Every theater teacher’s dream is to have a parent who cares, one who will speak up and advocate for theater education in their school. Hopefully you are that parent. If so, remember that just as theater is a collaborative art, advocacy is a collaborative activity. And like producing a play, advocacy requires planning, organization, and division of labor.
Start by talking with your child’s theater teacher and learn about the challenges the theater program faces, and about its strengths and successes. Solicit the names of other parents and supporters for the department. Enlist their support and discuss your goals. For instance, does the theatre program need to be promoted within the community to grow an audience for the student performances? Does the theatre program require district funding to provide scripts, technology, or support by teaching artists? Once you know the needs you can develop an advocacy plan and its strategies.
Focus on specific issues affecting the Theater classroom, prioritize the issues and work out a schedule of what is to be done, by whom, and completed by when. Find the right place for everyone’s talents, by asking your supporters to call upon contacts they have. Don’t forget to consider the resources that you will need and who will provide them.
When developing an advocacy plan, assess how it fits into the larger contexts of school and community. You may want to think of your plan to support the theater classroom as an ongoing process. You can use the plan and its strategies to continually educate members of your community, your school board, school administrators, and others about the value of theater education. Become a member of educational theater associations and arts education advocacy organizations. They have experts who can help you.
As advocates we need to be persuasive. This requires an appropriate balance of reason and passion. Obviously your team is passionate, what we also require are effective arguments. Read on for some thoughts that may help you make your case.
Theater education develops students’ abilities to communicate and express themselves. Play production or informal classroom drama is active learning that connects directly to the real world and human life. Theater can involve not only actors but also directors, stage managers, musicians, playwrights, visual artists, publicists, accountants, dancers and skilled craftspeople who understand light, sound, math, and theater technology. Theater demonstrates and teaches how to organize a working process and to get the best from people. It teaches students to be punctual, responsible, persistent, and collaborative and requires them to problem-solve, analyze, envision, communicate, evaluate, and use higher-order thinking skills; it prepares them to succeed one day in the work force. Theater also develops sensitivity and empathy while providing opportunities for thinking about attitudes and ethical and moral standards. It provides opportunities to explore cultural, social and historical contexts. Ask advocacy organizations and educational theater associations to guide you to more information. Don’t forget to gather your own stories of learning from what you observe in your theater program.