The Art of Empathy

A new school year can often bring about many changes, with children experiencing new teachers, new classrooms, new timetables… and, for Yateley Manor this year, a new subject. Drama has been introduced into the curriculum for children in Years 4 – 8 and I am shouting ‘Hurrah’ in my loudest Brian Blessed voice from the rooftops!

I am a stalwart supporter of the Performing Arts for I have witnessed, first hand, the wonderful impact it can have on children’s confidence, self-esteem and, in turn, academic success.

Confucius, the renowned Chinese philosopher, explaining the role of drama in education wrote, ‘Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I will remember. Involve me and I will understand.’ Drama adds another important strand to learning; it takes children beyond the ‘chalk and talk’ of the classroom and encourages them to empathise, experience, and expand. Imagine how much more effective your childhood learning of Owen’s ‘Dulce et  Decorum Est’ would have been if you could have studied it within a soundscape of whizzing shrapnel and bombs, trudging through the imaginary mire and standing shoulder to shoulder with your role-playing comrades.

Drama includes a wide range of experiences, such as dramatic play, improvisation, theatrical performance, film and television drama, and includes both the processes and presentation of drama. Drama draws on many different contexts, from past and present societies, and varied cultures. It encourages those involved to connect with their own emotions and to understand the emotions of others. It develops the art of empathy.

Experts have severally underpinned the need to promote drama in schools due to the innumerable benefits it has for students. Celebrated physicist Albert Einstein once said, “The highest level of creativity unfolds through play” and Arthur Miller, the American playwright and essayist, in his book ‘The Theatre Essays of Arthur Miller’ wrote that drama makes people feel connected to one another and less isolated. “Through arts we share an emotional connection with others. Our identity becomes easier and more pleasurable to live and our problems are acted out by the socialising force of drama,” he stated.

For me, Drama has eight key benefits:

  • It develops self-confidence: aspects of performance, especially improvisation, helps children to appraise situations, think outside the box, and be more confident going into unfamiliar situations.
  • It develops imagination: being creative and learning to make creative choices helps children to be better at thinking of new ideas. Einstein said, ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge’.
  • It encourages co-operation: it allows children to engage in discussions, feedback, rehearsals and performance.
  • It improves concentration: playing, practising, and performing all develop a child’s ability to be able to focus the mind, the body, and the voice.
  • It develops communication skills: it improves verbal and non-verbal communication, voice projection and enunciation, along with listening and observation skills.
  • It improves memory: just like a muscle, memory requires exercise and rehearsing and performing lines and movement can do this.
  • It provides an emotional outlet: drama activities allow children to express a range of emotions and encourages them to understand and deal with similar feelings they may be experiencing. Aggression and tension can be released in a safe, controlled environment, often allowing for a period of reflection afterwards.
  • And, above all, it encourages empathy. Understanding characters, roles, and the subtexts of different performances allows children to relate better to different situations, backgrounds, and cultures. It encourages them to show compassion and tolerance for others and surely that is something we want for all of our children. 

I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to develop Drama at Yateley Manor and am very excited about the coming year. If you have any queries about Drama at school, please do contact me on gbrundle@yateleymanor.com

 

Gail Brundle
Head of Drama