Let’s face it, too many students view drama as a soft, easy (or ‘bludge’) subject at school. Sometimes we find ourselves fighting for our own credibility as a subject on the curriculum, so the easiest way to fight back is to create strong, rigourous and academic drama programs.
Occasionally as drama educators we can be our own worst enemy. We desperately want drama to be taken seriously by those around us, yet we may not be helping our own cause with out of control drama classes, messy drama spaces and a culture that lacks artistic discipline.
Culture starts with the teacher. My students have a lot of fun in my drama classes, but this goes hand-in-hand with agreed rules, deadlines, and a culture of respect and excellence. When I ask for lines to be learned by a set date, I expect it to happen. Drama homework can be as challenging as that for any other subject, but I do believe the selling point is that drama homework is fun, often creative, different to that of most other subjects and also very rewarding. When students don’t learn lines by a set deadline, they are letting themselves down first, then their fellow group/cast members and as their teacher, I’m the last person in the room to be affected by their laziness! Set a culture where students accept responsibility for their own actions in drama and you’ll never look back.
I’ve blogged many times over the years on The Drama Teacher about artistic discipline. Drama students will respect you even more as their teacher for instilling discipline in everything they do. It doesn’t mean you become intimidating and your students become unhappy. It simply means you mean business and along with all the fun in drama comes a sense of ownership and fulfilment when students work hard at creating successful performances.
While you’re at it, never be afraid of extending drama students at any year level. Never be afraid of exploring areas of drama and theatre where no one knows exactly what the outcome will be? These are some of the best moments in drama teaching … to reach a place no one in the class predicted. Don’t be soft with your expectations of drama students. Always have a sense of academic rigour present in every task you set, no matter what their age or experience.
Before you know it, the best subject on the school curriculum just got even better!