WELLBEING: How does drama help kids?

06 February 2018

Did you think that drama was just kids playing around? 

Though it looks like simple fun and games, you may be surprised to know that drama can help kids in a myriad of ways.

As a drama teacher I’ve seen kids’ lives transformed because of it. As a professional performer, I’ve seen bullying stopped by it. And it’s a world that I feel incredibly privileged to experience.

Here are just a few ways drama can help kids:

Compassion

One of the most interesting experiences I’ve ever had in drama was when I was touring an anti-bullying show, Speak Up, I had written for primary schools throughout Queensland.

I performed this show professionally for a year and a half from the Gold Coast, up to the Daintree and out to Longreach. One day something happened that made me see the power of what drama is all about. After the show, in a school hall, at a private school in Brisbane, a young boy came charging up the aisle to speak to me. He said “I’m not going to be a bully anymore. I understand now what it’s like for someone who is being bullied. I didn’t realise I was being a bully and I’m not going to do it anymore. Thank you for showing me.”

It was a powerful moment and one that made me realise what my whole mission with this show was all about. And from Cunnamulla to Coolangatta, kids would tell me the same kinds of things. “I know what to do now.” “I’m not scared anymore.” “I’m not going to do that again.” Drama, (in this case acting out another’s life story or situation), was making these kids see their own behaviour. And because they were seeing someone else have a similar experience to theirs, they were more confident about their ability to handle the challenges in their own lives and change what needed to be changed. It was incredibly powerful.

Drama taught these kids compassion.

Confidence

And then there’s the magic of confidence that drama gives you. One mum I spoke with in a parent teacher conference told me that she didn’t understand why her daughter wanted to do drama because her daughter was so shy. She hardly talked to anyone, no one in school really knew her, she was a wallflower. That was until she started drama. I was blessed with this class to have the opportunity of working with the late NYC playwright David Rimmer on his play New York. And this particular student just shone. Her acting was phenomenal and I remember David telling her she was very talented. She had found her voice. She later told me that I would never know what drama had done for her, that it had changed her life. I knew what it had done for her. Kids who have no confidence find themselves. They find their voice and their individuality and they become confident! What more could you want for a child?

Co-operation and creativity

Drama also teaches co-operation and creativity. Another time I worked with a group of young boys who were devising their own performance, but they were struggling. Each of them wanted to have their own way. They were not listening to each other and the idea they had come up with was violent. I wasn’t having it. I knew they could do better. We talked about the importance of listening to one another and that for every problem there is a solution. You just have to stick with it and find it. Imagine my utter delight when the following week, I saw the boys rehearse a completely new idea and the performance was so moving, it made me cry! I asked them what had happened. They told me they realised they needed to stop arguing and to listen to each other’s ideas. And then one of the boys came up with an idea that was powerful and unique. They inspired all of the other kids in the class, because they were so committed to making their performance the best it could be. They recorded their performance on their phones and took it home to their parents. On seeing it, their mums cried too, just like I had. The confidence in their own ability to overcome obstacles was life-changing for them and incredibly inspiring for me.

Caring

And lastly, caring. I always tell my classes about my ‘fat banana’ story, when I was a young girl doing ballet. I was about five years old, wearing a yellow leotard and I was a chubby kid. In front of all the other kids, my ballet teacher loudly declared “Oh, Jodie, you look like a fat banana.” The whole class laughed at me. I was so mortified and embarrassed that I quit ballet that day. I loved dancing, but I never went back. I didn’t tell my mum. I just told her I didn’t want to do it anymore. So kids in my drama classes KNOW it’s important to be caring. And drama helps them to be. It’s hard to get up in front of others in a class sometimes unless you know that everyone has your back. And there’s nothing better than knowing that in a drama class. So we cultivate care! The kids in my classes know I care about them and they care about each other. It’s a wonderful environment to be a part of.

So the next time someone says to you that drama doesn’t matter, or that it’s just mucking around - you’ll know the real truth! Drama is transformative. It changes kids’ lives. It teaches them what I’ve coined The Magic 5; compassion, creativity, confidence, co-operation and caring. Nothing else does it like drama!! 

Written by

Jodie Eva Cook / Professional Children's Performer

Jodie Eva Cook has taught drama in Australia and Switzerland as well as performing professionally for children nationally and internationally. She now runs her own drama school and is a professional children’s performer on the Sunshine Coast. See her website for details. www.jodieevacook.com.au

 

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