On Tuesday, I had a really fabulous day with my Musical Theatre class. The funny thing is — I didn’t think it was going to be a fabulous day. Earlier, I had fought with my Fundamentals of Acting kids about being quiet while they were taking notes about Roman Theatre, and I was still irritated about it when my 5th period class came in.
Now, I absolutely adore my Musical Theatre kids because they are such Drama Geeks, but like most Musical Theatre classes, it is made up of 90% girls (side note: I may or may not make up percentages mostly because it makes my blog posts sound more professional). I have had these girls in my drama classes for the past three years, and I know them very well (sometimes, too well). Like most girls, they get into spats that are totally blown out of proportion when they are stressed out or during “that time of the month.”
This past week, there were at least three spats going on between my drama girls, and I was done. During the course of one school day, I heard from five different people about the same three spats, so I took initiative, like any good drama teacher would do, and I decided that we needed to take a day and talk about our feelings in class.
In case anyone was ever in doubt, teenagers have a lot of feelings, but they are not very good at sharing their feelings in a constructive way. I decided that we were going to sit in a circle in class and tell what kind of weather we were feeling like that day. There are two rules to this exercise: 1.) You are not allowed to elaborate on your answer and 2.) Other people are not allowed to comment on your answer choice.
The students came in and were extremely confused about the new configuration of the classroom until one student groaned and said, “Mrs. Garrett, are we going to have to sit and talk about feelings today?” I told the girl, “Yes, we were going to talk about feelings, and No, she didn’t have a choice about whether or not she could participate.” After much crying and gnashing of teeth, the students took their seats in the circle, and we talked about what kind of weather we were that day. I told the students that if they were going to act like elementary school students, then I was going to treat them like elementary school students.
After we shared our feelings, I launched into “Story Time with Mama G,” where I talked about my experiences in high school as well as some of my experiences in the professional theatre world. I told the students that I expected a lot more professionalism from such wonderfully talented individuals than I was getting, and I hoped that they would think about their attitudes and behavior before they returned to class the next day.
Today, I had three students come and apologize to me about their behavior the past couple of weeks, and the girls who were previously in a spat began talking again. Maybe they aren’t friends again yet, but I counted that class yesterday as a success.
The students jokingly began calling our classroom-wide discussion our “Family Quorum” and other students started asking me if they were going to have to have a quorum in their own drama classes.
Maybe I started a positive trend in drama class and maybe not, but I really hope that at least some of what I said got through to my babies.