Theatre of the Absurd Workshop Series

Since my honest post a couple of months ago I have been very grateful for the many positive comments and messages of support for the blog. So, thank you very much. I am timidly returning to regular blogging and share this with you today.

I often receive emails of support, encouragement and requests for resources.

One of the most viewed sections on the blog is the lesson ideas for teaching the Theatre of the Absurd. It’s a tricky theatrical style to break down and teach. Over the years I’ve scaffolded and scaffolded so that finally I have a workshop series that seems to capture the essence of Absurdism. I often end up emailing this to various people who message me with resource requests which is quite often. So, to make it a little easier on me and you, I’ve added it to this blog post today or you can find it on my Resources page (click on the link in the left hand tool bar). It should be used in conjunction with these suggested teaching strategies: Absurdism 1 and Absurdism 2.

I’ve recorded a short video to explain how to read the table. You can check it out below but it is also available at my YouTube channel.

Here is the Workshop Series – The Theatre of the Absurd PDF referenced in the instructional video.

A little reminder: These resources are not designed for assignments or assessments for University students. If you wish to use these resources for this purpose please send me an email requesting permission.

 

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How About This to Get Your Kids Writing in Their Journal…?

I’ve blogged before about my gripe with the logbook. That it can be a bit tokenistic sometimes. An add on at the end of class with little focus on using reflective and literacy skills. I say this only because that’s how I’ve felt when I’m in my classroom and using the logbook. I’m slowly refining the scaffolding of writing tasks but I feel like I still have a way to go.

With my seniors I’ve posted before about the checklist of work that I get them to do to show their process. As an add on to that I’ve started something called a Drama Panel. It’s an idea I got from my Head Teacher who set it up in a similar way for Art.

I set up the classroom as if it is a boardroom in a big office. One big long table with chairs around it. Each student must attend and their parents are also invited.  I ask my colleagues to act as panelists. The panel is scheduled at the same time over three terms and culminates with the final performance evening prior to their final exam.

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At the first panel meeting I survey the parents to gauge how much they actually know about the Individual Project. I will then survey them again at the end of the process. I plan to particularly focus on how they were best able to support their child when at home as a result of knowing what was going on in the classroom.

The students are asked to present their logbook and a statement of intention. I will write about this in a future post. In the second panel meeting which will occur this term they must present their draft director’s concept/rationale and their logbook once again. The third and final panel meeting before the showcase will involve the students showing their projects in workshop mode. Meaning, Performance projects may perform the opening of their piece, scriptwriters will workshop a scene from their script etc.

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After each panel, the logbook, statement of intention, rationale and/or project are collected and a progress mark is given. Overall I have made the internal assessment of the IP worth 20% but you could weight it whatever you like. I divide the weighting up in a 5-5-10 percent ratio. At the final panel meeting the students can take their logbook and project back to make any last minute changes before it is submitted prior to the showcase. This occurs early in Term 3.

The project should be 99.9% finished at this point leaving some room after the showcase to make any changes as is necessary. I put the pressure on to have it done by this time because the students go off on their Trials early in Term 3 and their focus is not back on their project until after this time and there isn’t much time left after that!

The students must write a series of questions to ask the panelists who provide verbal and written feedback on each project which the student then sticks in their logbook.

So far my first panel was really successful. I think it is a good strategy for a couple of reasons:

  • It makes the student accountable for their logbook and their process;
  • It involves parents in their child’s work which they may not have done previously because they weren’t familiar or confident with what the project requires or involves;
  • It encourages collaboration with other teachers. It is great PD for them and it is good for you as the teacher because 3-4 brains is much better than one. The ideas I have been getting are fantastic.

So, if you’re trying to up the quality of the logbook or motivate lazy students, particularly for your seniors, maybe give this a whirl.

Photo Credit: oropeza via Compfight cc

An Offer For You…

This morning I was pleasantly surprised to open my email and find a large number of notifications for new followers to the blog. I was overwhelmed and felt extremely grateful that many of you have felt this blog is a place that you can get information to support you with your teaching. From this gesture you have shown me, I feel very motivated to continue to deliver free content for teachers whenever I am able to. Thank you for this lovely reminder.

