Today I'm encouraging you to watch this talk by Sir Ken Robinson. Not only is the content interesting and worthwhile, but his performance is a fantastic example of how one might learn performance skills to use in professions other than acting.
In this particular talk Sir Ken outlines why he feels that creativity is equally important to literacy in our children's education and, unfortunately, how our schools tend to educate creativity out of us. One point he discusses which certainly resonates with me as a drama teacher is the willingness to be wrong. I was an adult when I finally took a class where my teacher encouraged me to get it wrong. It was an acting class. Now, I had certainly been in situations before where teachers had encouraged me to "just give it a try", "just do your best", but I had also been in a situation where, upon achieving 99% in an exam, I was asked where the other 1% was. I'm sure the long line of individuals who repeated the line thought they were being very funny... However, what a 15 year old hears is, "Your best isn't good enough". What I really needed to hear back then, what helped me so much as an adult, and what I use in my own classes is the order, "Get it wrong".
Recently I had a wonderful ten year old debate the point with me. I explained that we should never be afraid of mistakes because we learn so much and if we're perfect first time every time we won't learn. This intelligent lad disagreed saying that if we do it perfect then we'll learn how to do it perfect. I didn't tell him he was wrong. I smiled, told him I understood his point, but pointed out that all you would learn is a set of steps to achieve a specific goal. He didn't quite get my point so I explained further. "If you always do it perfectly one way, you will never learn why you shouldn't do it other ways. You will never learn other ways of approaching the same objective. You will never be challenged and therefore will never grow to your greatest potential". In the end we two decided to agree to disagree.
I stand by my argument. I use to be terrified of making mistakes. Afraid of people in search of my other 1%. My risk aversion was a direct barrier to reaching my full potential. The day that a new acting teacher looked at me and said, "Just get it wrong" was a first step in letting go of that 1%. We need to let our kids get things wrong and drama is a great platform for them to learn about how to benefit from our mistakes. Quite often you will see an idea crash and burn in class. Instead of dismissing the failed idea altogether we talk through the strengths and weaknesses. Usually we find a great idea within the crash and burn which will lead to something fantastic, but if we don't... we just try something else.
I've lost track of the number of times people have flippantly answered, "Oh Acting" when they find out I'm involved in the subject of drama. Of course I answer, "No, Drama. Acting is only one element of the subject. " It's a shame so many people, especially parents, are so dismissive of the subject because it has so much to offer their children in regards to developing useful life skills. For myself, I was always quite confident within my home and family, but outside of that was quite a shy mite. It was drama and performance which allowed me to battle this shyness and overcome barriers to success in work, life and relationships. I am, therefore, quite an advocate for the powerful transformative effects of the drama classroom.
In addition to my own sermons, I enjoy bringing a variety of articles, research etc. into the benefits of arts education as well as good education practice, to the attention of interested parents. In that spirit my first offering is a nice little article from the Washington Post on the Top Ten Skills Children Learn from The Arts. Enjoy