Some posts on The Drama Teacher are more personal than others and this is one of them. We’ve all arrived home from a long day at school completely exhausted and even overwhelmed by everything else that is happening in our lives at the time. For me, yesterday was one of those days.
For new or soon-to-be teachers of drama reading this post, teaching can be a taxing job at the best of times. Due to the physical nature of teaching classroom drama (not to mention all the extra-curricular activities and after-school rehearsals that are part of the package), sometimes it can really test you. Last night I counted all the things that happened throughout my day that actually made it a positive one, because I was convinced it was a day I wanted to forget.
I have a student-teacher / pre-service teacher at the moment that is a real gem. She is confident, mature, enthusiastic, patient and knowledgable for her age (early 20s). She is one of those student-teachers that your classes don’t want to leave at the end of their placement. Yesterday I reminded myself how fortunate I am to be working with such an awesome pre-service teacher.
In a Year 9 drama class yesterday rehearsing Commedia dell’Arte plays, I took a step back and asked my student teacher to not just observe the class, but really consume what was going on at that moment in time. It was a snapshot of success. Yes, the students were focused on the task. Tick. Yes, they were also engaged. Another tick. But they were also thoroughly enjoying their learning. Everywhere we looked, the students were smiling and laughing while rehearsing their plays. Short of hi-fiving each other in the corner of the classroom, my pre-service teacher and I quickly realised what we were observing was something worth capturing and remembering. I’m sure many of you have had these moments teaching drama. Yesterday I reminded myself to embrace them.
While the Year 9 class was rehearsing those plays, I looked over at my laptop to spot an email arrive. It was a “uni-selfie” of two of my past Year 12 students in a university cafe. The best of friends, they are both majoring in theatre in a Bachelor of Arts course at Monash University. After just having theatre class at uni, they were reminded of how much they enjoyed high school drama. So they sent me an email and photo of themselves “embracing university life” to let me know how they miss high school drama, but are so happy to be where they are now. I must admit, I teared up a bit. It was a beautiful moment. We should never take for granted how important appreciation is in teaching.
Yesterday was also one of those days where in every class I taught, one or more students thanked me for something simple. I think one of the best compliments a teacher can get is when a student thanks you for teaching them a lesson. Appreciation is a sign of worth. It makes us feel that lesson and the preparation we put into planning it was valued by some of its recipients.
Finally, it is a joy to see my Year 12 students so engaged in their ensemble task at the moment. Yesterday morning, 1st lesson on a Monday, my Year 12 drama class just wanted to jump right into their work with enthusiasm. Tired and sleepy students is what I should have seen on a Monday morning at Year 12. Nope, not this group of girls. I was getting the wind up to ‘stop talking now, so we can get on with our work’ at the beginning of the lesson. I could have walked out of that classroom and disappeared for half an hour before they even knew I was gone, so focused were they on their drama rehearsals.
So when you are feeling pretty average and down about drama teaching, remind yourself you are teaching the very best subject on the curriculum and count up all those things at school that really made it a day worth remembering.