How can theatre in education help my students?

This will be a topic that I’ll delve into endlessly on this blog. How theatre in education helps students develop into better human beings. How it develops empathy, helps students understand concepts & engages them in content. So follow the blog and see both how you can incorporate theatre in ed into your school and also why you should start now. Talk soon.

Can students achieve “The Arts” education outcomes without adding to the teacher’s already huge workload?

How can we as teachers provide “The Arts” education to our students without increasing our already overwhelming workload?

As a current school teacher I regularly talk to fellow staff members about how they and their fellow staff members are incorporating “The Arts” curriculum into their lessons & meeting the expected outcomes. The all too often answer is, “We’re not”, accompanied by a desperate look of exhaustion. I get it! There just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day, especially when the administrative sands keep shifting & the curriculum keeps changing. So how do we as teachers find time to cover all of the required “Arts” outcomes to the highest standard whilst still staying on top of literacy and numeracy, not to mention student behaviour, reports, meetings, NAPLAN testing and everything else that is piling up on top of us?

As teachers we need to accept that we can’t do it all. No matter how good a teacher is, there is always going to be something that gets missed or glossed over, no matter how much we wish that it wasn’t the case. We may be super teachers, but we are not super human. So how do we ensure that our students don’t miss out on a key subject area that is so important to intellectual and social development? How do we ensure that we are teaching them fundamental skills in teamwork, compromise, creative thinking & developing the critical emotion of empathy? And how do we do it without dropping the ball in other areas?

The simple answer is to look at what the most successful businesses do. In the dog eat dog world of private industry you either deliver or you go under. So how do the very best run their business at a profit and still exceed their clients’ expectations? How do they ensure that what needs to be covered is covered to the highest standard? The answer is….. they outsource!!

The decision of whether to outsource something is quite a simple one: if you can get a better result for the same or less money by outsourcing it, then outsource it. If you are spending more time and money trying to do something yourself than you can afford, then outsource it. The alternative of doing it yourself when you can’t afford to just doesn’t add up.

So when you make the decision to outsource some of the trickier components of your arts education, where do you go to find a great professional who can provide direct links to your “Arts” outcomes? Furthermore, can you pay a reasonable price to get “The Arts” outcomes covered at the very highest standard that doesn’t involve you having to perform for your class yourself?Let’s face it, not everyone wants to dress up as Little Red Riding Hood & perform a puppet show to their class with a few song & dance numbers thrown in for good measure?

When outsourcing arts education then the person you hire in needs to be:

  • someone who is qualified. For you to teach in a school you needed to get a university qualification. Someone who has simply been in a classroom as a student but not trained as a teacher is not equipped to teach a class, just as a performer who has performed in some theatre shows but not studied arts education is not equipped to teach performing arts to students. Look for someone with a university degree in performing arts and in education. Like you, they are best equipped to teach students to the highest standard, they know their stuff, and as a fellow teacher they’ll know what you are looking for to educate & engage your students;
  • someone who is an expert in the field of performing arts. Someone with extensive experience and expertise in the Australian arts field will know what’s truly possible in live performance within a school environment and how to achieve it at the highest standard. At least five years experience in the field of theatre in education should have them knowing what works and what doesn’t in theatre in education;
  • someone who has a history of being highly successful. Finding someone who has runs on the board as a long time successful Theatre In Education producer and performer is difficult, but reading references and testimonials from other schools and teachers is the way to go. These will give you a good indication of what other schools have thought of the performer’s skill set & past performances. If they have a history of delivering what they say they will and exceeding expectations, then there is a good chance that they will do the same for your school.

    Tony Appleby B.Ed performing in 2014’s “The Windy Farm” with a variety of drama, dance & music elements.
  • someone who meets your needs. Not only must they write entertaining and moving scripts, but your incursion provider should cover a variety of performing arts areas to meet the various Arts outcomes you have for your different year levels. Do they cover elements of drama (including costumes, sets, puppetry, mask, multi-media, etc), dance (multiple styles), music (multiple styles) & singing (themselves & involving the students) in their show? Or do they just perform spoken word with a hat & jacket change? Will they get the audience involved in the show? Is their audience participation? What would you like your students to see in the show to cover “The Arts” outcomes you are expected to cover? If their details specify that they do, then you’re onto a good thing. If you have to ask, then make sure they put it in the contract that they will deliver the particular areas that you want covered.

And here is the kicker. To guarantee that your outsourced professional delivers they need to be:

  • someone who does not then outsource your performance to someone else. This is what a booking agent specialises in – outsourcing your outsourcing. You should make sure that the testimonials that you read actually refer to the performer/s that you’ll have performing on the day. Is the producer with all of the experience then outsourcing the delivery of performance and teaching to a lesser or completely unqualified staff member? This is certainly more cost effective for the producer, but as the customer it does not give you and your students any guarantee of what the person on the day is capable of or what experience they have as a teacher and theatre in education performer.

So shop around. There are a number of excellent theatre in education companies operating in Australia who can meet all of the above criteria and can ensure that your needs are met. To see what Books To Life offer, then check out our offerings at www.bookstolife.com.au Whoever you choose, ensure that you are getting what your students need – the very best possible education in “The Arts”.

To read why “The Arts” are so important for primary school students (and our future leaders of Australia) stay tuned for next month’s article “Developing Empathy in Young People… through Arts Education”.