David Booth, author, professor, pre-eminant drama educator and innovator speaks with CODE about his mentors, experiences teaching children and adults, and what CODE as an organization has meant to him. Enjoy this great read, and remember, David will be leading a drama game at our Big Schmooze Game Exchange on Friday night of our upcoming Conference at White Oaks in Niagara. Register today and don't miss out on this special opportuntiy to learn from and talk drama alongside impactful educators like David!
When were you first introduced to CODE, and what does the organization mean to you?
I attended the first CODE conference in the late sixties, and every year from then on for forty years while I was teaching. Meeting friends involved in drama education, people from professional theatre groups, speakers and workshop leaders, all were part of the CODE world, and I continue to value each experience. Before online communication, we had the CODE Journal, which was published yearly, and helped us share classroom practice and pedagogy internationally. The journal put CODE on the map of other provinces and universities, and gave us some impact on Ministry of Education policies and education documents, and that still holds true today.
Why do you continue to teach young people, and what are the differences between teaching young children and adults?
I was trained by my mentors to include demonstration classes in my workshops, so that participants would have authentic observations to form the basis of our discussions and learning. This is a complicated process, since I am a guest teacher with the students, and there is no set or specific outcomes preplanned for seeming success. As well, I often included the observing teachers working in role as the work progressed. The classroom teacher had the opportunity of seeing the students from new perspectives, while I could try out new strategies and resources as part of my drama learning and research. By seeing my own teaching as working with students in a learning context, I was freed from having to deliver a "show piece", and the "mistakes" and "rethinks" and "what if's" led to great discussions.
Today, I prefer working alongside the teacher, collaborating on the issues being explored, working in role sometimes, questioning the students as they role -play, responding spontaneously to the teacher working in role. I have had the good fortune of working with students in many different countries- Austria, the Czech Republic, the States, all the provinces, and each time I gained so much knowledge from "the doing of drama". Often teachers would later send me follow-up writing, art and reflections from their students, and these found a place in my articles and books. I was so fortunate to have these experiences to write about, actual classroom events I could use to frame my thoughts on teaching drama. I owe these teachers who loaned me their students so much.
You are a mentor to many in the drama community. Who are and have been your mentors?
I am only here in the drama world because of my mentors, and they are many. I began teaching middle school drama on a rotary timetable in 1960, and needed so much help. Fortunately, my English supervisor in Hamilton was Bill Moore, trained in England, and a true educational genius. He had established a drama program in every middle school in Hamilton, and once a month, we teachers met together to plan ideas for lessons, and he distributed poems and script suggestions for us to use in the following days. With 640 students on a rotary timetable, he was a teaching saviour to a newbie like me.
As time passed, I discovered the techniques of Brian Way, where he incorporated every member of the class in his improvised explorations, and my teaching life changed. Four students at the front of the room was now a part of the co-creation of the drama by all the students; group work became an important strategy for exploring ideas, for sharing work in progress, and the class made use of the group work as they developed their collaborative playmaking sessions. He also gave us games and activities that built community, and exercises that allowed individuals to freely respond in the safety of no observers.
Then the British invasion continued, with guest instructors on drama courses- Dorothy Heathcote, Gavin Bolton, Jonothan Neelands, and so many other mentors. I completed my grad degree at Durham University in the UK, and I owe so much to my fellow students and to my professors, Gavin and Dorothy.
All through my career, I have worked alongside fellow teachers- Bob Barton, Julianna Saxton, Chuck Lundy, Larry Swartz- and this collaborative meaning-making is my secret to success. And I have to mention the teachers I worked with, who were brave and passionate learners, plunging into the drama pool alongside me, building drama knowledge together.
What advice do you have for teachers in regards to drama education and education in general, and what are your hopes for the future of drama education?
We have learned over the years to celebrate and connect to the world of theatre, theatre in the biggest, widest, sense. It is the heart of our art form, and we want to use its strengths to support our work with students who will probably never become professionals, but like participating in music, art and dance, we can all come to explore our own selves through these forms, and try out and represent our growing ideas and feelings. For older students, they can begin to hone the skills and strategies that allow honest performance, and for all of our students, they can be involved in ensemble activities, often using subject content as the basis for the drama exploration, entering the "as if" world with "what if" dreams. Drama is both subject and system, and I am secure in knowing the arts will continue to hold a significant place in our schools.