Well, here in Australia we are nearing the end of the schooling year. Senior high students across the country have already finished up for 2009 and in many cases the younger secondary school students have either just gone on holidays or are about to soon. Most schools in Australia won’t go back for 2010 until late January or early February.
On the eve of my senior Drama students receiving their official grades for the year (for locals in Victoria, that’s the VCE Year 12 Drama course), I have a contradiction worth sharing. I spend most of my year pushing my students to achieve the best possible grades they are capable of, and yet I openly say to them that there’s more to school than grades!
Data in my case will show over the past five or six years, I have a near 100% record of my students achieving grades above what was predicted of them in Year 12 Drama by the curriculum authority mid-year. Hey, this is one of my major aims and I’m the first to be proud of that and many of my students and their parents appreciate this also. It means as an educator I have been able, as many of you reading this blog have been too I’m sure, to suck out of my students more than what everyone believed they were capable of in their senior Drama studies.
But then you get those students who are so obsessed with grades. There’s a difference between getting 13/15 on a written task and querying afterwards “where can I improve?” and stressing about what those 2 little marks are going to do to your end of year study score and overall Year 12 score. Students need to hear wisdom from their teachers that even if they don’t get accepted into their university course of choice, they will fall on their feet eventually … and most importantly … be happy in life.
As Drama/Theatre teachers, we know the most rewarding things our students receive from studying our courses are very rarely the grades, but rather the:
- self-confidence in everyday situations
- socialisation skills
- problem-solving and negotiation skills
- increased self-esteem and personal development
- ability to articulate to others with confidence
And then there’s memories many students cherish for years:
- their first public performance
- the high school musicals or plays
- the musical cast parties!
- the sense of achievement after a successful show
As I reflect on some of the words in ‘thank you’ cards I have received recently, it is not the grades that our students and their parents remember from Drama at school … it is the life skills Drama gave our students in and outside the classroom that helped them through high school and prepared them better for the outside world.
This serves as a reminder to us about the power of Drama and Theatre in education and the profound impact it can truly have on the lives of young teenagers. With this comes our responsibility as Drama teachers.
Drama …. is there another subject at school that gives students so many skills? I doubt it.