Well, most of this blog is about information and resources for effective Drama teaching, but I thought I’d post a few tips on how to ensure your students achieve beyond the expectations of everyone.
Learning Must Be Fun: Let’s face it, school isn’t exactly a bundle of laughs for many teenagers, so on the top of my priority list for effective Drama teaching is make sure as many of your lessons and activities as possible are fun for your students. While you’re at it, remind yourself that if you don’t make learning fun, you’ve lost half the class … instantly. I even take a risk and tell my students at the start of a course that one of my responsibilities is to ensure their learning in Drama will be fun for them and that they are encouraged to tell me whenever the fun has stopped!
Keep Your Students Engaged: I never stop asking my students what they’re into, no matter what year level. While my enquiries are genuine, it also enables me to stay young and by knowing what’s cool at the moment, I can always use this to my advantage to adapt a future exercise, drama game or activity, so my students remain engaged in Drama. These enquiries allow me to tailor ensemble performance topics to their interests etc. Being critical of your own teaching has its advantages, too. Mix it up a little and never get stale with your delivery, so your students keep engaged.
Know Your Students Well: I always make an effort to get to know my students, ask what bands their into, genres of music, films etc. Particularly if they are senior students. Always keep professional boundaries very clear. Never try to win students over by pretending to be their friend. You’re their teacher. But good teachers care for their students beyond the textbook and the classroom.
Set Clear Guidelines and Expectations: I set my expectations in the very first lesson of a Drama course, to avoid any confusion later on. I’ve blogged on The Drama Teacher before, that I will not accept laziness and lying (to the teacher) in my classroom. I make no apologies for it. I set my student expectations high at the beginning and spend most of my Drama courses encouraging (daring?) my students to see what they are capable of in Drama.
Ensure Everyone Respects Each other. Every Drama course I teach, at any level, begins with an agreement that my students firstly respect themselves, secondly respect other students in the class and thirdly respect me as their teacher. In return I tell them I will respect them all by default each time they enter my classroom. I ask students to respect why other students have elected to do this Drama course and to respect those that are less confident than themselves. This results in a warm atmosphere where less confident or able students are more prepared to take risks in performance work before their peers. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of respect in the Drama classroom.
Know Your Content. You can’t be a whiz in Drama teaching overnight. It takes time. Although I have blogged here before that in my opinion knowledge is not necessarily king in the Drama classroom, knowing your content certainly can’t go astray. Once you have gained much knowledge, two more things become important: firstly, remember we never stop learning and secondly, never be afraid to learn from a student. It empowers them and they respect you more as a teacher in return. Never pretend to know all the answers in front of your students.
90% Perspiration and 10% Inspiration. I’m sure many of you may have heard of this old adage. It’s true in Drama teaching, too. The most creative students you’ve ever seen in a Drama classroom will be useless if they are not prepared to put in the hard yards. I remind my students all the time, they have to be prepared to perspire if they want to achieve their own personal goals in Drama.
Keep Ownership with Your Students. When a school play or musical is a huge success, when an in-class Drama performance was fantastic, when your students performed beyond their wildest dreams … always keep the ownership with them, not you. While it may be true that you directed the musical, guided them in their class performance, or helped them every second step of the way, I always try to remind my students that the wonderful product they created belongs to them. This is when they smile and become very proud, but more importantly, realise what they are truly capable of in Drama. Encouragement and positive feedback will always return far bigger dividends than you ever expected in a discipline such as Drama.
Whether it is an A+ or a C, there’s nothing more satisfying than a Drama student being rewarded with a grade beyond what they believed they were capable of. Using these tips, above, has worked wonders for me over the years. I hope they work for you, too.