In a world of fake news, critical literacy is a key skill for students

  • In a world of fake news, critical literacy is a key skill for students

As a student, Alice Kilmartin found her voice thanks to a performing arts teacher – and now she’s passing that confidence on…

I started high school in 2007, a shy girl who didn’t really have a specific subject that filled me with enjoyment and enthusiasm. The high school I attended specialised in performing arts, so from the very start of KS3 I had dance, drama and music as part of my timetable. At first, I was cautious and apprehensive when it came to these lessons. They were mostly practical and involved lots of teamwork and communication, which, as a quiet student, I found quite difficult.

As time went on, though, I found myself falling in love with the arts. My dance teacher played a big part in this. I found myself inspired by her enthusiasm and passion for the subject, which resulted in me beginning to attend dance classes outside of school. Throughout my five years at secondary I participated in several school shows and, by year 11, I even bagged myself a main role in the musical ‘Fame’! Now, who would have thought the ‘shy and quiet’ girl in year 7 would end up performing in front of hundreds of people on stage?

The quiet one

Fast forward, then, to 2018, and I am part way through my SCITT year as a dance and drama teacher. It’s Monday, period 5, and I’m teaching musical theatre to a group of mixed ability year 7s. We’re approaching the end of the school year. The students and I are all feeling exhausted. “Can I have a volunteer to sing the start of Matilda?” I ask the class. The usual ones oozing with self-confidence place themselves at the front, flapping their arms about in desperation.

As I look around the room I notice one girl, placed at the back of the classroom, with her forearm slightly raised. I take a second; I’m a bit taken back. I have barely heard this student speak throughout the year, never mind want to take on a lead role in class. Nonetheless, sensing something special, I take a risk, and gently ask her if she would like to do it. She responds with a timid nod. Apprehensively, she climbs onto the chair, the whole class around her in a semi-circle, and awaits the music. And as she starts to sing, I see a student believe in herself for the first time. The whole class is clapping and cheering for her. Her face lights up, she’s smiling from ear to ear. The confidence she’s found in her ability is showing through her beaming smile and relaxed body language – this is something I have never seen before in this young girl. “This is why I want to teach” I think to myself. There is nowhere else I would rather be in the world than in that classroom.

Access for all

I try my best to keep calm and composed, but I am so overwhelmed that one of my students actually asks, “Miss, are you ok?”. At that moment I remember where I am and get my ‘teacher face’ back on. Although inside I am still thrilled. This moment is something I will remember throughout my teaching career and, I’m sure, is something that will happen over and over again.

A reward like no other. Anyone is able to take part in performing arts, no matter what their gender, background or ability. All that is required is your body and a space, meaning it is an extremely inclusive part of the curriculum. All young people deserve the chance to broaden their knowledge and widen their desire to succeed whilst working to their full potential in all factors of education. Skills taught in performing arts will contribute to helping the pupil grow into a successful learner and an employable individual. Without self-confidence and self-belief how is someone expected to succeed?

About the author

Alice Kilmartin received her QTS in June 2018 and is about to begin her NQT year as a dance and drama teacher.