Ahead of her seminar on the secrets to understanding characters and text, we talk to Expo speaker Jill Lloyd-Jones about drama education.
What is your job?
After relocating back to Yorkshire from Canada where I was a drama instructional leader for teachers and students in 640 schools in the Toronto District School Board, I am now a freelance drama educator, workshop leader and author. I will be delivering a workshop on the secrets to understanding characters and text at Music & Drama Education Expo | Manchester in October.
Where did you study/train?
I studied at Guelph University in Ontario, Canada for a degree in Theatre, followed by a teaching degree at the University of Toronto, specialising in drama for ages 8–12. While working at the Toronto District School Board I attained further specialisation in drama at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), including additional qualifications for years one to three, and years four to seven. I attended an off-campus intensive course in London with Tony Goode, Warwick Dobson and Jonothan Neelands, radically changing my understanding of drama and teaching practice. I completed my M.Ed. in Arts Curriculum at OISE.
What did you think of the drama lessons you received at school?
I went to a grammar school where the focus was on memorising lines from plays that were difficult to understand, from another century, culture, or time frame I knew little about. More often than not it didn’t make sense to me, which led to my commitment to making meaning for students in my own teaching.
What do you think about the state of drama education today?
I think that the arts are underfunded, marginalised, undervalued and misunderstood. Expert practitioners and academics such as Elliott Eisner and Sir Kenneth Robinson know this only too well but when an education system focuses on testing and basic subject acquisition, other equally important subjects are sacrificed. We need to have well-rounded world citizens able to communicate, understand and express themselves in many ways, and so the arts are essential. Students need to appreciate modern drama and theatre from across the world, as we are fast becoming a global community.
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
Ralph Waldo Emerson said that ‘life is a journey, not a destination,’ and this resonates with me as a drama educator. Because learning is such a continuum, many different people have contributed to my growth. Initially it was Dorothy Heathcote and her video Three Looms Waiting. I loved her work, never thinking I would be able to work with students in that way; it seemed too risky. Later, working and learning with Canadian educators Debbie Nyman and David Booth, and the Brits I mentioned before, I took those risks and new possibilities ensued. Each person along the way has contributed to my learning and these experiences have pushed me to learn and understand more deeply. If I had to name the greatest inspiration it would be my students, one of whom said to me during a drama lesson, ‘The difference between plays in English class and drama is that in English you read the text, but in drama you are the text.’
What was the last production you saw?
I love small productions, so it was Kim’s Convenience by Ins Choi, about a Korean immigrant family running a convenience store. Funny, poignant and dramatic. I laughed a lot and learned a lot too. Loved it!
What would you say to a student considering a career in drama?
Drama is the most exciting, rewarding and challenging subject to teach. There is not only one answer to a question, there are many – because we are dealing with human experiences in a text, scene, photo or play and most importantly with our students themselves. They come to class with a variety of experiences, and the most important thing is to understand who is in front of you before you can teach them and bring ‘texts’ alive.
What’s next for you?
Sharing what I know about teaching drama and supporting new as well as experienced teachers. I believe in the importance of ‘paying forward’ everything I have learned, so that others may take from it what they can and run with it! I am doing this in my writing and Schemes of Work for teachers, and in my scene book Truth in Play.
Jill Lloyd-Jones presents Music and movement: secrets to understanding characters and text at Music & Drama Education Expo | Manchester on 11 October 2018. Book free tickets