It’s that time of year once again where overly nervous and competitive children come out of the shadows and rise up for their shot at stardom – in the Christmas production.
Back when I was a student (which is beginning to feel like decades ago as the teaching career begins to age me), it was my favourite time of the year and yet now, on the staff side, I’m already beginning to dread it.
I had the forethought to go and see the school’s summer production in a local theatre before starting the job and I vividly remember phoning my sister post-show, horrified at what I had just seen – a performance largely surrounding the topic of AIDS, but not in the Band Aid way I’d have hoped of performing arts!
When questioning this politely on my arrival in week one, I was firmly told “we are not a musicals school, you will never see us doing Hairspray. We like to do performances that are relevant to the kids.”
First, I hope AIDS isn’t relevant to the children at this stage, or at least not more prominent than the issues of racism presented in Hairspray. Second, my mission from that day onwards was to ensure that the school did a musical – in my head I’m seeing our students on Broadway but I’m sure this vision will change when reality crashes in!
Trying not to change the world in a day (something it was suggested I was trying to do by a member of senior leadership team after a few weeks in the department), I kept my musical suggestions to myself and will unleash them on the school next summer.
Instead, I had to push aside my Broadway vision to get to grips with the new play the department had decided upon for me to direct. On hearing the story that had been chosen, I felt a little like I was on a team in The Apprentice who had been guided down a route by a project manager that I hadn’t voted for.
I would support my team, but wanted to make it clear that this idea wasn’t my first choice in case I ended up with Alan Sugar (unhappy senior leadership team) in the boardroom!
And so begins the hard work that the performing arts staff are proud to put in – we may not have a constant flow of essays to mark like some subjects, but you can’t criticise the extra-curricular opportunities we give to the students.
Rehearsals get longer and more frequent as we unite as a department to try to put on a festive and successful production, which is always “for the kids” but reflects just as heavily on us.
I encourage all teachers to attend your own school’s Christmas production, not only to support your performing arts department, but to step back in amazement at the transformation of some of your most troublesome students into various characters, dancers, chorus singers and musicians.
We enjoy watching students control their behavioural issues by honing in on the arts (and the shock from other teachers when seeing this for the first time).
It is because of the skills, commitment, opportunities and confidence they gain from our subjects that I believe we have truly earned our right as part of the curriculum and will fight to stay here.
Our NQT diarist this year is a teacher of drama and dance at a school in Essex.