Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Spotlight on Drama?

"There's no business like show business,
There's no business I know.
Everything about it is appealing..."
In the four middle schools at which I've recently subbed, only one has a "drama class" elective. Some have "Art", some have "Instrumental Music". None have all three. What a shame. These are the ages that kids are beginning to blossom in their personalities and can be the most "dramatic" and expressive "artistically and/or musically". Instead in most of these schools they are scheduled to the minute and shuffled around to seven 50 minute periods with only the briefest of breaks in between. They are required to be there at the "crack of dawn" almost, when, as adolescents, their "juices" might get flowing alittle later.

That first period class is anywhere from 7:50AM to 8:05AM has them staggering in almost "zombie-like". They sit strictly divided on the floor of the double-sized drama room very quietly. As the day progresses, the groups of 35 plus warm up to each other and sit (on the floor) intermixed. They then are much more interactive and even confrontational (dramatically). It then becomes a challenge, as a teacher, (sub drama coach) just to get and keep their continued attention for more than 5 minutes. Fortunately I have a few "tricks" from my former "drama-coaching" days. I love to use and comment on their dramatic individualities and personalities. i.e. answering to the the roll call with a different verbal/nonverbal response from the previous student. doing verbal dexterity exercises for their upcoming "voice-over" skits (with mic) having them "give notes" to their peers that are positive and responsible.

The regular drama teacher was not sick but "paniced" with an upcoming "tech rehearsal" that the "Drama Club" (after school) wasn't really ready for. They had had to miss a week of school due to storms/damage to the local schools. She is a great, well loved drama teacher and each year strives to put on two "musicals" (Fall and Spring) ("Annie Jr. & Tom Sawyer") She does a "business" and usually raises lots of money from it and before it. She involves lots of parents/volunteers and generates a ton of goodwill and PR for the school. However, yesterday I had to give her some time to "unload" to me about the lack of support from the school administration personnel. They won't even get her an in-tune piano, rented or bought. She raises the money and it has to go into the general fund. Athletics still takes presidence over all other extra curricular activities, then instrumental music. There is also an appalling lack of cooperation and team work among skill-related fellow teachers. i.e. music/art/ Lang. Arts They don't want their "classrooms messed up" or available "after hours".

First thing, over the all-school P.A. comes the Pledge of Allegiance, led by an "anonymous adult". Then comes the day's and week's announcements and promotions for "fund raisers" and contests etc. also done by an "anonymous adult". It all seems very hurried and business-like, not to "waste too much time" from first period. Where are the ASB student leaders and their enthusiasm? They could be coached on their "voice-over" mic skills by the drama teacher who, by the way, is teaching that very skill right now. Other Middle Schools in the area have that going at least. These formative years are so trying and hard for some kids socially and emotionally that it seems a no brainer to have them work on and practice these necessary skills with "room for goofing up" Screw the schedule! No wonder so many are hyper, up tight and increasingly hard to focus for more than 5 minutes. Reorganize the day to five or six periods that are slightly longer and allow time for more in depth, personality-developing activities and peer evaluation and coaching. They are more interested in that anyway. Scan-tron tests are quick and easy to grade, process and report on,(to the public) but what are they doing to our youth and our culture's future? RRR

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