Recently a couple of colleagues leaked back to me parts of a conversation at my workplace where they heard another staff member complaining about her workload. In the midst of it all she commented ‘Gee, I wish I was teaching Drama!’ To my delight my two coleagues instantly supported my cause and politely, but swiftly reminded this person that a Drama teacher’s lot is not always a happy one and certainly isn’t easy at the best of times.
Drama in many secondary schools across Australia and other parts of the world is well received as a subject by the student body. If I had a dollar for every student over the years who has told me Drama was his/her favourite subject, then indeed, I would be a very rich man. Granted, we still have a fair way to go in convincing the powers that be in school administrations of the value of Drama sometimes (pity they are the ones making most of the important decisions, hey!), but as far as students are concerned, for many of them ‘Drama Rox!’.
Let us see, now. Drama rox because it is one of the funnest (like my grammar?) subjects on any curriculum, it is one of the few subjects that teaches students life skills for school and beyond, unlike numbers on a white board a human being is the subject of inquiry and it is the ultimate subject teaching students to communicate effectively with their peers. Traditional barriers are broken down between teachers and their students, desks are thrown away, talking (and even noise!) is totally acceptable in a Drama class and perhaps best of all, it is fantasy. Yes, that’s right … fantasy. Drama is the place where young people can escape the realities of their everyday world and ‘disappear’ into another one that is much more exciting.
Over the years I have had students cry on my shoulder at the end of Year 12 and tell me Drama class was their only haven from an otherwise unhappy school life, where a few times a week they could ‘be someone else’ instead of the person they hated so much. I’ve had others who couldn’t stop jumping up and down with excitement when they got accepted in their Drama/Theatre university course. I’ve had the shyest student in the class receive an A+ for a performance in which two years earlier, I need only have breathed heavily in their direction on stage to watch them fall over with fear and embarrassment. As you can see, Drama as a subject at school offers lots and the rewards for students and teachers are many, some of which I will never forget.
But back to my colleague who wishes she was teaching Drama! I bet she doesn’t know of the 13th month in the calendar? That’s the many hours during the year that most Drama teachers contribute after school hours in rehearsals, prop building sessions, extra acting lessons, painting play and musical sets, Drama camps, evening performances, visits to the theatre with students … the list goes on. Well, I think it is fair to say all these hours would add up to another month’s work over the course of a year. At about 8 hours per day, multiplied by 5 days a week, yep, I’d easily contribute 160 hours outside of class for the love of Drama over the course of a year! While the average Drama teacher may not get as many corrections to take home as other teachers, believe it or not, we too use pens and students write wonderful essays, do assignments, tests and examinations in Drama too!
OMG if some of our colleagues out there would only see what a Drama teacher does in a single day, then they may have a different point of view. I commonly arrive at school at 8am to see a group of my Year 12 girls in the Drama room who have been rehearsing since 7.15, teach every lesson in the day, mixed up with a lunch time meeting and off to after school rehearsals as well. By 5.30 or 6.00pm when rehearsals have just finished, some days I could collapse! Every teacher needs to take a Drama ‘extra’ once or twice a year, I reckon. Most teachers fear taking a Drama class for a sick colleague because they think of these lessons as unstructured. Nope! There is plenty of structure beneath the average Drama class and the average Drama teacher works their butt off most days of the school year.
‘Please sir, can I play the rock in the third act?’
‘No Jimmy, I have the part of a talking tree for you’.
Yeah, that’s right, I forgot, Drama’s not a REAL subject, is it? We just have fun and play games, don’t we?
No. In Drama our students work as hard as any other, we have courses that are artisitic and creative and yet as academic as Physics and to top it all off …. we have FUN at the same time! Name me another subject that offers all of this?
There isn’t one.