others. Hearing students say “Hey, she’s won a Tony, what the hell’s that?”, cracked me up!
Later in the day I was the victim of severe bullying in the workplace(!). I had clearly left last year’s Year 12 Drama written examination in the tray of the photocopier at work and sure enough, one of my colleagues saw an opportunity. So, at lunchtime I was told I’d left an exam paper on the staff couch and that I’d better check inside. As I openend the exam my “colleague” had gone to the trouble of writing his own questions inside the Drama exam paper, with the real exam cover intact. Here’s a few samples:
Question 1. Stand up and pretend to be a tree (15 marks)
Question 2. Draw a picture of a tree. (15 marks)
Question 3. Make the sound of a tree. (15 marks)
Question 4. Describe what it felt like when you acted like a tree. (15 marks)
OK! So, there’s a theme, here! What sort of respect is that? Those who don’t understand Drama teaching are all jealous, I tell ya. They observe from a distance all the enjoyment we are having in the classroom and … SHOCK! … HORROR! … watch our students learn and have fun in education at the same time! Anyway, it was a joke and I will surely pay my esteemed colleague back when he least expects it before the academic year finishes!
But perhaps the best part of my day was when I chatted to a couple of Year 9 girls I had in Drama last term and you gotta love it when a student tells you, aged 15, she has one goal in high school … to get into a university course where she can study to be a Drama teacher. It makes you proud. Little things like this remind us why we teach Drama … to inspire others in the beauty of our subject/discipline.