While other teachers may have been winding down in classes at the end of school term, my Year 9 Drama students have been going from strength to strength, maintaining their focus until the final lesson.
A few weeks ago we realised their short solo performance, the last task in this whirlwind term-length unit, would not make it onto their school report. We simply ran out of time undertaking other tasks. Not phased by this situation, I soldiered on in anticipation of many in the class not taking the task seriously. After all, they are teenagers motivated by semester reports, right? Wrong!
Fully aware the task was not making it on their report before we began, these students decided their first attempt at the all-important solo-performance in a drama class at high school was worth the effort.
No problems. Can you assess us anyway? We need the feedback.
After I picked myself up off the ground, for the next three lessons I watched my 14/15 year-old students in Year 9 work like a disciplined Year 12 Drama class the day before exams! I couldn’t believe it. At the end of the day, it was minor stuff: a two-minute solo performance in class. But I was amazed how seriously they undertook their preparation. This was what I call the open-ended solo performance: one that comes entirely from the student’s imagination or partially from observation of people in the world around them. So off my students went, researching their solo character, writing short scripts, learning how to block themselves in the space, grabbing a prop or two, adding costume and learning the lines.
The final performances were very warm and fuzzy. Here was a culture of respect and appreciation. Students were encouraging others in the class to perform next, clapping at the start and end of each solo, watching in absolute silence during performances and then being keen to get a grade from me on a sticky note that would never count towards their official assessment in Drama. Some students appeared more interested in this grade than the previous grades that did count!
So why did a group of Year 9 Drama students take this solo performance task so seriously? How keen is keen, I asked myself? Very keen, is the answer. These students were off the radar. While some who teach senior Drama cherish the maturity and sophistication of the older students, in recent years, I don’t have a “favourite” year level for teaching Drama, anymore. This is just one example of the gold to be found in any Drama class at any year level on any day of the week. It’s out there. You just have to keep searching until you find it.