Dropping the Mask: When the Classroom Door Closes…

By Dr Tiffany Higgo. Teacher. Head of Subject. Short. Blonde. PhD. Boom.

The value of the arts within the school curriculum is gaining more and more momentum, clearly indicated by the shift from STEM educational philosophies where Mathematics, Technology, Engineering, and Science were concentrated on, to that of STEAM philosophies where the importance of the arts has had deeper significance placed on it within the realm of the above-mentioned subjects. Much of the educational world no longer accepts the fact that a learner’s education without the arts is adequate for the relatively unknown and evolving future of academia and the working world.
The value of Drama in the curriculum is widely purported. To the arts and specifically drama educator, this is nothing new. The arts are imperative to a learners’ education, and the value of drama as a subject is tenfold, yet many educators and parents still do not see this. Much research has been done indicating the variety of skills attained from the arts, many labelled ‘soft skills’ such as empathy, critical thinking, imagination, confidence, people skills – the list is endless. However, the positives of the drama space takes on a deeper and sometimes more profound meaning than mere soft skill acquisition.

The drama classroom is a special space and there is no one simple answer as to why. Any space that allows for creative development and experimentation evolves and allows for an intangible ‘magic’ that cannot be categorised or quantified. Yet when I asked those in the ‘know’, namely my learners the answer is but a simple one: Dropping the façade.

When asked to pen this opinion piece focusing on education, I threw questions out to my past learners and the results were interesting. The majority highlighted the fact that learners become a different person in the drama class and potentially a more real version of themselves. Having taught at a private boy’s school for five years, the notion of façades and masks is nothing new to me – boys often put on different personas and personalities in order to fit in. Now this is often not a bad thing – we all have to wear different masks throughout our lives in order to achieve, appear professional, and sometimes just to function! Yet in the drama class, the mask dissipates. One of the learners I spoke to said that learners completely change who they are in a safe drama space. They become more themselves and let go of the social constructs and hierarchies that exist outside of the classroom. This allows for friendships that would have never existed beyond the four walls of the drama room being developed. The drama space forces learners to be who they are authentically because “you can’t act as another character if are already acting in your everyday life to fit in and adhere to ‘norms’”. All of a sudden, “someone who you thought you have nothing in common with and thought was a bully or a loser is actually someone that you really like or have stuff in common with”.

By pretending to be someone else, you stop pretending to be someone you’re not – and that is the best part of drama.

1.Idogho, JA. (2013). Drama/ theatre in education and theatre as an academic discipline:A question of nomenclature, techniques and effects. An international Journal of Arts and Humanities. 2(3): 228-248.
2. McGregor, L.(1976). Developments in Drama Teaching. London: üpen Books.p.l06
3. Üstündağ , T. (1997). The advantages of using drama a method in elementary education schools. Hacettepe Üniversitesi Eğitim Fakültesi Dergisi. 13: 89-94.

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