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The Issue of Bullying

With anti-bullying week approaching, there are so many ways we can use our drama lessons to get the message across. Sometimes bullying is quite an issue in a school and sometimes it isn’t. I tried to approach the subject with one particular primary and I had to explain what bullying was! I realised that sometimes, it is better to leave the subject alone and let sleeping dogs lie. They probably ended up more worried than if we’d never talked about it!

Sadly though, it is still all too prevalent in many places – primary and secondary. I was recently approached by a teacher who was trying to tackle the issue with her Year 8s in the hope that we might be able to find a way to use a drama performance to get the message across in assembly. We are currently working on this using script work and devising.

The amazing thing about this process is the dialogue it has opened up and how very much my young teens and pre-teens want to talk about it. We have had some enlightening and very moving discussions and it occurred to me just how much more drama clubs in school have to offer than simple theatre games and acting lessons.

It isn’t always about tackling the issue of bullying through performance or drama workshops; sometimes the most important thing is to recognise and notice the child in our own midst who is given a wide berth when you ask your class to pair up or get into groups. Finding ways to make sure she is happily included and changing the pre-conceived attitudes of the rest of the group will not only transform her drama club experience but also of her daily life in school. It won’t work instant miracles, but bit by bit, a drama teacher can get the ball rolling.

As a drama teacher, you have the time and the resources to alter someone’s perception of themselves and also that of their peers, if you do it right. You just need to recognise what is happening from the start and manoeuvre your class to work in such a way that it cannot continue. For instance, don’t let the popular kids decide on who is going to be in their group. Get the ones who tend to get left until last to do the choosing. It isn’t rocket science to watch, listen, be aware and look for a way to turn it around.

Above all else, the drama room should be a safe haven for everyone and this should be the starting block for all drama work. To perform, improvise or get up and talk in front of the rest of the class is a massive undertaking for many children and it can only happen if the situation is supportive and non-judgemental.

A good drama teacher will never force, cajole or pressurise but always offer and assure inclusion.

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