To all my followers, new and old, may I encourage you to also join the community over on Facebook. There are so many teachers who have a lot to share. I encourage you to look at the Posts to Page section.

I was also contacted recently by Andy from The National Theatre who has let me know about their upcoming Drama Teacher Conference. It sounds AWESOME. I wish I could go!

So. If you are in the UK, you are a follower of this blog and have also joined the Facebook group (see the link over at the right hand side of the page) AND you want to go on some fabulous PD (I mean, with guests like Alecky Blythe who wouldn’t?) you could enjoy a £50 discount on the cost of attending both days of the conference. For more information see the flyer below, check out the link that I mentioned above or contact Andy at apritchard@nationaltheatre.org.uk and let him know you are a member of this great community.

For those followers not in the UK, please enjoy this gift of inspiration from Alan Rickman 🙂

Alan Rickman

Have a lovely, restful weekend drama teachers.

The National Theatre Teacher Professional Development Flyer

Teaching – Sailing & Navigating Through Change

This year I began teaching at a new school. I have just finished my first term. This is the first time in my career as a teacher that I have moved on from a school. I wanted to use this blog post as an opportunity to reflect on this “transition” as I have called it.

Preparing to Set Sail

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I feel I have been living this transition for some months now. It was late last year that I had to make the decision to accept an offer of moving to a new school.

I was ready to move on. In terms of the goals I had set for myself, of which most were Drama orientated, I felt I had achieved all that I could. I’d started a Drama Club, put on several Drama productions, produced the first musical at the school in many years, entered the kids into Drama festivals, competitions, sent them off to camps and auditions and just generally improved the profile of Drama within the school to something that now resembled respect. There was a solid foundation that someone new could come in and do something with.

Admittedly I was also a little burnt out and really wanted to focus on my classroom practice. Yes, I had survived the tumultuous first three years of being a new teacher but so much of those first few years had seen me focus on things outside the classroom that I felt as though the quality of my teaching had suffered at times.

My school was an absolute culture shock with its challenging students and constant loneliness due to my being the only Drama teacher in the school. I chose to swim rather than sink however, searching for every possible positive opportunity I could. I joined committees, became the Peer Mediation Co-ordinator and Year Adviser which, aside from every Drama thing I have achieved, is probably my biggest achievement and the most rewarding thing I have done as a teacher to date. I learnt about PLN’s and the power of Twitter and blogging and from there my teaching world opened and it was time to look for a new experience. I wasn’t an island any more. I had built a small raft and I wanted to try it out.

I had grown personally as well, outgrowing some things and growing into others. I became much more confident and comfortable in myself and who I was, no longer anxious, stressed and flighty.

Life however, takes you on its own path. Most things are beyond your control so I wasn’t sure when or what my next opportunity was going to be. I put a tentative plan into place and was happily working towards that. Of course, that is when life throws you its curve balls and forces you to make difficult decisions.

It was the most difficult decision I had had to make in some time due to, what seemed at the time, as really crummy timing.

To a degree there is still a part of me that feels enormous guilt at leaving some of my students behind, particularly my year group. I’m an emotional person. I became incredibly attached to them. Honestly, I felt somewhat mother-like and I had never experienced such appreciation from people whom I had shown genuine care for who weren’t my family or friends. It was overwhelming. My final term was bittersweet and very emotional for everyone, staff and students. Some of my most treasured memories that I will hold dear will certainly be from that time. I went from hating this school to struggling to leave. I never would have expected that in a million years when I started.

Sailing the High Seas

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I was familiar with my new school, having gotten to know some of the staff from the faculty through TeachMeet’s. One is now a very dear friend. Having a person to support me through this time made it a lot easier but also I was just much more confident in general because I now had experience under my belt. I knew what questions to ask, I knew that it would take time to get settled so I was patient with myself. Starting at the beginning of the year was also a massive plus! It’s amazing how much more structured school orientation programs for new staff have become.

I was most nervous about my senior classes. Having been in the school system a long time, they knew how to push buttons and also to let you know, very honestly I might add, as to what they expected from you. They wouldn’t let up until they thought I had earnt it either!

