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
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”.
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.