When I was in teachers’ college, I worked with a teacher who had a 100% drama schedule. I loved it. I studied drama, I wanted to teach drama, I knew getting into arts education is hard (on top of the regular difficulties of finding teaching work), so I wanted to make the most of this placement.
I decided to start my Grade 9 class with a unit on Commedia dell’Arte. If you don’t know Commedia and you teach drama, you should get to know it. Its structure is the basis of our modern theatre; its archetypal characters are everywhere in today’s theatre, television, and movies; it’s an easy style to learn; it can be funny as heck. I was so excited for this unit. I had lecture notes, a spiffy handout, accommodations for the special needs kids, a good quality script, and ample time for the students to make up their own Commedia plays. I was golden, Ponyboy.
On the first day of the unit, things were going well. The students were engaged, they were understanding the content and connecting it to characters and conflicts they knew well from tv and movies, they were eager to try it out themselves. “Wow!” I thought, “teaching is easy!”
And then, after explaining and discussing the concept of Commedia for at least 30 minutes and saying the word “Commedia” about sixty-four thousand times, a student raised her hand and said, “Isn’t Commedia an STD?”
And that was that. The student meant it earnestly, the other students couldn’t refocus, and I abandoned the last of my discussion because I didn’t know what else to do.