The Top Seven Reasons Drama Education is Important to Your Child’s Life
When the LitPick staff and I discussed writing several articles concerning drama education, I was stymied. I have been a drama teacher and director since 1979. Personally, theatre and the creativity that stems from it is very second nature to me. I forget that other people may not be aware of its strengths in the same manner.
Today’s the day for bolstering creativity in your child!
In a typical school day, I teach theatre classes to approximately 100 students, ages eight to eighteen. Whew! This includes classes in creative dramatics, introduction to musical theatre, film making, technical theatre and a production based musical theatre class. Most of what I teach, I must create myself for the students. Since I work for an enrichment program for homeschool students, I see a different group of students each day. Double whew! In other words, creating curriculum plus teaching plus directing productions for nearly forty years equals expert first-hand knowledge. Oh, I forgot that!
At the beginning of the school year, it is not uncommon for parents to stop me in the hallway and express delight that their child will be taking a drama class with me. Many parents say, “My daughter is very imaginative and expressive. She plays dress up all day if I let her, but other than dress up, I don’t know what to do with her imagination next.” I think I know what the parent is trying to express to me. They need some assurance that A. this is a normal part of the child’s development; B. it should not be squelched but promoted, and C. there are many strengths to being a creative human being. I smile and encourage the parent to allow the child to continue imagining. I take it from there, and the magic begins.
I will admit I am very partial to theatre arts. Honestly, theatre saved my life when I was about ten years old, but that’s another story for some other time. All arts classes will nurture your child’s creativity, and every art form brings different gifts to the table. Here are my top seven reasons for drama classes in your child’s life.
1. Strengthen literacy—We know that through reading, our reading becomes more fluid and comprehensive. Not everyone recognizes that in a drama class we READ a lot--plays, scenes, poems and stories to dramatize. Of course, when we rehearse a piece, we read the words over and over again—aha! Then we MEMORIZE them. We practice a character’s lines using vocal inflection and variety. Suddenly, the words come to life for the reader. Voila! We sneak in reading skills without any of us being aware of it. It is that easy, but reading must be continued in order to have consistent success.
2. Build self-esteem and self-confidence—If a child has an opportunity to share his ideas through drama, he is immediately accepted. We applaud for the student and his attempt. We encourage positive comments towards the student’s effort. Over time, the child begins to see his worth within the classroom, within the school, and consequently in the world as well. Self-actualization is realized. It is a known fact that many at-risk students attend school only because they can take an arts class. That’s pretty powerful.
3. Build a team spirit—I compare a cast in a play to a football team. The only difference is that no one sits on the bench—everyone plays. Everyone’s actions count to make the goal, the performance. If a student knows that he is expected to help other members of the cast and crew, he takes on the responsibility. This level of responsibility carries over into social situations, because by becoming a part of a team, a student can see himself as part of the whole instead of merely one piece. A P.E. teacher once remarked to me that she could tell which of my drama students took her classes. When playing games, they were the ones who quickly pulled a group together, used their individual strengths and left out no one. How nice!
4. Encourage tolerance—Through a scene or play, when one experiences first-hand what it is like to be the down trodden character, the misunderstood, the shunned, the innocent accused, one’s framework of understanding broadens. For example, when we dramatize the story of Anne Frank or Helen Keller, we begin to see life differently and the value of everyone. Life’s issues become greyer in color to us and thereby we appreciate the many perspectives in a particular situation. This is a remarkable attribute.
5. Provide a safe place to express one’s emotions—Society’s pressures have encouraged us to keep our emotions to ourselves, especially negative ones. I was one of those people. In turn, some people are the opposite and show only negative emotions because they feel less vulnerable in so doing. By creating a character and expressing the character’s emotions—happiness, sadness, fear, pride, curiosity, anger, joy, jealousy, etc. these feelings become an accepted part of one’s psyche. One’s acceptance of all one’s emotions, strengths and weaknesses is vital to our growth, no matter the age.
6. Teach creative problem solving—In the best-selling book A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink writes,
“In short, we have progressed from a society of farmers to a society of factory workers to a society of knowledge workers. And now we’re progressing yet again—to a society of creators and empathizers, or pattern recognizers and meaning makers.”
When a group of students can tackle any problem and solve it together using their imaginations to project an outcome and then produce it, they are incredibly valuable. I have the honor to work with some of my students for nearly six years. They are very adept at creative problem solving. Recently, my co-teacher and I charged our musical theatre students with the task of creating of the wall, dying trees and flowers with their bodies in our production of the musical, “Secret Garden.” Without discussing it very much, the students twisted and contorted themselves to make the atmosphere we intended. We complimented them and they beamed with pride. Through creative problem solving, we stretch the boundaries of what can’t be done to what can be. Voila! Besides, creative problem solving makes one happy.
7. Lastly, drama is just plain fun! Teachers know that humor helps students learn more efficiently. We are joyful when we are relaxed. When we are relaxed, we are more likely to learn. Through studying drama and performing, we laugh, poke fun at ourselves and develop a kind of camaraderie with one another that is rarely experienced anywhere else. We create a strong bond that isn’t easily splintered. Some of my best friends have come from working on a production together. My play production experiences are the some of the greatest memories I have of my life.
Several years ago, a professional actor and director-friend of mine remarked that, “Theatre is history, psychology, sociology, anthropology, music, dance, art all wrapped into one.” He’s right. It makes us more human by “playing” at being a human. Where else can you find that?
Deborah is a drama teacher through the Apex Home Enrichment Program in the St. Vrain Valley School District. Her award winning middle grade book, Bumbling Bea can be purchased through Amazon.com. Check out her blog at: Dramamommaspeaks.wordpress.com or her website at: BumblingBea.com.