A couple months ago I wrote an Opinion article for Drama and Theatre Magazine and decided to focus on how social media has supported drama teachers throughout the pandemic. My research involved contacting key organisations in the drama education world who run Facebook Groups. At first glance, these groups appear to be quite similar, each providing a much needed virtual space for drama educators to acquire help, support and resources. However, as I started to look more closely at how they were borne and the focus of each group, I realised that there are marked differences. Drama Department Staffroom- Drama Matters stood out to me as a group which seemed overwhelmingly supportive, placing the well being of it's members at it's core. This Blog aims to explore the roots of this much loved Facebook Group and how it has evolved into an organisation close to drama teacher's hearts.
Roots & Values
Drama Department Staffroom- Drama Matters was started six years ago by Tracy Dorrington, when she decided to reach out to drama teachers to see if anyone would be interested in taking part in a networking weekend. Tracy says:
"We usually are one person departments with little budget and yet among industry and educational practitioners we have a wealth of knowledge and it meant that for the cost of hotel, food and travel we could run workshops for each other have fun, not feel so alone and support each other."
It has since grown into a unique community of over four thousand members and continues to grow and respond to it's member's needs. This has also included the development of #TTT or Theatre Talk Thursdays; a unique monthly CPD, connecting theatre makers and drama teachers. With over a thousand teachers and industry professionals attending the #TTT Webinars throughout 2020, these became much more than CPD, but a diverse programme of events, a supportive community and professional focal point during the pandemic. The shared values across the Facebook group and #TTT are summarised by Tracy here:
"To support each other, raise our subject up and enable people to be as brilliant as they can be reigniting spark, sharing best practices and discussing the issues that really matter."
The organisation is run by a core group, all for free and is all done voluntarily. Tracy is keen to emphasise that it is not about her but about the drama teachers who are part of it, saying "we are so blessed that so many give us their time, energy and passion". She says it is about utilising what drama does best...'collaboration', saying "we don't have all the answers but that's the best thing, because we discover so much together."
Many of the other Facebook Groups have a strong focus on sharing resources, selling products and training. Drama Staffroom has a separate group for this, which means this frees up the group to focus on discussions around pedagogy, best practice and well being.
Here's what members say....
Earlier this year, Tracy was keen to get a sense of what members wanted from the Facebook Group going forward and questioned whether it should continue at all. The response was overwhelming. Members stressed how important the group was to them and expressed a strong desire for a face-to-face Networking Weekend. In a short space of time, one has been organised for September, with over sixty drama educators attending a full weekend of CPD activities, pampering and even includes a Saturday evening themed-ball! What could be a better way to start the Autumn Term and prepare professionally, mentally and emotionally for the year ahead? Tracy is thrilled that this is happening as "the networking weekend was something that actually gave birth to Drama Matters. There was one planned for 2020 but COVID got in the way."
There are so many exciting things to come from Drama Matters, some of which will be announced at the upcoming Networking Weekend. As Tracy says "watch this space" because:
"Any space can be a place for Drama because it matters."
Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this Blog!