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Any drama teachers about? am I being PFB? (sorry, a bit long)

(26 Posts)
boschy Thu 25-Oct-12 09:10:12

DD1, Y11, is doing BTec drama. Last night was their assessment performance - 6 short plays, each one written/performed/stage-directed etc by a different group of students, size of group varying from 6 to 3 people. The students themselves choose their groups.

From watching, and from what DD says, it is clear that there is a very strong 'alpha' group of personalities/performance skills, who made up 2-3 of the groups.

DD's group was what she called the 'left-overs'. Her, her friend, and one boy. No one else wants to work with this boy because he is unreliable - doesnt turn up to rehearsals, wont do lunchtime or after school, wasnt even in school all day yesterday, but did turn up for the assessment.

As a result, DD's group was under-rehearsed, had less time for tech prep than the others, and because there was only 3 of them and this boy's attitude the preparatory work - ideas, scripting etc etc etc was also less good than it could have been. 3 people to bounce ideas off, instead of 6 etc.

DD feels the teacher has favourites; the alpha group get lots of extra opportunities to perform while the less outgoing/proficient ones only perform in class for example - therefore limiting their practice and chance to gain confidence I think.

One student was last night told her grade and it was on FB etc before we even got home!! (to be fair, nice girl, and she was brilliant, but it seems unprofessional given that no one else will get their grades til today).

After halfterm they will start preparing their next performance pieces, and I have told DD that she needs to speak to the teacher about the group structure so it gets shaken up and people work with others than the ones they would naturally choose, and that the group sizes should be more evenly spread. If she doesn't get anywhere I think I will talk to the teacher, but is this the right approach?

I know their grades are individual, but if you are working in a 'good' group with your friends, surely your chances of getting a good grade than they are if you are working in a less good group where one person doesnt pull their weight?

If you got this far and have any thoughts, many thanks!

boschy Thu 25-Oct-12 09:12:18

surely your chances of getting a good grade ARE BETTER than they are

sorry, poor proof-reading!!

AgentProvocateur Thu 25-Oct-12 09:17:51

I've no idea what age year 11 is, but I'm presuming she's a teenager? I agree that groups should be mixed, but I think it's up to your daughter to speak to the teacher about it, not you. My DC are 16 and 17, and I know they would die a death if I contacted the school about something like this.

Also, not sure what a BTEC is or who was assessing, but if it was the teacher, I'm sure she would be professional enough to take the group dynamics into account.

Knowsabitabouteducation Thu 25-Oct-12 09:42:56

Your DD needs to make sure that her contribution to the group is well-documented, and not worry so much about the other students.

Does she keep a drama diary?

She needs to talk with her teacher to air her concerns and get advice on how to proceed so that she can reach her potential.

boschy Thu 25-Oct-12 10:08:29

she's 16 agent and no I wouldnt go in all mummy-guns-ablazing, but she is not happy with the situation and she has mentioned before about the lack of performance opportunities, but that hasn't changed.

knows yes they log everything they do. at last parents' evening the drama staff (5 of them!!) said they wanted her to be more outgoing, and I think that came through in her bit of the performance.

I just worry that the 'alpha groups' steal everyone's thunder? I think it would be very difficult to not compare and contrast and decide that the alpha group's work was 'better' when there are certain innate advantages built-in to the group structure iyswim? Perhaps I am worrying unnecessarily...

mycatunderstandsme Thu 25-Oct-12 10:19:41

My DD did drama GCSE and some of the time was allowed to choose her own groups and was sometimes put into groups by the teacher. I think that was the fairest way to do things.

I do know that some pupils asked the teacher if they could swap groups and this was arranged for them [one hard working boy swapped into my DDs group because his group were not working hard]

I would get your DD to ask to swap. This will show the teachers that she is keen but she needs to ask herself I think. Also she could practise her bits of the play by herself at home. I think in one play my DD did they each had a monologue so she could work on something like that by herself.

My DDs group had a problem when they had a supply teacher for a while who gave every group the same [average] mark for preparation when they had done loads of extra rehearsals. My DD complained and the mark was changed so I would say it is important to speak up.

boschy Thu 25-Oct-12 10:40:30

I think I will see what happens with the groups after half-term and if they are self-selecting and the same thing happens again I will make sure DD and her friend talk to the teacher, and if that doesn't work then I will get in touch if DD says I can.

The teacher having favourites issue has come up before, and I am not sure if this is a continuation of that, in that she doesn't want to upset the kids she likes the best, but I don't see why DD and her friend should get stuck in the corner with the boy who wont pull his weight...

Jojolil Thu 25-Oct-12 17:17:38

I am a drama teacher and a mum! My DD is doing drama GCSE too! I know there are ups and downs and it's difficult to be fair all the time but I promise you there are plenty of mums who are in the school complaining ALL the time! They seem to be ones who's daughters get what they want... SO I personally think you should go into the school, have a chat with the head of drama and let them know you are worried - Tell them how you and your daughter feel without being rude (obviously) then you will be able to see how it goes from there. Monitor what happens the next time they are in a group etc... it should be better!!

