DIS Drama Day at ISUtrecht
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DIS Drama Day at ISUtrecht

An ongoing wish by international school drama teachers to spend more time with subject colleagues in order to ‘not to have to re-invent the wheel’ all the time, led to a DIS Drama Day at ISUtrecht. On Saturday 12 January, performing arts teachers from 11 different Dutch International Schools (DIS) came together to focus on the MYP Drama curriculum.

By Erick Aufderheyde, secondary drama teacher

Having participated in and taught workshops at DIS, ECIS and TTO conferences, I think the great advantage of these meetings is sharing and discussing ideas in that very moment while you are outside of school. Unfortunately, there hardly ever is a decent follow-up to these esteemed educational exchanges. Valuable lesson ideas, improvement plans, or novel initiatives get quickly absorbed again in the daily hustle and bustle of balancing teaching and organisation tasks.  

Inspired

At the last bi-annual DIS meeting in 2018, drama teachers once more had a constructive time, but again too brief. So, Rachel Gorman (International School Hilversum) and I took the initiative to organise a follow-up, where we could continue to meet, discuss and plan; sharing frustrations but primarily solutions. We invited drama teachers from all international schools in the Netherlands and Belgium, and conducted a survey beforehand, which provided us with necessary feedback to have an effectual agenda. There was a good response, also from schools which couldn’t make it on the day but showed interest for a further meeting.

“Thanks once again for a brilliant day. I was inspired from the moment I walked into your wonderful drama studio. Such a pleasure to be in the company of a great group of teachers, to share experiences, games, ideas, IT resources and philosophies with one another in a relaxed and caring atmosphere. I’m still processing all that happened today, and I am sure that I will be incorporating all sorts of ideas and practices in my drama teaching.”  —  Chris, ISA

Necessary life skills

Let’s go one step back: The IB states that “the MYP provides a framework of learning that encourages students to become creative, critical and reflective thinkers”.  The glue in this framework are the arts units where thinking and language skills are the vehicles for learning independently. Alongside of this, the arts also provide training in necessary life skills such as knowing how to present oneself, how to solve problems through improvisation and most importantly how to use and trust imagination.

Through the arts students are encouraged to make connections between their learning in most subjects and the real world: in essence, art always reflects society and the behaviour of its members.  The arts cultivate the development of skills for communication about our own world and promote intercultural understanding and global engagement – essential qualities for young people who are becoming global leaders.

Adding creativity to the Learner Profile

“We were able to share problems and find solutions, give new and fresh ideas, offer support for upcoming events etc. This means that moving forward we have a resource bank that we can ‘dip’ into when we find ourselves with questions, queries, in need of props etc. It is fantastic to meet like-minded people that want to share ideas.”  —  Laura, ISE

The IB does recognise this, however, it often needs to be asserted over and over again. Nowadays, society requires schools to focus on fabricating students to fit the economy as opposed to creating students to fit the community and improve its environment. It’s ironic that this very world dominated by economy relies on creative insight to make this economic premise survive and wholesome. And coming back to our school system, the IB learner profile lists valuable attributes as guidelines for every student to become an independent learner, but creative thinking is absent. I would like to argue that adding creativity to the learner profile would help to make more educators realise that creative thinking is at the basis of most, if not all, subjects.

Although most of us might agree to some extent, that the arts have a vital function in education, performing arts in particular is a field that is regularly under pressure and confronted with a dilemma: on the one hand drama teachers are being asked to support the artistic events in the school, which mostly are a great selling point of the school. On the other hand, the arts are often the first to receive cuts when management has to re-evaluate the curriculum and resources.

WWW and ArtBurst

“We put so much pressure on ourselves and the students so succeed, meet deadlines and criteria that we forget to explore and be vocally, physically and emotionally aware through play. I am so glad that I got reminded about this again today.”   —  Stephanie, ISUtrecht

As I have gathered from speaking with colleagues for years now, this is an ongoing reality.  However I must say, that I had to make a few colleagues jealous on the DIS Drama Day by mentioning choices our school is making to include the arts as an endorsed component in the overall curriculum. There are not many schools that make space in an ongoing curriculum to have the community spend a whole day celebrating and participating in the arts: our nearly famous A R T B U R S T (!mark your agenda’s: Thursday, June 20, 2019!). Including the biennial musical theatre production we can produce in a professional theatre (!mark your agenda’s: “Who lives, Who dies, Who tells your story”, March 12,13,14 in ZiMihc Theatre!)

On January 12, all of the above was discussed with an agenda, which included planning the objectives of the DIS Drama group curriculum and resource sharing, including assessment practices. We also had a drama skills workshop/presentation and brainstormed the contents of a second meeting, setting realistic goals.

“Finding out about local performance venues added value to a primary project I am currently developing for my school and the understanding that assessment criterion strands can be taught over a variety of tasks also has encouraged me to think about more creative ways to assess.”  —  Tara, AICS

Future workshop

Lunch and drinks at the end of the day were provided by our school. Despite the rainy, gloomy atmosphere outside, inside we had a great time listening to intuitive ideas, keen comments, novel insights and cunning plans. The Drama DIS day resulted in a special DropBrox for resources regarding teaching the performing arts, a future workshop to be further trained as teachers in a practical field (Frantic Assembly physical theatre), a shared agenda with school performances and a future meeting in September 2019.