It was difficult not to make comparisons early on, something I was very conscious of, and still am because I didn’t want it to seem that my previous school was any better or worse than where I was now.

Treading Water

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I still feel as though I am settling. The transition is ongoing and will be for a while yet. I am in a bit of a lull on my raft. It doesn’t quite know which direction to go in because the wind hasn’t picked up yet. This does frustrate me because I am quite “gung-ho” when it comes to my work. I like to get in there and get my teeth stuck into things. I’d say my job forms a significant part of my identity and that without it I am lost.

In saying that too though, it has been good to reflect and to take time to think about where I want to go with things in terms of my teaching.

To be honest, I really don’t know. To a degree I don’t miss all the extra responsibilities and absolutely love being able to focus solely on my classroom practice. In the same breath, I do get bored easily.  It also seems, although most teachers won’t say it openly, it is expected that you take on something additional to that of your classroom responsibilities which I don’t mind doing, I just don’t know what to do. I don’t want to repeat what I’ve already done because I’ve done it. If you catch my drift.

The vastness of the ocean in front of me with no markers, no islands in sight, makes me uneasy. What do I look out for? Or do I just wait for the wind to carry me where ever? Part of the latter intrigues me but my controlling nature makes me want to have a larger degree of influence on my raft’s direction.

Yet, that’s life isn’t it? I don’t know where I am going with this whole teaching thing but I’m on my way to a new island and the unknown adventure is a little exciting but mostly completely nerve-racking. Everyone wants a little certainty right? At this stage I feel certain of nothing but I’m learning to sit quietly on my raft with that uncertainty by my side, getting better acquainted and trying to navigate this vast ocean together.

Photo Credit: Fiji 2014 by karlao

What I’ve Learnt About Leadership

A number of weeks ago now I presented at a local Women in Educational Leadership meeting. I was asked to present on what leadership means to me. I’ve been meaning to share my presentation. Here it is. I guess I just wanted to let readers know that I’m alive. Just swamped with work at this point of the term and have had to neglect the blog somewhat. Hoping to get back to it soon. Thanks for sticking with me.

Thank you. Good afternoon. My name is Karla and I am the Drama Teacher at SCHS. I am here this afternoon, along with my other esteemed female colleagues to share with you my leadership journey.

I’d like to speak simply and honestly with you today. I originally had written this convoluted, metaphoric, aspirational and let’s be honest, wanky speech about pyjamas weirdly enough. I even considered wearing a pair but the more I attempted to turn this metaphor into something meaningful the more it strayed from what I felt the speech was supposed to be about and I guess, what I’m about.

My leadership journey has been one of discovery. I have made the realisation in the last year that I am a leader. I have potential to do great things as a leader. That being a leader is a huge responsibility. I’ve learnt that leaders are strong, resilient, passionate with strong convictions, determined, unfazed. They are humble, self-critical, perfectionists. They often stand alone. They take risks. They fail. They aren’t always recognised. They are brave.

Teachers are all those things. Teachers are leaders. You are a leader. You stand in front of a class every day, with those big, innocent (and maybe not so innocent) eyes staring back at you, waiting for you to tell them what to do. You are the only person in the room so who else is going to take the lead? You lead unknowingly because you would have never considered defining yourself as a leader.

In the past year I’ve dared to believe that I am a leader not just a teacher and now I am here saying it to you aloud. This is a big step in my leadership journey. Just believing that has changed my approach to teaching enormously.

Leadership to me, right now, is about self-belief because my biggest battle has always been with myself. I struggle with my confidence.

I came to SCHS in 2007 fresh out of university. It’s my first school and I’ve now been there for six years.  I remember I was naïve, inexperienced but enthusiastic. I saw potential for Drama to grow. I attempted to expand its profile in the school with public performances, excursions to the Sydney Theatre Company and The Belvoir. I gave it the love and attention that I felt it deserved.

