Magazine article NATE Classroom

Drama and Neuro Linguistic Programming

Magazine article NATE Classroom

Drama and Neuro Linguistic Programming

Article excerpt


If you, like me, have had the pleasure of teaching GCSE Drama, you'll probably recognise the frustration I felt with Kelly from 10C a few years back. Her list of misdemeanours from the first week of term included swearing at another student, dying her hair electric blue and actually throwing her faux Gucci handbag at a History teacher. Adept at causing a scene in most lessons, she would refuse to perform in any way during drama. She chose the subject, she said, because she thought it would be easy. However, she refused to take part in group activities, clammed up during discussion tasks, and locked herself in the loo the week we did monologues.

I was frustrated, not because I thought she would have been better off on a different course--on the contrary, I knew she could learn a lot from drama--but because I didn't seem to have the tools to persuade her that she could be brilliant. I tried the obvious encouraging, cajoling and even bribing her to participate. I tried praising her whenever she did anything vaguely approximating engagement; I offered extra support; I phoned her parents in attempts to bring her on board. After about a term of this, I decided that enough was enough and played my last card: I ignored her.

That didn't work either.

So when result day came around two years later, how is it that Kelly ended up with a 'B' grade? Ultimately it had very little to do with me, and everything to do with a brilliant Learning Support Assistant who joined us in the Spring term.

Sarah is a practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming. She had recently completed a six-month course and was particularly interested in finding out how the language patterns, techniques and understanding she had learned in her NLP training could be used to help young people. Much of her support work in my drama classroom involved a gentle and playful challenging of students' beliefs, sometimes by creating confusion with clever questions and more than anything, asking them to 'act as if'.

This was something I wanted to find out more about. How was she able so easily to turn students around? How did she get them to understand that they had all the skills they needed to let go and be amazing? How did she manage to get Kelly not only to participate in lessons, but to become the girl who bounced onto the stage in the lead role when it came to her drama performance exam?

When I asked Sarah about what she was doing she explained that on a simple level she was inviting students to consider alternative ways of thinking and behaving. If they said they were 'rubbish' at something, she'd ask them what it would be like if they were brilliant and then suggest they did that instead. If they said they couldn't do something, she'd ask them how they knew that. She explained that the beliefs she had taken on through her NLP training held that everyone already has all the resources they need, that no one is broken and that there is no such thing as failure, only feedback. I was intrigued and so when I saw a leaflet for an NLP Practitioner course in my area I decided to give it a go.

I signed up to train with Ben Grassby of Bristol NLP, thinking I was about to pick up a handful of tools and tricks to use in the classroom. In fact I learned a whole lot more.

Neuro Linguistic Programming came about through the work of John Grinder and Richard Bandler in the mid-1970s. They studied (or to use NLP terms, 'modelled') the language and approaches of some outstanding therapists, including Milton Erickson, Virginia Satir, Frank Farrelly and Fritz Perls. They realised that there were strategies to being able to communicate, teach and lead excellently and these now form the methodologies and tools that you can learn on an NLP Practitioner course.

Many of Grinder and Bandler's discoveries have already made their way into best classroom practice. When we teachers talk about visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learners; when we look at the skills of rapport building; when we refer to 'modelling' as a method of demonstrating excellence; when we talk about 'well formed outcomes'; in each of these instances we are referring back to established NLP practices. …

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