The gifts of speech and drama classes to Canberra kids and adults – building empathy, confidence and empowering communication
Dear Red Stars,
I wrote this story of my own experience of Speech and Drama classes with your Academy in mind, and I wish you and your students all the very best for your fantastic journey ahead.
“If you can give your children one additional activity, give them the gift of Speech and Drama”
I was the oldest of three children growing up in a small town in central Queensland in the early 1960s. I had just started school and was showing early promise when my mother told me that she had enrolled me in Speech and Drama classes. My teacher was to be Mrs McLeod, a tall, polished woman who was probably in her forties at the time, though she seemed much older to me. I remember that she carried herself with great confidence, her shoulders back, her spine straight and her walk strong and full of purpose. Mrs McLeod told me that my mother had made the best decision for my future that she would ever make, that “elocution classes”, a mystery concept to me at the time, would change my life and open worlds to me that would remain closed to others. She told me that people would treat me well when I spoke well, and carried myself well; that to be able to speak to anyone with confidence was a wonderful gift, and that she was going to give me that gift. She told me that the world of poetry and plays and novels would give me great joy for the rest of my life. She was right about all that she promised.
Some years later we moved away from that small town and lived in larger towns and districts across Queensland. Our family embarked on a whirlwind tour that meant several school changes for me. I am certain that my ability to speak articulately and with confidence made a great difference to the way teachers and other adults treated me when I arrived as the “new girl” at several schools over those years. My role plays and poetry readings with Mrs McLeod had also given me empathy, the ability to put myself into someone else’s shoes and understand what they might be feeling. This helped so much in the playground, where other children were quick to size you up and happy to bully you if they thought you might tolerate it. I always made friends easily in these new environments and I was elected School Captain at both the primary and secondary schools I attended. I have no doubt that my “elocution lessons” gave me leadership skills, I could project my voice at school assembly, stand straight and strong, and I knew how to breathe properly, which calmed me and gave me an air of confidence. For a naturally introverted child, these were great gifts indeed. I carried these gifts into my working life, which meant several promotions into positions that required leadership skills.
I love the Arts, especially poetry and novels, and I often think of the fierce Mrs McLeod, with her strong voice and her passionate beliefs. Mostly, however, I think of my far-sighted parents and the precious gift of Speech and Drama classes that they gave to a small, quiet child who lacked confidence and who might have otherwise merely observed the world from a secluded corner. It was a gift that has lasted a lifetime.
Red Stars Grandmother, May 2015