It is a rare moment when I forget the importance of a healthy teacher-student rapport in drama education. I seldom take it for granted and frequently remind myself of its value.
For me, the 1st rule of teaching is never have “favorite” students. The 2nd rule is never try to be too much of a “buddy” with your students – you’re their teacher, not their friend and besides, they see right through it. If wherever possible one is seen as a fair teacher to all students, then respect usually comes naturally and doesn’t need to be forced. From here, rapport should build between teacher and student.
Rapport can exist even when the teacher and student are not in the same room. Recently, through a series of unusual circumstances, I found myself absent for three consecutive Year 11 Drama lessons. Ordinarily, three missed lessons in a row could spell D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R, even at the start of the academic year. Nope. All three lessons occurred with such a high level of student engagement, I wanted to be there just to enjoy the experience of seeing students learn with such enthusiasm.
Hopefully it doesn’t sound egotistical when I say that a healthy teacher-student rapport, which in turn created a culture of respect, created this situation. Here was an opportunity for my students to play up a bit, tell a few white lies about their homework and take it easy in class without their regular teacher. But instead they continued with their work, chatted to me in-between lessons about the lesson content and eagerly awaited their teacher to return to class so they could get some answers to issues in their discussion about the plays they were reading in my absence. I should stay away from class more often!
When in the classroom together, I cannot think of a subject at high school where a healthy rapport between teacher and student is so vital to a student’s learning, than in drama. This morning in a Year 8 drama class, I found myself coaxing the shyest of students into the space to contribute to their group Spacejump scene in a Theatreports unit. I could see it was a horrendous experience for a few of them, but with lots of positive encouragement and a gentle manner, every student got there in the end. Without at least a basic rapport between us, these students wouldn’t have achieved what they did in this class.
Of course, I am sure many of the readers of The Drama Teacher have numerous examples over the years of their own senior drama students reaching goals they never believed they could possibly achieve. Knowledge isn’t everything. A drama teacher with a good rapport with his/her students can help them achieve great things. Because your students feel comfortable in your presence, they can and will surprise both themselves and you. Senior students with a bit more maturity can make for some very proud moments in drama teaching. At the end of the day, it is often these moments that remind us why we teach drama? Not for the money. Not for the school holidays. Seeing my students love drama with a passion – in the classroom, in corridors and even the schoolyard, is enough to make me keep teaching drama. Give me another occupation with this amount of happiness and I’ll go do it tomorrow.