At our CODE-Upon-Avon Conference in October, we paid tribute to David with a moment of silence following memories from Sarah Papoff read by Brooke Charlebois, Conference 2020 co-chair, and Jane Deluzio, CODE President. Here is what they said:
Sarah: The day I found the book Improvisation by David Booth and Charles Lundy in my high school drama room was a sign. Little did I know at the age of 17, I was having my first encounter with one of my teacher-heroes.
I was late to the drama in education world. When I and my theatre degree moved back to Toronto, I re-discovered the literacy based drama work of David Booth. It NEVER failed to inspire. On one of David’s many visits to my elementary school, he captured the immediate attention of 900 staff, students and community members in a large school gym: in seconds.
A vignette: David Booth is the keynote at my first CODE conference - the 40th anniversary. He has prepared incredible footage of his work, a talk about his process drama with students through the years. Half way through, the tech just died. He looked directly at my new friend, Stephen, and said: You can fix this. It wasn’t a request. It wasn’t a command. It was faith that it would be taken care of. Delivered with dead pan inimitable humour. Stephen made the fix as David delivered the rest of his talk. As usual, he made us all laugh... and cry.
I went to OISE for my master’s and learned with David. His door was always open, diet Coke in hand, ready to chat and share ideas with a student. He was honest and forthright, a deep questioner and always with a twinkle in the eye offering next steps. He would work through a lesson or just listen and make sure you knew how brilliant you were and essential to the future he envisioned for education.
David worked with students during my graduate research, taking on the role of our UN ambassador. The students absolutely believed him. David demanded their very best selves, and they rose to the occasion. Every time I saw David Booth at work with a class, he would get to the heart of the students’ imaginations with carefully crafted questions.
David was more than a former CODE founder. He was our constant benefactor: donating space for events such as our website launch, and refusing to accept payment for catering. He was a drama in education champion and he connected educators to CODE from around the world.
He once wrote, In the Arts go to School: “We need to give children nothing but our best. Every single time we work with young people we will struggle to know what best means.” David never stopped being willing to struggle. And so, he was the best...truly a Master Teacher, Mentor and Friend.
Jane: David Booth challenged us from our very first class at the Faculty of Education in 1976. We were the “elite” class, those who majored in Drama at university.
He greeted us with this message: YOU are the most dangerous teachers for our students because you think you are going to teach stage directions, and theatrical make-up and spend all your time directing students in plays you choose for them. You will NOT be doing that here. WE are going to learn about how to teach students using drama.
David Booth was often scary, imperious and sarcastic, and he was always very direct in his feedback. We were terrified. AND we loved him. He showed us that the creative process and critical thinking were the focus of our work with students and that role-play was its solid foundation. He side-coached and challenged us until we learned that we would only be successful as teachers when our students found THEIR voices and were unafraid to use them, thoughtfully and with empathy. He taught us how to create safe spaces filled with high expectations, and how to provide the support students needed to achieve them. He forced us to take risks. He ensured that we understood that the Drama classroom, like the Theatre, is an empty space, and that it would be up to us to ensure what happened there did not become “deadly education”.
David was one of the key leaders behind the formation of CODE. He knew that we would need support from other drama teachers because we would most often find ourselves alone in our schools doing work no one else really understood or cared about. He connected us to the British, Australian and Canadian drama experts of the time, wrote books and spoke all over the world. He continued to teach at OISE and to push drama teachers to do drama and theatre in a good way until his death.
He was my mentor and he was always there whenever I needed him. And now he is not. But he left a legacy that is strong and powerful and that is: ALL of US....here in this room, drama and dance teachers, together, at a CODE conference in 2019.
We encourage CODE members to send in their memories and stories about David. We will publish these as they come in. We will be honouring David again at our 50th anniversary conference in October 2020.