In light of World Theatre Day on the 27th of March, I thought I would pen something that speaks to the importance of teaching Drama in schools.
As a Dramatic Arts teacher, I am often asked by parents “Why should my child take Drama? They don’t even want to be an actor!” and THAT, in fact, is the misconception. Drama is so much more than standing on stage or in front of a camera. It provides students with a unique set of skills that can be applied to any walk of life and very often these same skills change their lives and perspective on things.
Students who engage in Drama and the dramatic arts develop a higher level of empathy and a heightened understanding of what others are thinking and feeling. This naturally nurtures emotional intelligence and allows for students to recognise beauty and have greater compassion. This, in turn, develops and enriches analytical thinking, and studies have shown that students involved in Drama coursework outscore their peers academically in areas such as English and Maths.
Drama and, specifically, the theatre builds confidence and resilience like no other subject can. The mere act of walking on stage to perform in front of others is a skill in itself. That initial bravery of walking onto stage then turns into confidence and that confidence fosters a sense of identity and belonging for the student to thrive in all environments and situations.
“DON’T BE LATE FOR REHEARSAL!!” – or, as you and I might know it, self-discipline and commitment. These are traits that are valued in all walks of life, and are necessary for success anywhere. Drama students have to go above and beyond, and, like any intensive extracurricular, regularly sacrifice evenings, weekends, and holidays. While schoolwork can be put off and completed later, being involved in the dramatic arts holds you accountable and consumes you for entire spells. This is reflected in the National Arts Education Partnership’s findings that Drama students were 3 times more likely to win awards for school attendance, and that students in high-dropout areas that completed high school often cited Drama classes as their reason for staying in school.
Perhaps most obviously, It encourages creativity and problem-solving skills and these are characteristics that the world is desperately more in need of. CEOs and businesses are often looking for people to solve a problem in the most creative (or cost effective) way. Nothing could better prepare them for that than the problems that a Drama student encounters on a daily basis. “Where are we going to get a telephone booth from??” “How do we build a set completely out of Rubik’s cubes to symbolise the 80s?” or “How do we stage the themes of time and existentialism in Beckett’s Waiting For Godot?”
Finally, passion. Just raw, unbridled passion. Students LOVE drama and theatre. You don’t just “do” Drama; you live it, you breathe it, you become a part of it. I cannot adequately put into words what acting, directing and writing means to students but what I do know, is that they have something to say, and they desperately want you to listen.
Of course I am biased – I have to be! – but I truly believe that those students who spend every free moment in my theatre rehearsing, or the one student who asks me to lend them a play to read over the weekend, or the students who ask me to organize a Q & A with the director and cast after a show, have something special about them. They offer something more than your “drama-less” student.
They offer… the X-factor. And this X-factor is what I think ties this decision together. It’s an intangible quality that makes one person stand out from the crowd, and allows them to shine brightest. Over and above all the tangible skills and proven benefits I’ve mentioned above, this uniqueness radiates out, and is the way in which I see my students changing the world.
1.Data for these reports were gathered by the Student Descriptive Questionnaire, a self-reported component of the SAT that gathers information about students’ academic preparation, and reported by the College Entrance Examination Board. A table of average scores for arts involved students can be found at:http://www.menc.org/information/advocate/sat.html
2. N. Barry, J. Taylor, and Kwalls, “The Role of the Fine and Performing Arts in High School Dropout