Education Matters-School Theatre Nostalgia

Mind of a Theatre Kid

I was drawn into teaching straight after college and even though I did not have all the necessary qualifications I learnt on the job. So, although my theoretical knowledge is not too great practically, I have done well to sustain as a teacher. In this series Education Matters- I share my views and thoughts to hopefully spark some discussions on teaching and education in general.

This time of the year reminds me of the end of year play that I would have to get organized for. As a teacher it was always a thrilling as well as stressful time. The process really made it a wonderful experience.

I had been teaching Speech and Drama a long time but it was a time of firsts when I was made responsible for the end of year play. Up until then my role was mainly classroom based with theatre games, activities, skits, and scenes.

So, the first time I took the easy route and did not want to take any chances with my own writing and bought a script online. It was my first production I had a cast of students that sometimes played a hand in the direction and motivated me. They even swapped roles as they felt like and made changes to the cast. I think they knew I needed the moral support. 

Since I had the script, I stayed organized scheduling my free periods for practice and focusing on certain scenes and seeing them through. The rehearsals as anyone would believe is the most exciting part. Gathering the students together for practice every day was the hard part. The student’s involvement was crucial where they very naturally took on their roles without exaggerating their parts something I loved. I liked a little of them to be in the character. Some of the students helped me organize simple props. The art teachers did a very fantastic set just using a big movable blackboard with a beautiful backdrop display. The students and I developed our own codes and inside jokes around the play that only the drama group understand. It was a time of great bonding.

As the final day approached the drama group started having more fun with the rehearsals being more confident of their assigned roles. The final day arrived and everything was going super I had a bag full of props to carry to the auditorium; script check, props check, set check, sound and lights were left to the technical in charge. The students were happy and excited as ever. Everything was going great but not when the drama teacher has nervous jitters more than the performing students who would be on stage. The students understood my anxieties and were completely there for me. Children are like that you would think we need to keep our emotions in check and be robotic with them but they sense emotions and can understand them more than even adults do. As a teacher I have never been good at disguising my emotions I know a child just empathizes with how you feel. 

A few hours before the play could go on the students were ready with their costumes and had to remind me to ensure that they looked good. They had done a fine job and looked great. Once the play had to come onstage, they worked beautifully as a team assisting me in laying out sets and props. I really did not have to do much after that the students did splendidly. Although I was the prompter and kept my eye on the script tensed as ever. 

The students later in the audience told me they enjoyed but did not relate with the script. From then on, the end of the year play was something I had to work hard to write on my own. I kept it very basic with easy lines that the students would relate to, now that I knew them better and we would add some music and drama-of course to make the script come alive. The second play did better but the first would always stay memorable to me.

A play gives you a chance as a teacher to bond with a group of students working together to organize props, cleverly utilizing objects available in school for sets, discussing costumes and script changes, sharing ideas, and laughter. The students learn about team work, overcome their inhibitions and stage fright, learn to be creative and have fun with their acting skills.

Even growing up myself I loved being part of a play. The thrill of rehearsals would linger on. A day after the final show things and emotions go flat and it can be a little depressing because you miss the fun of practicing together. The experience lives in your heart forever, for teacher and student equally.

I think it is wonderful to familiarize a child with theatre in any way be it taking them to watch a play or be in one, even critiquing one. It is an emotionally enriching experience.

The bullies in the Bullies at Sam’s Café (first amateur school production) have graduated and this early retired teacher misses her school and saying, “It’s a wrap for the day.”

Theatre Kid

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