Oh the drama, the drama!

Being both an Aussie and an American (not to mention a Brit) can feel a bit schizophrenic sometimes. I can get caught up in altogether too many dramas.

In Australia we have just got past the latest leadership (non) challenge and in the USA we are now all getting our panties in a knot about North Korea.

I seem to wake up every morning and head for the headlines – what’s the drama today? And if there isn’t one it’s a bit of a let down.

We seem to thrive on drama. We love the sense of teetering on a brink, wondering what the next exciting episode will be. That’s why we get hooked on TV series. That’s why when I get a favorite on DVD or Netflix I can’t stop at one episode. It’s the excitement that propels us forward, fills us with anticipation, and the adrenaline stirs the juices.

How can we use this love of drama in the classroom?


I have seen too many teachers escalate the drama when a kid misbehaves and then wonder why things seem to spin out of control even more. We love drama. We crave it. Add drama to behavior and the kids just want more.

I have also seen the power of lowering the voice, employing the quietly insistent water torture drip of repeated directions and the refusal to buy into the drama. By refusing to get caught up in a kid’s drama the teacher has a good chance of lowering the excitement and deflating the situation.

But learning is a different matter.

Add a bit of drama there. Raise excitement and leave questions unanswered until the next lesson. Pose puzzles and conundrums. Find characters and ways to let kids connect to them. I remember a lesson about the war of independence and the burning of the White House where the teacher asked the children, “If your house was on fire and you had ten minutes to get out, what would you take?” before talking about what Dolly Madison took.

Good drama needs more than just an interesting plot and a good script. It needs to be performed well. Every good teacher benefits from being a bit of a ham actor.

Knowing how to use your voice well, to vary volume, pacing and pitch should be tools of your trade.

You teach with your body too. Children are drawn to the drama of the enthusiast. They see it in the stance, the arms, the hands, the facial expressions.

How do you demonstrate your enthusiasm for the subject you are teaching?

Because if you can’t demonstrate enthusiasm you shouldn’t be teaching it. At the very least, learn how to fake it!

We are drawn to drama.

Turn it up for the learning.

Turn it down for the behavior.






Filed under Behavior management, Teacher education

4 responses to “Oh the drama, the drama!

  1. Eric Stone

    Bravo, my friend and colleague Pat! Power struggles with students are so easy to avoid yet I see teachers engage time and time again. Motivating students to learn is also much easier when you KNOW the student and can build upon and hook them with their interests. The key to both: Relationships…… but you already knew that! Another piece of information that teachers should be tapping into isn’t actually a piece at all- a whole body of research that just doesn’t seem to be getting to teachers : Neuroscience. The lessons that neuroscience teach us about how the brain functions, how students learn, why teachers and students behave the way they do, and all students could achieve is both so simple to understand yet mind-boggling. The “drama” you spoke of really can be explained by neuroscience, don’t you think? Thanks for getting me all riled up this morning-just wanted to relax on spring break, sip on my coffee, and catch up on my iPad. Take care!

  2. Wise words Pat … I’m going to quote you!

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