Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Own your work


In the process of cleaning up my office I stumbled across these mini monologues. I had initially asked students to prepare them as a scriptwriting exercise: I provided a line or a character or a context, and the students had to develop a monologue that would run for 30 second to a minute. We then continued using their work as the basis for developing a short performance with a focus on characterisation. It would seem that although I asked to retain the original scripts, they never made it off the shelf.

I recall that when I collected the scripts, all of the students expressed a desire to retain their anonymity. They didn't mind it being shared and used by others, but they were loath to take any credit. For this reason, I have not recorded any attribution for the work.

The Problem

This got me thinking... one of the things that I am keen to encourage is student ownership of their work. When students are given the opportunity to promote their work developed at school to a wider audience, more often than not, they balk.

Why is that?

In the case of the scripts below, I understand. Given the short preparation time they might be concerned about their level of creativity, the general quality of the content or or the technical accuracy of the writing. They might have concerns about how these things might reflect on them as an individual, at a point-in-time or on a long-term basis.

What about longer projects?

It doesn't seem to matter whether it is scriptwriting or performance work, students are generally reluctant to showcase their finished product to a wider audience. They seem afraid to own their work.

You might think that it had something to do with the students' perception of their own work, and in some cases it does. Students are often aware enough of their goals for a project to know that the work they are producing isn't quite up to scratch. Students can generally appreciate that this is part and parcel of the creative process and will continue to work in the future on those aspects of their work that need refining...provided they are connected to their learning more than the grade they receive.

The problem for me is that even the students who are producing quality work that is ready for production or exposure to a wider audience are also reluctant. And generally, they are experiencing a slightly different internal conflicts that tend to fall into a couple of categories. Some view the work produced in school as 'schoolwork', irrelevant to the wider context(s) in which they exist. Others are able to recognise and acknowledge that their work might be appreciated by in other contexts but are unwilling to allow their work to be experienced by others for fear of judgement.

This I can relate to.

The Solution

I've started creating a list of characteristics that I can build in to learning experiences and assessment tasks that I think may encourage students to share their work more broadly.
  • Although the work is being created in response to an artificial context (such is the nature of school systems, assessment requirements, etc.), clear, real-world links must be established
  • The students must have the opportunity to experience how their work might be transformed from 'assignment' to the next step / finished product
  • There should be opportunities to publish work on a small scale at different points throughout the year so that students can experience the process of creating, editing, refining, publishing and promoting their work to an audience.
What other factors play a part in the willingness of a person to own their work and share it with others?

Saturday, 26 October 2013

The first step is the hardest

I learnt to ride a unicycle last summer. Not very well, but I can ride. It is the first time in a long time that I have attempted to learn something basically from scratch. When I think about my first attempts at riding the unicycle, what stands out in my mind is how much of a struggle it was to make those first few rotations of the wheel. Minutes turned into hours, which turned into days, which turned into weeks. Eventually I managed to loosen my grip on the patio posts, letterboxes, fences, barbecues and railings that I used to stop myself from falling. Letting go was the hardest part.

I have been telling my students for years that it is okay to fail as long as they use it as an opportunity for growth, for learning. Yet it took me weeks to realise the same thing when I found myself in similar circumstances. Until I convinced myself that falling off wasn't going to injure much more than my pride, I began to relax enough to make progress. Accepting failure was the first step on this particular road to success.

I also started practising in public. Places where I knew my own safety and the safety of others wouldn't be an issue, but also where I could easily be observed. Why should I be ashamed of learning a new skill? Practising in public also meant failing in public. But that was part of the experience. I wanted to embrace the thrill of the unknown that I so often encourage my students to enjoy. And it wasn't always enjoyable. It was valuable though.

Which leads me to this blog. The title, A Drama Teacher, is a reflection of my desire to have something with which to focus my writing balanced with a reluctance to be too definitive. I am one of many, and the many are a varied bunch based on those whom I have met and worked with, whose blogs I read or workshops I have attended.

So it is with great hesitation that I once again move out into a public space to learn something new. I hope that this endeavour will encourage a more considered and reflective approach to my teaching. Perhaps some new conversations will be started, or perhaps it will just be a place where I practice some new skills while others, who just happen to be passing by, look on with mild curiosity and then continue on their merry way.

Whatever happens from here, the first tentative move has been made. Now I just have to try and keep the wheel spinning and stay on top of it.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Beenleigh Festival of One-Act Plays 2013 Youth Results

Best Play: Covenant With Death, BTG
2nd Best Play: Phantasmal, Focus on Stage
Best Director: Ros Johnson, Covenant With Death
Best Actor Male: Joshua Moore, Covenant With Death
Best Actor Female: Brooke Masters, Phantasmal
Best Supporting Actor Male: Jordan Pineda, I'll Show You Yours
Best Supporting Actor Female: Charlotte Walters, Covenant With Death
Adjudicator's Awards: Ella McGuire, Phantasmal; The Cast of I'll Show You Yours; Lauren Gerry, Covenant With Death
General Awards (relevant to the Youth Section)
The Joy Corby Memorial Shield (Best Design of the Festival): Covenant With Death
The Gregory's Shield (Under 18 performer or group who shows excellent potential): Bianca Armstrong, Covenant With Death