I have a secret. I feel very lucky in my job. I feel like I get to see something that others do not, and this really became evident when I began teaching the Lower School/junior high drama rotation.
Research supports using drama with students with various learning differences to facilitate both academic and social development. Classes in the arts tend to build confidence in students and allow them to shine in unexpected ways.
But let’s get back to that secret thing. Audiences at Noble see a final product of a short play at the end of our drama rotation. What they do not see is the process. That is where I feel lucky. I get to see students who are very excited about being in a class where they, as a character, can “be someone else." I see quiet, shy students who come in reluctantly, not having elected to be in a drama class, gradually become more comfortable by taking part in improvisation games and then actually being on the stage. I see students with difficulties in social awareness and anxiety learn different ways to use their bodies and voices. I see them letting loose with activities, portraying characters with confidence, and stretching themselves socially, sometimes becoming more at ease when they get to be “someone different." In an improvisation game, I see students practice creating dialogue by focusing and listening to one another, perhaps not realizing that this game may support their social growth. I see students who, while having trouble retaining math facts, are able to confidently learn their lines. I see students with organizational problems managing stage directions, costume pieces, props, and scene changes with gradual independence. I see students focusing on details to learn the full arc of the story so that they are able to tell it to you, the audience.
A student recently said,”In drama, I get to try new things. I take unexpected risks but it’s still fun.” Another student added, “I get to express something inside me like love or anger. I get to express it on stage rather than take it out on someone else!” A third student told me he liked drama class because “if you are quiet, you get to explore different personalities.”
So, yes, I feel pretty lucky to see all of this evolve in a six week rotation. That is why, while you are focused on the playmakers, I am secretly grinning and tearing up a little when we have that performance at the end. I have seen how far the students traveled during that time.
For further reading: