By: Shannon Boatwright
Any time I hear of a school that does not have a drama department, my heart aches. Literally. In a lot of cases, school districts do not recognize the incredible benefits of the arts OR they simply do not have the funding to hire a drama teacher OR, to be honest, they don’t have enough sense to hire the “right” professional for the job. Being a drama teacher, arts integration teaching artist, performer, producer, director and huge supporter/lover of the arts, this is a hot button for me. Research has proven that the arts are a huge asset to ANY student, no matter what age. And drama, in particular, covers such a priceless span of subjects that any and every one can benefit from its riches. Meaning, the span of knowledge and experience that comes with the world of drama can truly improve any individual’s life, no matter what they want to be when they grow up or what profession they’re already engaged in.
I’ve done a lot of research on this; not to mention, every day that I teach, I see firsthand the benefits of drama being experienced and soaked up by my students. I’ll let the documents and quotes speak for themselves. Please take the time to read them, share them with your schools, your peers, and the leaders in your communities. Take note of the schools and organizations that do provide the arts on some level and see how those involved benefit from it. With the right teachers, instructors and leaders, all those involved with the arts will benefit, grow, and expand their minds and their hearts on some level! (Key word being the “right” teachers, instructors and leaders; those who are actually educated, trained and qualified to teach drama or any of the fine arts.)
This fabulous article on What Drama Education Can Teach Your Child touches on some fabulous points!
Some highlights include:
Gai Jones’, a theater educator with over forty years of experience, work has been recognized by the American Alliance for Theater and Education, the Educational Theater Association, and the California State Senate (among others).
According to Jones, “Theater addresses the skills which benefit children’s education and development in five general areas: physical development/kinesthetic skills, artistic development /drama and theater skills, mental development/thinking skills, personal development/intra-personal skills, and social development/interpersonal skills.”
Academic gains aren’t the only benefits. There are the obvious ones: improved self-confidence, better public speaking skills, but Jones says students show other gains as well, such as the “ability to work with an ensemble in cooperative ventures” and the “ability to work through consensus and differences or obstacles to achieve a goal.” She points out that a play requires students to follow a time line, to use self-discipline, and to accept feedback. Studying theater can be a great starting point for careers such as teaching, law, and politics, not to mention broadcasting and performing. And the ability to speak confidently in front of a group is a boon for any career.
As a middle school drama teacher, I personally have had students start my class, come to me the first day and say, “Mrs. Shannon, I’m not comfortable getting in front of people, I’m shy and I don’t want to have to do anything in front of the class!” I always respond by telling the student not to worry, that I’ll never make them do something they don’t want to and that we’ll work together as we move forward. This relieves that intense stress they have and helps to lessen their fears. By the end of the first week or two, that same student is participating and doing things in front of the class. It never fails. Seriously. And I’ve had just about every kind of student, from a wide range of special needs students to the severely shy. Due to the way I set up and lead my classes, the students start to feel comfortable with each other, loosen up and then start having so much fun that they don’t realize how much they’re learning and that they’re conquering their fear of being in front of others. It’s a lovely thing to witness and be a part of. My number one goal with my classes is to help instill confidence in my students. And because I teach drama, I can do this.
The following link is a one-page list of the benefits of drama education. It says, “Research reveals the positive impact of drama on a student’s physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development.” http://www.dramaed.net/benefits.pdf
Why drama? Here’s another fabulous link to check out: http://www.drama.org.nz/nz-curriculum/why-drama/
An incredible document written by Sandra S. Ruppert and published by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies in collaboration with the Arts Education Partnership: “How the ARTS Benefit Student Achievement”. http://www.nasaa-arts.org/Publications/critical-evidence.pdf
The joy of the arts is that they can be integrated into every subject. In a perfect educational world, every school would have fine arts programs; and not just chorus, band and visual arts. We need to include drama into the curriculum. In fact, arts integration should be a part of every school’s curriculum. Students and teachers would only benefit; there are no negative aspects whatsoever, only the deepening of understanding. A perfect educational world that utilizes the arts may never be possible but we can at least create awareness. To those who recognize the benefits of, engage in and truly support the arts, bravo to you! And thank you. 🙂
Enjoy this short video!