Drama teacher introduces unique class activity
“The students I teach are part of a generation who feel pretty isolated and powerless. What better way to have them realize they have a voice and they can be heard - on national television.”
Drama teacher Richard Peters sums up why he’s begun taking his Grade 9 drama students to Speaker’s Corner in Toronto, a booth at the corner of Queen Street West and John Street. For about $2 anyone can have his or her say in front of a camera, which may or may not be aired on television.
“Christians often bemoan immorality in the media, and we are often well mobilized to picket or boycott,” the Toronto District Christian High School (TDChristian) teacher says. “How often do we offer positive alternatives? What if we spent our energy on having our stories told, rather than letting people hear us complain about what we don’t like?”
Peters, who describes Speaker’s Corner as the “ultimate post-modern marketplace,” says about 20 per cent of his students’ rants are televised.
“Not bad odds, if you ask me,” he adds.
Those who present intelligently and in a way that hooks the audience generally are selected for on-air coverage. Peters says he always pushes his students to reveal their wisdom, their passion, and their sense of humour.
Students choose their topics and have ranted about everything from being an only child to pollution, farming, hunting, mandatory French classes in high school or too-short lunch periods. They give tips for choosing art fundraising ideas.
The drama teacher definitely recommends other drama classes consider visiting Speaker’s Corner, noting most of the students love it. When he first introduced the idea a couple of years ago the senior drama students felt it was an awesome opportunity and were disappointed they had missed out.
His advice for teachers who do decide to visit Speaker’s Corner with their classes is threefold.
First, ranting is not writing, he says. Some of the academically inclined students may need to be encouraged away from creating essays to be read aloud.
“These are heated one-way conversations and need to be treated as such. They need to passionately convince people to think the way they do about something.”
On the other hand, the academically disinclined – to use Peters’ term – often know “the fine art of padding.” These students may need to be reminded that to be convincing they must make every second of their two minutes count.
Finally, Peters emphasizes the rant must be interesting and compelling. “The only people who will be really heard are those who can stop channel surfers from surfing elsewhere,” he points out.
While he’s unaware of any other schools, independent or otherwise, visiting Speaker’s Corner regularly, Peters says his Grade 9 classes could always use some competition.