Celebrating 12 Years of Burt’s Drama

So I was talking on Twitter earlier this week about how long I’ve been blogging on Burt’s Drama. I said then that I’d started in 2009, but it was actually 2008 when I started. So this year it has been 12 years of blogging. It hasn’t always been an easy road. There have been dry periods when I wrote nothing and prolific periods when I wrote too much. The education scene was totally different 12 years ago. So it is also a running dialogue of the changes of the last 12 years. Changes in my thoughts as well as those of Government.

I find it interesting to look back at those 12 years of blogging and see how things have changed. So here are 12 posts, one from each of year, that highlight how things have changed.

2008 Teacher Learning Communities

This was my very first blog post and it was on Teacher Learning Communities as part of my first Masters Degree with the Open University. I was taken by the idea of Teacher Learning Communities. The idea of small groups of teachers coming together to create research projects really worked for me. I was in the role of School Improver at the time and we started a version of this at the school. It was actually really successful. We created some really interesting and innovative research which led to great classroom practice and a feeling of mutual support. Unfortunately it didn’t last very long and we soon went back to whole staff CPD sessions.

2009 Knowledge Management

Knowledge isn’t new nor is it a dirty word! And here in 2009 I was talking about Knowledge Management. Interesting to see that in 2009 I’m writing about it in the context of staff development and training. Now I’m writing knowledge in terms of the curriculum and the classroom. Same theory. Same terminology. Different contexts.

2010 Frantic Assembly exercises

This is still a very popular post and is frequently visited by Drama Teachers across the world. I was lucky enough to organise a Frantic Assembly Workshop in my school. At the time they were just beginning to reach the status that they now have. It was before their major productions of Lovesong, Curious Incident or Things I Know To Be True. Before their book as well I think.

It was a fantastic workshop. My students and I got so much from it. I wrote it up and published some of the activities and my reflections on the bog. I did ask the workshop leader their permission, but I don’t suppose he remembers!

2011 How to run a successful and engaging intervention in a small department.

This post is so dated! At this time in education, intervention groups were the thing. And the school I was teaching in ran so many of them. Literally everyone was in an intervention group of some kind. Today, we wouldn’t dream of doing something like this!

What I was trying to suggest here was to move away from the big intervention group sessions that we were used to at the time and move to small group, even one-to-one, intervention sessions.

I don’t run interventions like this anymore. But I do have these conversations still and ask the same questions that are written here. Today though it is in class. And, more often than not, to the whole class.

2012 How to use Post-It Note Feedback to improve, record and track verbal feedback.

Drama has always led the way in the use of Verbal Feedback. Feedback in Drama has to be given then and there, as the students are doing the work. It has less impact if it is left to the end of the lesson and written down. Almost zero impact if it is written down and given in another lesson.

So Verbal Feedback has always been important to Drama. However, it has only been until recently when the rest of the education world has taken on board Verbal Feedback. So for years I was forced to find ways of evidencing that I’d given verbal feedback. Anyway without using those dreaded “verbal feedback given” stamps. Remember them?

So my answer, which was actually quite good and I still use to today on occasions, was to use post-it notes.

2013 Six reasons to use Flipped Learning in Drama

I did a Masters Degree with Middlesex University and Trestle Theatre and my dissertation was on Flipped Learning. This is a mini write up on the topic following my dissertation and I presented this at the first Drama Expo events in London. I think Flipped Learning is a great idea. It has fallen out of favour recently with the rise of the Knowledge Rich Curriculum. I don’t understand why as I can see that it would be perfect for it.

2014 The importantance of establihsing a scene

I moved schools in 2013 and this was the only post I wrote in 2014. Still very important advice to give to any student performing a scene. I say it almost every lesson. Establish your action, you setting and your mood before the scene begins properly.

2015 Drama should be leading the way in the post-levels world.

I wrote more posts in 2015 than I’ve written in any other year. There was no system or no publishing schedule. There didn’t even seem to be any rationale as to what I was writing. I just wrote! There are some fantasist posts from 2015, many of which are still very popular. Posts on improving extended writing, using DIRT and Key Stage 3 Assessment.

But this post on the what was then soon to become a reality in the UK, the 1 to 9 grading system. At the time other subject leads were falling over themselves on how to approach this new life without assessment criteria. But my argument then for Drama, as it still is, was that Drama had always been like this and in fact were in the position to lead the way into this future.

Drama has always been in a toxic situation with being left out of the National Curriculum. Without it we have had to find our own way. Left to our own devices we have created a myriad of different practices, approaches and assessment criteria.

The book I am writing at the moment deals with much of this and seeks to find a solution going forward into the 2020’s and beyond.

2016 Knowledge Based Curriculum and Drama: Finding the Balance and Moving with the Times.

These are two blog posts on my first thoughts on the Knowledge Based Curriculum idea which now, just 4 years later, is dominating the education landscape. I am interested to read that my first lines of the post was “Just writing the phrase “Knowledge Based Curriculum” sends shivers of fear and anger through my spine. To think that we have moved into a world where knowledge over skills is the key to creating policy and curriculum is a hideous testament to how far we have come on this journey of reform.”

I think what I was most afraid of at the time was what I went on to say: “This worries me. This style of curriculum. This focus on knowledge. I fear that schools will solely focus on the knowledge aspect and forget the skills.”

I still have those fears. I think most of us do. There are many schools out there that have steered themselves towards the knowledge is everything concept.

But as the last few years have changed, so has my thoughts and opinions on the concept of knowledge based curriculum. In the book I am writing at the moment, I bring skills and knowledge together in a Knowledge Rich curriculum for the 2020’s.

2017 Mindfulness and mental health in Drama

2017, like 2015, was a busy year for publishing posts and there are so many to choose from. I did some interviews with other Drama Teachers which are interesting to read. I also wrote on some pretty weighty topics like mixing Drama and Politics. But my favourite posts from 2017 are on mental health and mindfulness. One of the reasons why I got into Drama when I was a child was escapism. It helped me to find an outlet for my uncertainties and provided the breathing space I needed for my mental health.

2018 Five successful ways to become an outstanding, proactive and respected Head of Drama

This has always been a popular post for quite obvious reasons. I’ve been the only Drama Teacher, or Drama Specialist Teacher, in almost all the years I’ve taught. It can be a lonely, difficult and tireless job working on your own. Designing your own curriculum, teaching it, assessing it, working the lights, making the rehearsal schedules, doing the sound cues, booking the theatre trips, making tea… All the jobs any other Head of Department would normally distribute to everyone else you have to do yourself.

What is always the worst thing about being the lone Drama Teacher in a department of one, is when the SLT come to review the department. It is so hard not to take it personally when the department is just you.

2019 Ofsted’s New Framework and Drama

What has proved popular last year was the three posts on how the new Ofsted Framework effects Drama. My first Ofsted involved a team of about 10 inspectors who stayed with our school for a week. They moved into a classroom, wrote a million pieces of paper, watched whole lessons, talked to everyone for what seemed an endless amount of time and the kids were sent home early on the Friday so that they could give us feedback. Oh how things have changed!

2020 Happy New Year

Okay, so not much to look back at yet from 2020. Except to say that I am returning to the London Music and Drama Expo in March to talk about the impact of the new Ofsted Framework has on Drama.