First of all, congratulations on being the mother a beautiful, talented young lady. I am a mother too and I can feel the pride you have for your little girl. You tell me you want her to succeed in life and reach her full potential. I want the same for her too and that is why she should study Drama.
You see your daughter loves Drama. When you let her take it for Year 9 and 10 she fell in love with the subject. It became her outlet. Her opportunity to express herself in ways she had never experienced before. It was a chance for her to get to know her peers and let them see her in a different light. She was given a break from sitting behind a desk for hours, she was given freedom to move, she was taught life and she loved it.
Yes, she was taught life. Drama is about the world and it’s people. In Drama my students are explicitly taught how to relate to others. They learn the importance of trust. They learn how to respectfully work together to reach a creative goal. They learn empathy as they step into characters from worlds beyond that of a teenage girl. They learn compassion, sensitivity and acceptance. My students refer to their classmates as their ‘drama family’. They leave the social constraints of the playground behind as they step into the drama space listening and responding to students different to those they usually associate with… and that’s before we even touch the curriculum they are learning.
But that is not all.
Your daughter is learning about herself in Drama. She is learning how to use her most important communication tools – her voice and her body. Just like you taught her how to say her first words and helped her balance on the soles of her little feet, Drama can help her refine and control each element of her voice and body manipulating it expertly to express her deepest thoughts and feelings. She will have the confidence to step in front of that courtroom and bring home that closing statement. She will move listeners as she reports from the front lines about the atrocities she has laid witness too. She will convincingly assure the grant review panel that her research deserves funding. She will be able to engage a nation as she shares her newest policy.
Yet that is not all.
She will learn to feel. She will develop self-esteem, tenacity, grit, courage and heart. She will overcome nerves or at the very least learn how to use them. She will learn resilience. Taking creative risks will become second nature because when we take creative risks we discover new and wonderful and ever so exciting things. She will learn to improvise, to think on her feet and isn’t that handy given that life is improvised?
Yes, in drama social-emotional learning comes in bucket fulls. In fact, I can’t name another subject that does it better which means I am preparing her best for the workplace of the future. Don’t believe me? The World Economic Forum has found that children must explicitly learn social and emotional skills if they are to thrive in the 21st Century landscape (WEF, 2016). According to the WEF there are sixteen skills required for survival in the 21st Century including foundational literacies (which I will address in the moment), critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration, curiosity, initiative, persistence, adaptability, leadership and social/cultural awareness. That list is my curriculum.
Critical thinking = improvisation/directing.
Creativity = everything in my class.
Communication = body and voice.
Collaboration = explicitly working together.
And I could go on, but I don’t want to sing the song of ‘I told you so’.
But as for literacy….
Did you know that students who experience drama increase their reading comprehension? Maybe it is because we live and breathe a text as though it were life and therefore comprehension is a non-negotiable consequence. As we examine the power of words, the power of movement, the power of stillness we stumble upon and express the social, cultural, political, historical and personal issues of life. It is not only reading literacy, it is world literacy.
Still this is not all.
Did you know that students who study drama maintain better attendance records? Stay generally more engaged in school than their non-arts counterparts? That schools which embrace art-centred programs even in low economic areas report high academic achievement? Did you know that students who study arts subjects have higher standardised test scores then their peers who do not experience the arts? (AATE, 2014)
I guess you didn’t because if you did we wouldn’t be having this conversation. There would be no doubt that your child is taking drama. Yet here we are and I know why we are.
We are here because you daughter comes home and says, “We had so much fun in drama today”. We are here because she told you of that game we played. I want you to know that she was telling the truth. We did have fun. We did play a game… maybe even more then one. We did dress up and laugh until tears ran down our face. We did pretend we were garden gnomes and witches and crocodile hunters. We may have even danced.
But that does not mean we were not learning.
Tell me, at what point did learning become so mundane and lifeless? Think about it. When did you learn the most? When you had someone breathing down your neck as you sat in rows of desks or when you were out experiencing life – the highs and the lows? Do you learn better when you are having fun and love the content you are studying or do you learn better when you are forced to memorise something you hate? Do you learn better when you are given the freedom to take risks and fail or when you are told that the mark as the end is the be all and end all? Having fun, feeling, playing means that we are not only learning, but we are doing it the best way possible.
You daughter is not ‘too smart’ to study Drama. Like every other child in my class, she is just where she needs to be. In a place where she is valued, lifted up, challenged, encouraged and loved. A place where she experiences freedom to explore and express who she is and what she believes. A place where she can learn and have fun at the very same time.
So please, reconsider. Drama will give you daughter every opportunity to reach her full potential. Will you?
A Drama Teacher