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Drama Studies Offer Skills For Life

The last two nights I have had parent-teacher interviews at my school and nearly every interview concerning students in my junior classes focused on what wasn’t going to be on the semester report … the life skills drama studies offer young people.

My school is an all girls school and students arrive at parent teacher interviews to hear the good or bad news from the teachers with their parent/s or guardian/s alongside them. Sometimes, the whole family rocks up!

THE most valuable aspect of studying drama in the junior years of secondary school is the confidence gained from performing in the classroom. Along with confidence comes increased self-esteem and overall personal development.

Part of our responsibility as drama teachers is to ensure the culture of our classroom nurtures an environment where young peoples’ confidence can grow. I begin every new course at all levels of high school with a brief discussion about respect. I insist each of my students must:

  1. Respect yourself in drama class
  2. Respect others in drama class
  3. Respect the teacher in drama class

… and in that order, too. By default I offer each of my students respect as their teacher every time they walk through that door into my drama classroom. I have zero tolerance for bullying of any kind or putting others down in drama. This atmosphere where mutual respect forms the basis of all decision-making in a drama classroom allows the quieter students to take risks and step out of their comfort zones, as a result gaining confidence along the way.

We’ve all taught students who are too scared to put their hand up to answer a question in class, too frightened to find a teacher at lunch time, fearful of offering suggestions in group discussions and certainly too scared to stand up before the class and perform a drama play. Drama (and school for that matter) is not all about assessment tasks, grades and term reports. Drama offers shy students the opportunity to be changed forever by gaining skills that will be relevant to them in and outside the classroom for the rest of their lives.

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So why is confidence considered just a by-product of drama studies? Surely it is at the core of everything we do? The actor requires confidence to perform, its just that we ignore confidence with the skiled students in drama class and focus more on refining their acting in order to obtain better grades. Isn’t the shy student who blossoms into a confident teenager at high school just as important as the “actor” in our drama classroom? So why isn’t “confidence” or “personal development” in my government-inspired drama curriculum? Does it sounds too airy-fairy and wishy-washy to place these terms on a school report for drama?

The highlight of my parent-teacher interviews was the two mothers who came up to my desk saying exactly the same thing, hours apart: “What have you done to my daughter? You have transformed her. A year ago she was the shyest girl in her class and today, after studying drama, she is a confident young woman who loves going to school every day”. Now … that’s why I teach drama!

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