Those initial years of establishing yourself as a teacher are really hard. Your confidence and self-esteem take a battering, your personal integrity is challenged, and your beliefs are changed. I thought I had to know it all and do it all on my own. I felt isolated and unsupported yet I wouldn’t ask for help because I didn’t have the confidence to ask. I felt like I thought people would think I was stupid. There was however, to my amazement in retrospect, a never ceasing ability to get up in the morning and go to work because deep down inside the passion and desire I had (have) for bringing drama into the lives of my students was (is) so important to me. Looking back, there was something there inside me it just needed the right outlet to blossom. Standing proud within your own integrity, following your passion, relentlessly and with resilience is a fundamental quality in a leader. I couldn’t articulate it then but I can articulate it now and I know you all do this every day.

I believe “There is always time to be what you might be.” I owe a significant amount of my understanding of leadership to my Principal. He is a huge advocate for Professional Learning and each year we hold a Leadership Conference in Week 6 of Term 2. We stay at a hotel somewhere, get satchels with notes and get the usual conference spread of coffee, tea, lunch and those fabulous mini mentos in a bowl. He believes in making us think of ourselves as professionals. That we are more than just 9-3 with a highly challenging and deeply intellectual profession. It is through his leadership that I have dared to believe that I am a leader and that I have a greater responsibility to lead my students and other staff in all that I do but even more so as an advocate for Drama. He’s helped me to articulate my potential and place greater value on the influence that my colleagues can have on my teaching.

It’s this understanding of myself as a person, as a leader and this belief that I have something to offer that has pushed me to make greater connections. To move beyond my classroom and share my knowledge to support others. “Man is not an island” and as such I have moved to make connections with other drama teachers worldwide through blogging and with other teachers through professional learning networks such as Twitter. Thus how I met many of the ladies up on stage with me this afternoon and graciously accepted the opportunity to speak to you today. The amount of support and encouragement received from these women and others has given me greater courage to exceed my own expectations and be more than I am because we can always “Dare to be more.” Why I lived in isolation for so long is beyond me.

It often feels like I’m dragging myself through mud. I work in a theatrically illiterate, low-socio economic community. The Arts is not valued. All the more reason to make it valued. For many of my students Drama in high school may be the only opportunity they get to experience the Arts in their lives and that is my driving ambition with which to become a better leader, a better teacher.

For me, leadership is about passion, potential and progress. None of which would exist without self-belief. Every day you lead your students to learn the wonders of your subject. Nobody else, in any other profession has that privilege and it is a privilege. Teach honestly and with passion. Don’t just teach. Lead.

Tell me about your leadership journey? What does it mean to you?

TeachMeet Drama

I’m so excited to announce that I have organised the first TeachMeet Drama. Thursday 17th May, 4pm.

Please click here to be taken to the TeachMeet Wiki to sign up.

It was one of my goals for this year and I am so glad I have achieved it.

If you are not sure what a TeachMeet is you should definitely come along. TeachMeet is free professional learning run by teachers just like you and me. TeachMeets can be any size and can be held anywhere. Most of them have time allocated to chat with other teachers but they also run “Pecha Kucha’s” which are either 7 or 2 minutes long. To learn more about TeachMeet’s click here.

At our first TeachMeet Drama I’m shaking things up a bit and not having the Pecha Kucha’s but rather some “focus groups” which will be informal chats in groups about a topic to do with Drama teaching. If you are keen to present however we would absolutely love to have you.

It will be wonderful to meet new Drama Teachers from all sectors and grades.

Spread the word to all your colleagues even if you are not a Drama Teacher. Hope to see you all there.

#PLNlove – Workshop 4

So last Thursday our little group of rookie bloggers finished their four week workshop series on blogging. Please have a look at the great blogs that are starting to blossom:

Also, some great new people to follow on Twitter include @eslenglishatjac and @meshye1.

It has been fun sharing my love of blogging with the staff and it has been wonderful to follow up with some of them and see that they’re still doing things with their blogs that I showed them in the workshops. The journey continues for them and where it takes them is an unknown with many stops most likely on the way but I’m sure it will be a trip worth taking.

I have added all the workshop notes to a new page called #PLNlove which you can find at the top of the blog. For further detailed guidance on blogging I thoroughly recommend checking out the full version from which I developed my notes here.

Image Credit:Fim da Linha / Fábio Pinheiro / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0