As much as we may model our students in the pursuit of excellence, as educators we know there is more to school than grades, especially in a subject such as drama/theatre.
I often find my most rewarding moments in drama education occur with junior students. A lot of the time these triumphs relate to confidence and self-esteem. Witnessing a student act before the rest of the class when only a matter of weeks ago she may have struggled to hold a conversation with a teacher, much less perform with memorised lines in front of 25 others, is really something special.
When I teach my senior students, triumphs often centre around grades. In a sense I blame myself for this because I pride myself in extending my senior drama students to achieve grades beyond what they thought they were capable of (but it is their hard work that will get them there).
Occasionally, senior students comment on how academic Drama is for them, yet openly admit they love the subject for reasons beyond the content. When I was at high school, my Year 12 Literature class felt like a small family of a dozen boys sitting on carpet and bean bags in a hall foyer discussing poetry and plays. I know my large Year 12 Drama class of 21 students next year is already a community that feels special. When all 19 of your Year 11 Drama students tell you they will be doing Year 12 Drama the following year (and a couple of others say they’re coming back to the fold as well), you know you have a community.
So even though this post began by discussing triumphs teachers may experience in Drama class, it has evolved into something about community. How important is a sense of community in a Drama classroom? I personally believe if one has a community atmosphere in your Drama classroom, you are indeed fortunate. A class Drama class in which each student truly believes they belong and have others care for them in times of need is something special. I once had a Year 12 Drama class of all girls who group-hugged the day before their performance examination. It was purely spontaneous. They were scared, anxious and excited about their upcoming exam, but chose to share those feelings with each other. The level of care and respect they had for each other was beautiful.