When I agreed to have my two English 10 classes participate in the Voices into Acting project with Jodi Derkson, I had no idea what to expect. However, as it would be the first year that the English 10 classes would not be writing Provincial English 10 Exams, I agreed. My students and I are so glad that we did! My kids experienced new ways of learning such as script writing and then rewriting, something that not a lot of 15 year olds often do with much enthusiasm. However, knowing it was for an audience of their peers, most of them were highly motivated to put their egos aside and completely rewrite their first attempts, in order to make their scripts meaningful. The topic of discrimination and human rights was and is a timely one, so that was really motivating as well.
As an English teacher with little knowledge of teaching acting for the stage, I felt supported and confident working alongside Jodi as my guide.
The process included students learning what it means to practice their scripts daily until they felt comfortable performing in front of an audience. This took a lot of discipline and communication with Jodi and I as teachers and with peers. This was challenging in many ways, but in the end, some students who at first had said they would never get up on stage, not only performed, but decided to pursue acting as a career.
The public speaking skills they developed helped them build confidence and pride in themselves. The critical thinking that took place in order to choose their topics, and develop and rewrite their scripts, helped them become more aware of themselves as thinkers and as writers and of the world around them. Overall, students gained skills in writing, editing, public speaking, the power of their own body language and facial expressions, critical thinking and relationship building as there were lots of challenges that occurred among them throughout this process.
A successful production almost always involves tears’s, as Jodi said, and there were tears. Those tears helped us become stronger and work better together as a team. Overall, it was an experience I would encourage teachers to engage in with their classes. It felt like a huge risk, but it met so many of the core competencies of the new English curriculum and it was something my students benefitted from on so many levels. They will remember it for years to come, many as a life changing experience in which they discovered a hidden talent or ability they never know they possessed.
By participating in Voices Into Acting with Jodi’s direction my students learned more about themselves and the possiblilties they can experience in their lives if they choose to take risks in new areas of learning.
Byrne Creek Community School