My 14 year-old son is about to make his final subject choices for next year's courses. He really isn't sure whether or not to take drama. It is his preference but he is worried because he is not particularly good at it - he isn't very confident in performance work or acting. We want to support whatever decision he makes, but he is finding it very hard to decide.
Teacher Adam Conway replies:
Let me declare my position straight away: I'm not a drama teacher, but I believe drama is one of the most important and valuable subjects taught in any school.
It is clear that you as parents are leaving the final decision to your son, which makes it far more likely he will make the right choice - eventually.
It is really hard to see your own child struggling to make a big decision: you want to help, but you can't make that decision for him and he may even resist your advice or become even less sure the more you try to discuss pros and cons with him, seeing your attempts to help as adding pressure on him.
The first thing to say is that almost every student choosing courses from a range of available options will have doubts and is likely to have to rule out a subject that seems attractive or valuable,
If your son does choose drama it doesn't mean that he, or you, are rejecting any of the alternatives. Many teenagers and their families can become very anxious, worrying that college or career decisions need to be made very early and further plans may be fixed, or even limited, by subject choices now.
My advice is: don't worry, try not to think ahead too far because so much can change, especially as an adolescent develops into a young adult. Instead, focus on what will benefit your son most now and in the immediate future.
The fact that your son is seriously considering choosing drama despite not being a confident performer is itself a big plus: it suggests, very strongly, that he should take it on next year.
Why? Well, two of the founding principles of drama education are that it increases students' self-confidence and provides opportunities to work through and understand issues that are important in their lives. It isn't fanciful to suggest that the very nature of drama may well help your son grow and develop into a young adult who finds it easier to make future life choices and decisions himself.
Most parents can remember watching their very young children taking part in role play with unending enthusiasm and ease ('Daddy, pretend you're...'). This is a fundamental part of growing up - a way for children to play out so many situations and roles that form a part of their imaginative and everyday lives.
I'm sure you and your son are well informed about the drama course he would follow and about his experience to date of drama lessons, which means you realise how much the emphasis is on practical work - on learning by doing and by collaborating with others.
This kind of study would also form a valuable counterbalance to other subjects your son chooses, which may focus far more on book learning.
Being a naturally talented, confident performer is not a prerequisite for success in educational drama. It could be argued that a student who is perhaps not experienced at performing on stage stands to benefit more than almost anyone, especially as he clearly wants to take the course. He will be able to achieve a high grade whether or not he can give outstanding performances.
You are lucky to have a son who is bold enough to consider choosing drama for the right reasons and I get the feeling that, at the end of the course, you will be looking back on his success with pride.