Thursday, November 14, 2019

Oops! We did it again! The art of Incidental Learning

(With thanks to HOG India)

One of the things we like most about teaching Drama is the fact that we teach invaluable life skills, but the students are totally unaware of all that they are learning. They are just having fun, using their imaginations, acting silly, playing pretend and living out their fantasies. It’s a bit like hiding ever offensive veggies like broccoli and brussel sprouts under mountains of creamy, cheesy sauce – you get all the good stuff, but you are enjoying it so much, you don’t even notice.

(With thanks to HOG India)
One of our favourite parts of our incredible Curriculum is the  Snippet” – this is a short improvised play performed in groups of 2 – 5. Students have to come up with a story following set directions. It is absolutely amazing what our Drama students of all ages come up with when they are given an opportunity to delve into their own fantasy world and present it to others. The teamwork, planning and self-imposed discipline that goes into the preparation for a Snippet is quite impressive. We clearly see leaders emerge and problem solving in action. Even the introverted children have to be part of the final product. The enthusiasm and praise from their classmates after they perform is such a boost, especially for these shy ones.
Such Personal development supports academic learning, by the children becoming more well-rounded, well-adjusted and confident to excel in all areas of learning.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Magic is in the air!

This time of year, Magic is definitely in the air at Helen O'Grady Drama Academy Pretoria and Midrand. 
We are in the final stretch before our annual Year End Productions taking place on the 9th and 10th of November 2019. It's dress rehearsals and photo shoots, costumes and make up, and the nervous excitement is palpable!

Some kids love the feeling of excitement and anticipation. Seeing all the hard work they've done come to fruition.

But for some kids this is where reality strikes, and the nervous excitement becomes more and more nervous and less and less excitement.  They start using words like "scared" and "stage fright” and they start feeling overwhelmed. And this is where as a drama teacher you have to jump in and nip this fear in the bud.

For this, Juliet Jordaan, our Helen O'Grady Pretoria and Midrand Principal, has the best advice: she explains that feeling scared and feeling excited are similar emotions and sometimes we confuse them. Both have the feeling of butterflies in the tummy, our heart racing and a feeling that you can't sit still. Telling the kids that they are actually excited and not scared, calms most of them down instantly and allows them to channel their energy positively and start enjoying the process. And with any luck they end up enjoying their show and being on stage with no fear holding them back.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Teaching Drama is "Heart" Work

Written by Charlotte Tervit, Vice Principal – Helen O’Grady Drama Academy Pretoria

This is by far one of my favourite little sayings about Drama Teachers. I will tell anyone who wants to listen (and even people who don’t) how much I love my job! I sometimes just stop and appreciate the moment when I am hopping around like a frog in a Kindy class, or pulling my face like a clown during speech exercises and remind myself that I’m not sitting behind a computer in a stuffy office. Life is good!
To be any teacher is, in my opinion, a calling and not something you decide to be based on economics or status or perks, but truly because you are following your heart. Being a Drama Teacher takes it one step further- it has to be your passion in life. It is like teaching a group of children who are on a sugar rush whilst you are doing aerobics, being the class clown and the responsible adult all at once. You definitely need to be able to laugh at yourself and not take yourself too seriously.

But most of all you need to understand what you are to the students. Your drama class becomes their safe place, the place they can truly be who they are and want to be and express themselves with far fewer limitations than the rest of society impose on them. It’s a sense of freedom and homecoming for them all at once.  And once this is what you are to them, the reward in love, trust and appreciation that they give you is overwhelming. And it is at this point that you realise teaching Drama is Heart work, because not only do you have to teach from your heart, but your heart is filled to the brim with their love in return.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Drama is a Team Sport!

 When I start working on our year end plays, I often use the analogy of soccer, or team sports. The children seem to identify well with the image of soccer and there are so many valuable similarities and examples one can use. 
For example, just like in a soccer game where you have to stay involved with, and pay attention to the action on the field, even if you don’t have the ball, you have to stay in character and follow the dialogue as it is “kicked” from one character to another when on stage, so that you know what to do and when to speak.

Another very helpful similarity is that both are a team activity, which means everyone is important. Just as in soccer where not all players can be strikers or goalkeepers, not everyone on stage can be a lead character, but every single player/actor is crucial in making the team successful.

This also means that cast members have a responsibility towards their team of actors, and it is a commitment to be part of a play. Each actor needs to do their part by learning  lines, attending rehearsals and of course, show up for the performance!

One major difference between Drama and sport is that we do not have any “substitutes” to use when someone does not show up on the night of the show, or even pull out during the last weeks of rehearsals. Of course, there are extreme circumstances when this is unavoidable like in the case of illness, but sadly, this is most often not the case. A fellow cast member not being at the show puts enormous pressure on the other students and causes unfair anxiety. Also, the child who is not at the show misses out on the reason they have been working so hard leading up to the show. Most often than not they find it devastating to miss out on this opportunity to show off their talent and what they have learnt.

At Helen O’Grady Drama Academy we not only teach drama and acting skills as a performance art academy, but also focus greatly on life skills and teaching our students how to be confident, well-balanced people. Therefore it is important to teach our students responsibility, respect for their class or cast mates, and how to be good “team members” by being supportive and encouraging towards one other, and to remain humble. All of these are achieved as incidental learning when preparing for and performing in a play.

It stands to reason then that we as adults need to lead by example, acknowledge the importance of our child's commitment to their team and being at the performance. We also need to show up and be present and show them our commitment to them.

- Charlotte Tervit, Vice Principal - Helen O'Grady Drama Academy Pretoria (Pty) Ltd