Helping Drama Students Understand Commitment

It can be difficult to get students to really feel committed to distance learning. It’s so easy for students to check out when they’re not physically present in a classroom. They may struggle with even showing up to class. The following tips are meant to help you, as your students’ teacher, help them understand commitment to their drama class – even in this challenging time.

1. Distance learning is still school – just in a different format.

Students are in a weird spot at the moment – some are already back in class in person, some are studying from home full time via distance learning, and some are doing a hybrid of both. It’s not what anyone is used to. We are all hoping to “get back to normal,” but there’s no definitive end in sight. 

In the meantime, students should try as much as possible to treat distance learning as regular school – get up, get dressed, and get ready for class, wherever that may be. Showing up is half the battle. For a lot of students (and teachers too, for that matter), showing up is the hardest thing. Once they arrive, they’re fine – it’s the process of getting there that is difficult, even if “there” is across the room to their laptop or tablet. The goal is to eventually be back to school as “normal,” so in the meantime, it’s important for students to commit to keeping up with their studies as best they can.

2. You get out what you put in.

Try this: Have students describe a time when they had to buckle down and work really hard on something challenging. How did they feel while they were getting ready to tackle the task? How did they feel while they were in the thick of the work? Stressed? Frustrated? Exhilarated? Determined? How did they feel once they completed the work? They most likely felt relieved, but maybe also proud of what they accomplished. They committed to getting the task done, and they did it.

Students need to figure out their “why” for attending drama class. Of course, teachers all hope it’s because students enjoy studying drama and want to learn and gain new experiences. But unfortunately, some students are only there because they need an arts credit or to fill their timetable, not because they actually want to be there. At the very least, help these students understand that putting effort into drama class will help them get through the class in the long run.

3. Drama class is all about teamwork.

So much of drama class focuses on class discussions, brainstorming, and group work. When students aren’t in class, it’s harder for the rest of the class to complete what they need to do. It’s hard to do a read-through for a group scene when one of the actors is missing, or to fairly divide up work on behalf of an absent team member. 

On the other hand, remind your students that their presence in class benefits everyone attending. Each student has their own unique thoughts, opinions, and experiences. Their voices deserve to be heard just as much as anyone else’s. Students can learn so much from having a variety of peers in their class, and teachers can learn a lot from each of their students as well.

4. Show grace.

For the students who appear to be uncommitted, try to find out why. It is easy to write off a student who isn’t there (physically or otherwise), but there may be a reason beyond their control or something they are struggling with. Day to day existence in a pandemic is something we are all struggling with. It may help your students to write journal entries or create a monologue, scene, or movement piece to express how they’re feeling. As well, demonstrate your commitment to your students by showing up, acknowledging their feelings, and maybe even sharing your own feelings at times.

We teachers should continue to have high expectations for our students, because students can and do meet and exceed expectations when they feel supported by their teachers, but we must also extend grace and understanding during difficult moments. We are all just trying to do our best right now.

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