EvilTwins Thu 25-Oct-12 19:03:24

I teach BTEC Drama. Which qualification is she doing (there are 3 possbilities at Yr 11 - Certificate (1 GCSE "equivalent") Extended Certificate (2 GCSEs) and Diploma (4 GCSEs). I presume she must be doing at least Extended Cert if she is doing more than one performance.

I sometimes allow students to choose their own groups and sometimes allow them to choose. Thing is, if I put them in groups, assuming that each group has one or two "alpha"s, there is a danger of those students taking over completely and the "left-overs" (your poor DD) being left out anyway. Sometimes, I've found it easier to put the alphas together, then I can spend more time working with the less confident students.

At this stage, they ought to be nearly finished, really - my group has 1 unit left (scripted plays) which we will be starting after half term. I don't think there is any point in you going in guns-blazing. See what happens, and if your DD is unhappy with her group after the holidays, get her to speak to the teacher. As a Year 11 teacher, I would be impressed with a students who approached me to talk about that, and any changes could be made immediately, rather than having to wait until after a meeting.

BTEC marks are, as you say, individual. If your DD is doing what she needs to do to get a merit/distinction, then she ought to be awarded that. At the top end of the scale, I've had D* kids who can pull off D performances even if no one else is working anywhere near their level. A skilled teacher will recognise the contribution of each student, and won't mark a group as a "group", IYSWIM.

Hope you get it sorted.

boschy Fri 26-Oct-12 08:29:45

Thank you jojo and evil, really good food for thought and reassurance in both your posts. I think she's doing the Diploma. I haven't complained about anything (yet!).

She came home yesterday saying that 'miss' was going to put them into different groups after half-term, and if she is asked to work with that particular boy again she will go and talk to the teacher. If that doesn't work then I will make an appointment and bring the issue up more broadly.

Re spreading the 'alphas' across the groups, I see the point you are making. But what I think is happening is that the teacher is spending her time working with the alphas and not with the others...

One other thing that maybe you two might have a view on? DD said that in drama yesterday (the review of the assessment performances) the teacher said that she had chosen the order of performance of the 6 plays so that they went 'good play, bad play'. It may be that DD has misinterpreted what she said, but that seems very demotivating to those in plays 2, 4 and 6, in which, coincidentally, none of the alpha groups featured (and DD was in play no. 4). And the plays they reviewed yesterday and watched back in class were also the 'good' plays, ie 1, 3 and 5, with the rest to follow today. I'm not sure I like where this is going really, but am I just being precious?

outtolunchagain Fri 26-Oct-12 09:53:31

Gosh I understand , we had quite similar situation , with the greatest respect to the drama teachers on here, it does seem to be one of those subjects which can be open to bias .

I didn't go in all guns blazing however I did make sure at parents evening that the teacher knew that I was aware IYSWIM .

Ds was also an A* English candidate and had two Lamda gold medal distinctions for acting and verse speaking (so I knew that whilst he may not be the next Olivier he was capable of performing) and I made sure that his teachers of these subjects knew that he was finding drama GCSE a struggle, as I know the grapevine in schools can be useful.

This may sound a little underhand but year 11 is important and she really found him quite baffling I think. He is quite an old fashioned type rather restrained and polite, the teacher was sweet but clearly more at home with the more responsive girls who idolised her .One example was when he used the word "pathetic" in an essay , he used it in its correct context , she penalised him as its a slang derogatory wordhmm

We got there in the end though and he got his A, I have to say though that I would prefer ds3 not to do drama as an academic subject though and to keep it as a hobby.

boschy Fri 26-Oct-12 10:26:31

Yes I think what concerns me is that if she is working in a weaker group then there is less opportunity to do her best (and the same for the others in that group) than if the groups were better structured so that the alphas don't hog the limelight and the support.

And because there is so much teacher assessment involved, how can I be sure that 'bias', for want a better word, doesn't come into it?

I know she's not going to be Vanessa Redgrave but she wants to get at least a Merit and I think she needs more opportunity to do that, not less simply because she is not one of It girls and boys.

EvilTwins Fri 26-Oct-12 12:16:55

Sounds very poor if the kids know that she has "favourites". It's true that subjects like drama are open to bias, in some ways, but the whole process is quite heavily regulated and checked and moderated so it shouldn't become an issue or problem. As for the "good play, bad play" comment- shock- she sounds charming.

It's worth pointing out that the BTEC spec is quite clear that one if the skills for Distinction level work is independence- so the teacher is in fact hindering achievement if she spends too much time with the alphas.

What a shame for your DD. I love teaching the BTEC course (the new spec is pants in comparison to the old) and it sounds like she has a bit of a duff teacher sad

boschy Fri 26-Oct-12 12:23:54

evil I do think there is a bit of an issue with the dept (am also a governor, so... but obv dont wear my gov hat when doing the parent thing!)

