Empowering Students

I currently teach a Year 7 Drama class like I’ve rarely experienced in my twenty-four years as a high school drama teacher. At this level of schooling one expects enthusiasm, but when most of the class has only just turned thirteen, I wasn’t expecting commitment and maturity well beyond their years.

This group of girls:

  • constantly talk their (newly learned) language of drama
  • write play scripts with stage directions that they actually adhere to in class rehearsals
  • stop rehearsals mid-scene to analytically reflect on the pros and cons of what has occurred so far … and then adjust with improvements
  • politely ask others in the room not to walk through the middle of their developing plays (something Year 7s are not normally concerned with)
  • learn all their lines for plays before I’ve had a chance to actually create a deadline
  • ask the teacher if different groups in the class can show each other their near-finished performances for peer feedback just prior to assessment (something only a senior class would think of, much less implement themselves)
  • rarely get bored or frustrated with extended activities (as junior drama students normally do), but rather run activities themselves while I sit back in amazement and try to sink it all in

Not surprisingly, I’ve moved into a facilitator role very quickly. In all my years of teaching, I have never given so many A+s to a group of Year 7s in performances (marked individually). Last time I assessed this class, I had to go back to my grades three times before returning them to the students, because I questioned myself again and again in awarding so many high grades.

This situation in my Year 7 Drama class has little to do with me. Sometimes as a teacher you just strike gold. Because of this class I have been reminded of:

  • the importance of group dynamics in drama
  • the value of positive reinforcement
  • the sheer strength of empowering students and the benefits this reaps
  • the need to step back, relax and enjoy the moment
  • how we should always believe in our students’ ability, because occasionally they’ll blow you out of the water with what they can achieve

2 Responses

  1. Grant says:

    I’m just wondering if you have any reflection on teaching lower grades in a co-ed environment. In my experience so far, the girls are quite happy to be autonomous and stay on task while the majority of boys would happily continue with the “games”.

  2. Floyd Rumohr says:

    Justin, you might find useful Chip Wood’s book, “Yardsticks,” which succinctly describes students from the developmental perspective. It’s one of the most relevant resources I have come across for teachers and parents that might addtess your point below.

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