WASHK Teacher Nicola Rae: Drama, preparing pupils for real world
Nicola Rae was appointed our first Head of Drama in February 2020. She came to Hong Kong in 2006 to teach English through Drama upon graduating with a BA (Hons) degree in Drama, Applied Theatre and Education from the renowned Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London, England.
Nicola Rae - Head of Speech and Drama
Whilst in Hong Kong, Nicola has taught at both local and DSS primary and secondary schools as well as a through-train international school before coming to Wycombe Abbey. Besides this, she also set up her own charitable arts organisation to create more drama opportunities for people who have English as a Second Language.
Nicola has worked with professional local arts organisations including the Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation and Sweet and Sour Productions in many capacities including as an actress and dancer. Whilst in Hong Kong, Nicola also gained a Post Graduate degree in Theatre and Entertainment Arts from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts; an MA in Education from the University of Sunderland and a TESOL certificate from TEFL International.
Nicola is currently in the final stages of completing her training to become a Trinity Speech and Drama examiner too. With over 15 years teaching experience, she brings many skills and ideas with her to the post of Head of Speech and Drama at Wycombe Abbey.
How did you fall in love with Drama when you were a student? In your opinion, if a child would like to learn Drama very well, what kind of qualities or skills do they often have in common?
If you asked me when I was 12 years old, if being in the world of Drama in the future was a possibility, I would have thought it was an impossible suggestion. I was a very timid child who struggled with speaking in public and I had very little confidence as a student. At the age of 13, my parents recognised that I needed to build my confidence, so they enrolled me in my local school Drama group. Thanks to some amazing teachers who believed in me more than I believed in myself, I grew in confidence and fell in love with Drama.
I think anyone who is willing to take risks can learn Drama. You don’t have to be an amazing actor or the best creative thinker but to be able to take risks, however small, just to try something new and to be willing to build your confidence step by step will enable you to experience all the skills Drama has to offer. Seeing students who remind me of me when I was younger make me a big advocate for Drama in education. I know how powerful it can be and how it can change lives for the better. The life skills you accumulate and practice through studying Drama are essential for any future self.
How would you define the significance of Drama Education in children's growth and why?
Students now are training for jobs that haven’t been invented yet. The skills that you experience and acquire in Drama will help prepare you for a future that is yet to be created. Through Drama we can develop skills such as confidence, communication, teamwork, leadership, creativity, flexibility, trust, negotiation, empathy, lateral thinking and problem solving. These are essential skills in any profession, as well as being vital skills for being a responsible and productive member of society. Through Drama we can imagine what life will be like, act and react to scenarios and problem-solve in an imagined world. All these experiences can help prepare us for real-life. What subject is more of a replication of life than Drama?
What are the distinctive characteristics or features of WASHK Drama teaching? Could you please give us some examples?
Lessons are mainly practical and interactive as I am a firm believer in what we can experience we can remember. At WASHK we have a wide-ranging Speech and Drama curriculum tailored to help all ability levels explore, challenge and reach their full potential.
Each year level will learn about and build upon different skills as well as explore different stories. Units cover Performance Poetry; Public Speaking and Presentation Skills; Japanese Bunraku Puppetry and Chinese Opera; Author Study; Play-Text Study; Folktales and Cultural Stories; Musical and Physical Theatre; Improvisation; Devising and Playwriting. All units aim to teach students key Drama skills and vocabulary as well as enabling students to engage deeper with scenarios, characters and narratives. There are also a lot of cross curricular learning opportunites that help support students in other school subjects including English, Humanities, Art, Music, iSTEAM and P.E.
All students work towards large scale productions giving students the opportunity to apply what they have learnt, demonstrate their skills and develop their confidence and talent in performing. KS1 students work towards a performance sharing at Christmas, whilst KS2 and KS3 students work towards an end-of-year show in the summer term.
Students will also get to develop their aesthetic appreciation and understanding through going to the theatre and taking part in specialist workshops lead by outside practitioners.
Have you ever encountered any interesting or impressive stories of a child transforming a lot after he/she participated in Drama learning?
Students at Wycombe Abbey are constantly surprising me with their willingness to take risks in my classroom. Developing a safe space where students feel supported to make mistakes is really important in my lesson. Developing trust is also vital in the Drama class. With these expectations in place, students are constantly developing their teamwork and confidence.
One student, in particular, comes to mind who showed me the transformative qualities of Drama. When I met this young girl in Year 2, she rarely spoke in class or spoke so quietly, it was really hard to hear her. Over the course of the year and taking small risks each lesson, she slowly came out of her shell and this year she was able to participate in the Hong Kong Schools Speech Festival and achieve a high score for her performance.
In 2021 Hong Kong Schools Drama Festival
WASHK team won 18 awards in total, winning in 6 out of 7 awards categories.
I know her success isn’t just down to studying Drama though. All teachers at Wycombe Abbey truly care about their students and with this support along with her own determination, she succeeded.
Many people can easily disregard Creative Arts subjects as secondary to that of more academic ones and to those people I say, believe and invest in Drama.
Drama resembles life itself, it is a great tool for preparing students for the real world. The multitude of skills that can be learnt in the drama classroom are constantly being tested and practiced so they become inherent in our nature as we grow older and venture on to new and exciting challenges. Learning Drama equips students with skills to survive in the 21st Century and it truly does help in “Building confidence for life” which is Wycombe Abbey’s commitment to all of our pupils.