Book Review: The Drama Teacher’s Survival Guide

The Drama Teacher’s Survival Guide by Matthew Nichols

At a glance

  • Outlines the essential principles of a creative drama curriculum
  • Essential teaching, learning and assessment information
  • Crucial tips, golden nuggets and case studies
  • Designed to facilitate the delivery of inspiring lessons
  • Hard-won ‘been there done that, got the T-shirt’ experiences shared with wit

Survival guides have to live up to their name – they are pretty useless otherwise. The problem is, some turn out to be sink or swim toolkits that leak, deflate or leave you high and dry.

But some come with a life-jacket, whistle and torch and do what they say they’ll do and the Drama Teacher’s Survival Guide is one of those lifelines.

The Drama Teacher's Survival Guide: : Matthew Nichols: Methuen Drama

The book begins with a sharp, humorous and political look at the landscape drama has occupied, or been pushed out of, during the last few decades. It explains why drama is a critical subject that permanently has to stick up for itself, why drama teachers have to fight for the subject and why drama matters.

The first part of the book asks what a drama teacher is all about and gets us to consider just how “brilliant, terrifying, exhilarating, creative, frustrating and all-encompassing” the job is. It also explains that drama is “the coat and the hanger, it’s subject and method.”

One chapter is devoted to the building blocks of designing your own curriculum and challenges you to think more about the type of drama curriculum you want to teach, what will meet the needs of the students where you teach and how to start and how to play to your own strengths. This also includes some cracking advice about assessment and how best to approach it.

A chapter on ‘Creating, Performing and Responding’ details experiences and ideas that get us to think more why students need to be given opportunities to create work, taught how to do this and how to respond. Areas considered are the teaching space, resourcing, creating work, performing and helping students develop a critical vocabulary.  There is plenty here to help you become more present and respond skilfully to their needs, strengths and experiences.

Next we dive into the murky waters of actual survival and the common pressure points felt as a drama teacher and why teaching drama is no soft option but highly specialised that is practical and inherently academic. Other areas considered are cross-curricular teaching, working with senior leadership teams, staging productions, Ofsted and administration.

Further chapters look at the bits in between and also offer valuable advice for staying relevant, why personally going to the theatre is an absolute must and why social media doesn’t have all the answers.

You might have been in the trenches for a while and need a pair of ‘fresh eyes’ or you could be new to the job looking like a rabbit caught in the headlights as a Head of Drama NQT. Either way, this guide is for you and is best seen as a feisty friend, boxing trainer, professional mentor and role model that can ventilate your thinking when opened up on any page.

This book goes beyond survival but also prepares the way for you to drive, thrive and even “excel and be brilliant”.

It possesses that rare combination of heart, intellect, devotion, drive, and vision required to make a difference and helps you avoid the pitfalls of the profession.

Grounded in reality, this book boasts a number of essential qualities. It is creative, patient, analytical, confident, animated, kind, approachable, imaginative, supportive, trustworthy, respectful, knowledgeable, passionate, intelligent and emotional.

The verdict

  • packed with advice and acumen for being a dazzling drama teacher
  • ideas for keeping drama relevant and refreshed
  • filled with ideas to boost your inter and intra-personal skills
  • looks at the qualities of quality
  • cherishes and champions drama
  • a vital and passionate book that will give you a voice, help you find courage and develop self-awareness

Upgrade if…

you are looking for tips to increase your drama teacher longevity, avoid burnout and build your career wellness then this witty, prickly and canny book will help you strive to be brilliant.

Price:  Paperback £13.99 and the PDF eBook for £12.59

Book Review: The Drama Teacher's Survival Guide by Matthew Nicholls – Open Drama UK

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: