Monday, November 3, 2014

The "Merit" of It

                               The Brock Volunteer Group at CODE 2014 (Photo: Rory Vanderbrink)

As we come closer and closer to graduation and in extension teachers college, I find myself constantly bombarded with two central questions. The number one thing that I am asked when I tell someone I am becoming a teacher is “you know there are no jobs in teaching right?” with the second most common being “why did you pick Drama? French or Math would have been so much more marketable.” After almost four years of having to answer about why this profession drew me in, and why I followed my own passions in terms of 
choosing my teachable subjects I really felt like I had had enough. So often am I reminded of the distinction between “academic” and “easy” courses, with this even linking back to my own High School Education? So often was I told by many of my friends that I wasn't taking anything “hard” or “real” when I was following my passions in the fine arts, in the social sciences and in the English Language.  But what constitutes a “real” path in education? What gives one course of field of study merit over another? And how do students end up in this mindset of one area of expertise being more important than another? Too often I myself have fallen into doubts in terms of my own educational abilities, all as a result of the girl that once told me drama “didn't matter”.

On the weekend of October 17-18 I was given the incredible opportunity (along with a few other class members) to attend the CODE 2014 conference in Ottawa. CODE is the Council of Ontario Drama and Dance Educators ( See, who organize conferences to discuss methods, merits and technologies to enhance a student’s engagement and learning through dramatic and dance conventions. The conference this year, entitled “Mirrors: A Journey to Identities” featured a variety of workshops, performances and round table discussions that discussed diversity, identity and the place of drama and dance in the Ontario curriculum and beyond. By volunteering at the conference, I was lucky enough to attend a variety of workshops that allowed me also to meet a variety of educators from across the province. In meeting these teachers, I really experienced a moment of epiphany. These teachers full heartedly believed in the merit of their craft, answering to all of those kids in high school “why are you taking only easy courses?” – well because they aren’t as easy as you think! Drama and dance have the possibility for true epiphany and for true learning that goes far beyond a classroom. They do not seek to demerit one field of study but rather promote the positive things about theirs. Furthermore, they acknowledged that sometimes their place in a school may be lonely, but there is really a purpose for them being there.
Now I promise that this blog does connect to 4P19, and this is in the discussion surrounding integrated curriculum. One of the round table discussions that I attended was called “Drama and Dance Initial Teacher Education – Challenges and Possibilities” Led by Michael Wilson. In this discussion, there were a variety of drama and dance educators (both at the University and High School level) who all came together to discuss the 2-year expansion of teacher training, and its relation to Drama and Dance in the curriculum. In this discussion, the notion of integrated curriculum came up in terms of integrating drama and dance into other classes (this was more geared at the P/J and J/I educators). It was discussed that in this capacity, although Drama and Dance are being integrated into Language Arts or French (for example), they are not being integrated adequately. By doing a play in one French class, or one day of dance in Gym many of the speakers feared that this constituted the whole terms grade in respect to these art forms. Furthermore, in doing this many teachers were not feeling prepared or confident to teach drama or dance in their classrooms. Without much support for the arts from administration, it becomes a problem to get any sort of proper arts integration into the classroom as many times these subjects are seen as superlative and not necessary.

I know that I am biased because I am passionate about drama, but I think that there is a lot more merit to the arts than many give them credit for. The arts have the possibility to transform, allowing students to play, try different roles and explore empathy and compassion in a safe, distanced environment. In drama you can explore leadership, power, feelings etc all through a distanced and therefore safe context. I have sen this in my own experiences in drama- even this year. There was a moment a few weeks ago that I was truly able to leave my own context and enter the world of the drama. In exploring an especially difficult topic (in this case it was domestic violence) through the dramatic lenses, our class was safely able to explore power dynamics and roles through a dramatic convention. I have never felt so moved in my life by the roles that were being explored. Never before have I been so into a dramatic play, and seeing how much this one moved me, I then fully understood the ways that Drama can move someone, make someone think or make someone feel. If you are interested in learning about more "Transferable skills" or the ways that Dramatic Arts can inform you in the real world check this out!

So as I come to the end of this blog, I want to call all of those that told me drama “doesn't matter” and let them know, that it has more possibilities than one can even fathom. It is in this “easy” class that a real amount of learning can happen. 


  1. Allyson, I am really glad I read this! I am hosting an education event (Kids' Christmas) through the university and want to have a drama/interactive element in the afternoon of the day. I will talk to you more about it (maybe you will be interested to participate).

  2. I know how passionate you are about drama. Here is something I came across you might find interesting. It is a book about how teaching in general is in essence a performance art. It suggests that all teachers could benefit from the same training that actors undergo. Here's a link:

  3. A passionate blog Allyson. And one that shows you are "following your bliss" (Joseph Campbell, mythologist). Or another cornier way of saying it is "Do what you love and the $ will follow". You make very valid points and in the new story the arts play a HUGE part as research continually shows that people learn better when the learning is connected to the arts. Consider STREAM or music and math. Or as Neil points out teachers themselves need to be performance artists. I think the best ones are.