I think close monitoring for the week after half-term and then talk to HoD. However she is the one who made the good play bad play comment, so I may have to escalate, and will if necessary. DD thinks HoD doesnt like her; the other teacher, who is known to have favourites, is very young and I did in fact have to have a confidential word with the principal about another thing she was doing.

So I have to be very careful. I might actually have an off the record chat with the head first anyway.

EvilTwins Fri 26-Oct-12 13:20:59

Hmmm. SOunds like a quiet word with the Head might be a good idea actually. It seems to me that this teacher has fallen into a very easy trap which seems to occur in creative subject teaching - it is hard to understand, unless you've been there, the excitement of teaching kids who have a genuine love and talent for the subject you teach. It's magical - it feels like the reason you came into teaching - you can throw anything at them and they get it - they want to do it, and you get this feeling of adoration back from them when you indulge their talents and let them shine... BUT (big BUT) that's not what it's about. Teachers who fall into that trap, should, IMO, leave schools and seek out work somewhere like Stagecoach. A good drama teacher should ensure that every single student gets their chance to develop, progress and, yes, shine, whether or not they are able to effortlessly slip elements of Verfrumdungseffekt into their work. One of my favourite things about teaching Performing Arts is that very aspect - seeing the quieter students gain confidence and perform in ways that they never would have thought possible. Being in a class where the teacher obviously favours the "alpha" kids is rotten. When I was on maternity leave (took an extended leave, actually, so was out for 4 years then coincidentally was able to return to my old post) one of the two teachers who covered drama was exactly like the woman you describe here. Tried to be "friends" with the "best" kids, took them on trips to open air theatre productions where she openly drank wine and smoked and other mildly shocking and inappropriate things. The kids she favoured loved her, and the rest either hated her or thought she was odd. When I returned to school, she had left, and I had a decimated department where the kids universally thought there was no point taking Performing Arts unless you were Miss's "favourite". Three years later, we're back on top (60 kids in the production this year - not bad for a school of less than 600) but the damage caused was immense. Sorry, am rambling now. I would speak to the Head, with both your Mother and your Governor hats on.

boschy Fri 26-Oct-12 13:23:34

evil thank you thank you, you get it. I just spoke to the head, she wants me to email exactly what I told her (which was what I put on here).
back later!!
but thanks again so much for your input, really helpful - do you want a job?!!

EvilTwins Fri 26-Oct-12 13:40:31

Haha! Glad to be of help! I have a job and I LOVE it! All my kids are alphas wink

outtolunchagain Fri 26-Oct-12 14:07:39

Evil whenever I read any of the threads you isn't on about reaching I am in awe , your pupils are so lucky to have such a thoughtful teacher. There is definitely an element of your cover teacher here!

EvilTwins Fri 26-Oct-12 14:10:37


boschy Fri 26-Oct-12 14:20:13

Email sent, and evil I used your point above about the reward element relating to the lower achievers - thanks again.

Our head is fab, she was appalled by what I told her, and she has had comments from other parents but needed someone to put it in writing so she can have some ammo for when she talks to current HoD. We had a very much loved HoD who was on your lines, but he died about 18 months ago and since then the dept has been suffering exactly the way you describe, so this whole thread has been really useful for me as a parent and for us as a school. Really, I cant thank you enough.

Sometimes it's difficult to separate your governor/parent hat, and I am not sure I would have phoned the head without this thread.

(FWIW, the other issue I mentioned above re the young teacher: she was giving lifts home to some of the favoured kids so they could stay on late for drama. I am 100% sure there was no hidden agenda, but told head because it was potentially damaging to teacher's career, as well as being seen as favouritism by the kids)

outtolunchagain Fri 26-Oct-12 15:54:29

Sorry about my earlier message, had to rush into meeting and autocorrect went mad.It was meant to say that whenever I read your comments on teaching I am in aweblush
Hope you have a good half term

boschy Wed 21-Nov-12 12:03:10

Just a quick update. School is doing a review of drama dept so I should hear something in the next few weeks. There have been 3 or 4 other incidents, all of which I have reported in writing.

The thing that makes me really sad is that it is probably too late for DD to get a better mark than Pass now, and she really wanted a Merit at least.

boschy Fri 14-Dec-12 13:07:20

Another update. The teacher (who is HoD) has got a disciplinary warning on her file for a year, and been told she needs to significantly improve her relationships with students and other staff. I am told this is very serious??

Too late for DD1, but maybe it will improve things for those in the next year.

EvilTwins Fri 14-Dec-12 16:16:46

Glad the school has taken action, but what a shame it's too late for your DD sad My class still have two units to complete- that's enough to make the difference between P & M- are you sure your DD is stuck with a P?

boschy Mon 17-Dec-12 08:22:54

Evil I'm not sure, but I think it's more about how she feels about drama now, maybe if 'Miss' is seen to change her attitude she will get more enjoyment out of it.

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