Ollie catches up with one of the pivotal people in his own life story – his old drama teacher, Carole Davies. They discuss the importance of arts subjects, positive relationships and much more in this fascinating episode.
Here’s how Carole describes her ‘life in drama’:
“It all started when I was quite young at school and in a local theatre group. After reading English at the University of Exeter, I taught English for several years in Devon but when my children arrived, I was a stay at home mum.
In 1978 I returned to teaching at Wallington Grammar School for Girls. In 1983 I also taught at Wimbledon High School for Girls for two years before returning to Wallington. During these years I taught English at GCSE and A level and also GCSE Drama and A Level Theatre Studies. In 1992, I joined the staff of Littlehampton Community School as Head of the Faculty of Human Movement and Performing Arts ( PE, Dance, Drama and Music) specialising in Drama and Theatre Studies and I retired from teaching in December 2003.
Throughout my teaching career, for me the highlight of every year was directing the school plays and other drama productions. These included The Lark by Jean Anouilh, Twelfth Night, Animal Farm and at Littlehampton, among others, we produced Grease, Much Ado About Nothing, Oliver!, The Crucible, and Joseph etc. It was only after leaving teaching that I agreed to work with adult theatre groups but since then I have directed for 3 groups in West Sussex and when we moved to Northumberland in 2010 to be nearer to our family, I was very lucky to find a local group who were short of a director and where I have been able to direct two productions a year since 2012. Our plans for next year include The Crucible in March 2019 and Fiddler On the Roof in December 2019.
My real pride and joy, however are the Preppies, the Youth Theatre a colleague and I founded in September 2014 with five 9 year old members and which now numbers 50 8-18 year olds. We meet every Friday evening and Preppies take part in every Ponteland Rep show that has suitable parts for them. It is not a stage school but is totally inclusive, accepting everyone without auditions. I am always conscious that theatre is a “shared enterprise” and throughout my career in teaching and now in my so-called retirement , I have been very lucky in the amazing colleagues I have worked with and from whom I have learned so much. Some of them were students who have become friends and others were non-drama specialists who have shared my love of theatre.”
Carole says she never set out to be a ‘key person’ in her students’ lives. She believes that teaching drama. music or art gives you the chance to work alongside your students which is maybe not the case in all subjects. You often don’t know the answers and so you have to work collaboratively with students. This is possible in other subjects but it tends to depend on the personality of the teacher.
Carole believes that you mustn’t make yourself too important as a teacher and therefore not dwell too much on how you come over as a person. Much more important is to make sure you are conveying your subject well and seeing it all from the point of view of your students.
Should we ensure drama and arts remain in schools?
Carole is very encouraged that schools she knows, particularly primary schools, are using drama a lot in the curriculum and the teachers are expert in its use. However, she describes the cutting of drama in secondary schools as a tragedy.
“It’s not just the subject itself – it’s the way of working alongside other people.”
What do you know now that you wish you’d known as a young teacher?
Carole would tell her younger self to get the preparations done, be on top of the subject and then it’s possible to think about how you are communicating. Also, every year it’s great to ensure you have a new challenge. Carole started each new academic year with a sense of excitement – something new was going to happen.
What one thing would you change about the current education system?
Carole believes the current system is in a mess. She is upset when she sees the amount of money which is routinely spent on salaries or perks for CEOs of Academy Chains but she is keen to point out that individual schools are doing their very best for their children with the resources they have and other pressures such as data collection. However, they seem to be doing it despite the system.