Reflections of a Drama teacher at the busiest time of the year….
Apologies for possibly the longest time between posts on this site. It has been the craziest past month or so. One very familiar to any high school Drama teacher.
At my school, I am in the strangest of positions. As Head of Drama, I have no involvement in the annual musical production, which is run entirely by a nearby Catholic boys school, recruiting the girls from my College for the big show. This meant six years ago, I inherited a biennial senior school play. But three years ago, I dumped the school play concept in favour of academic showcases of student drama in Years 10-12 (separate showcases for each year level, one per semester).
So….in the past six or seven school weeks my Drama department has staged a Year 12 Drama solo performance showcase, had a student teacher (she was awesome so its all OK!), run a festival of Year 10 student-written and directed 20-minute plays, helped the student teacher find a job for next year (success!), run a Year 11 Drama solo performance showcase last night and another Drama showcase of student work from the Year 10’s is happening early next week.
Behind the scenes there’s teaching, preparing Year 12’s for their performance and written exams, getting ready for Speech Night, attending a Year 12 Graduation ceremony, discussing performing arts university courses with students, posting off the Year 12’s more Drama exam preparation material because they’re so keen (don’t get me wrong, I can hardly complain here! After adequate in-class exam preparation and sitting two practice exams under exam conditions, they wanted to sit more of them!). Anyone who is starting their first year of Drama teaching next year, all I can say is it’s a wonderful ride, but get ready for it!
It’s at times like this (in my case, one day last week) that you sometimes wonder if it is all worth it? Do I need this much stress in my life? Do I get paid enough to do this amount of work? Why am I putting in so much of my time with extra-curricular activities for no time allowance or pay (even if i did get these, it wouldn’t come close to matching the hours given)?
The answer to these questions really is a bit mushy. I recall a few years ago my former Principal saying at a staff meeting that teaching is a vocation. Here, she was clearly implying the sooner we realise that in teaching, we often do extra work for the good of all, show commitment above and beyond the required minimum just because we want to, and strive with our colleagues to reach a common goal, then we will become better teachers in the process.
At the end of the day, we should never lose sight of the thrill we get as teachers, when our students achieve something as a direct result of our instruction … from the strongest in the class to the weakest. As Drama teachers, we always do much more than the minimum because we are dedicated to our craft and believe in the value of education. We believe that a subject such as Drama can have a profound effect on our students, both today and in later life as an adult, and in many different ways. We are teaching for the benefit of our students, after all.
In the past few weeks, in amongst the flurry of activity described above, several students have given me cards and gifts as appreciation for things I have done or for being their teacher over the years. Gifts aside, it was the students’ words on the cards that meant so much to me. It came from their heart and was written in their own personal voice. It placed things in perspective and reminded me why I am a teacher. Not for the money, not for the occasional gift, but for the difference I have made in the life of a young human being.
I know my students understand their words mean a lot to me, or they would never have written anything in the first place. But just how much their words of thanks have meant to me, I think they will never, ever really know…