Is Knowledge of Content King?

In many ways, teaching Drama is no different to any other subject on the curriculum, as some principles of teaching remain the same, no matter the discipline.

When I first began teaching some years ago, knowing my content was crucial. I recall being the only Drama teacher in a Catholic coeducational secondary school, equally horrified and excited about the prospect of designing six years of Drama curriculum in my first few weeks of teaching.

I went straight to the Principal and requested more money in my annual budget so I could purchase a couple of dozen ‘essential’ teacher reference books on theatre. I was fortunate as my wish was granted, so I instantly I armed myself with books and read like crazy, grabbing bits and pieces from a wide array of source material for my new curriculum design.

And so I never thought I would question what I always believed in Drama teaching … that knowledge of content is king … until today.

In recent years I have learned that knowledge of your teaching discipline is not paramount, after all. Today I believe the most important element of my teaching is rapport with students and engagement in the classroom.

I’m not denying the importance of knowing your facts, but what I am saying is that as an educator, you can have all the knowledge in the world, but if you fail to engage your students properly when delivering it, all that knowledge goes out the classroom window … in one ear of your students and straight out the other.

It is very difficult to engage your students if you don’t have a good relationship with them, and I don’t just mean as a cohort, but individually. In order to achieve a healthy rapport with your students, you need respect … and respect will never be given to you on a platter by your students … as many of us know all too well, respect must be earned.

In order to earn our students’ respect, one must do away with the grand old notion that we’re somehow better than them. I know this may sound a little out of place perhaps, but it is all too true that many teachers feel they are better than their students simply because they are older and more qualified. The day a teacher starts treating his or her students as equals (no matter what age), is the same day that teachers earns each students’ respect.

I am blessed that I have reached that point in my Drama teaching career where my students respect me for who I am and no more do I need to put on a mask as I enter the classroom. What they see is what they get. A combination of factors (including working at a great school) have enabled me to reflect on my current situation as a special time in my career.

They listen.
They are engaged.
They learn.

We have fun.
We share stories.
We love drama.

I make mistakes.
They accept my faults.
I’m human.

I don’t know everything.
But that’s OK, because knowledge is not king anymore.
My relationship with my students is far more important.

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