One of the highlights of our Building Community Through Drama residency happened last week, and I want to share it with you. The hero of our story is not a student or a group of students. This time, it’s a teacher. A substitute teacher.
We often have subs during this residency, since we essentially take over a particular subject’s core classes (math, science, comm. arts or world studies) for the day. In my experience, there is a lot of variation in terms of the involvement of the classroom teacher in a residency. But in this school, we always know it’s going to be a good day when Mr. E. greets us at the door. He participates in the workshops, he is engaged, and he keeps our students focused on the task at hand, even if he doesn’t always know where us crazy theatre teaching artists are going.
In between classes one day last week, I was organizing slips of paper that the students had written a line of poetry on in preparation for the following week’s connecting activity. Mr. E came walking down the hallway and stopped to chat. He told me that he was using some of our “stuff” in a lesson he was doing today. The world studies class is learning about the endangerment of Tasmanian devils. The species is currently battling a rapidly spreading outbreak of cancerous tumors. He described an activity in which the students walk around the room, “filling the negative space” and each person has a card in their hand. When he calls out freeze, everyone has to find the person closest to them, and if either partner has the tumor card, then they now have it too.
My favorite part about Mr. E’s description of how he was using our drama techniques to teach students about this Tasmanian devil problem was the excitement on his face and the energy in his body as he told me each step. I never saw the activity in action. All I needed was to see that teacher’s face as he described it to me. The lesson came alive for him, and by extension, it came alive for his students.