We have been developing realistic learning contexts through Drama, drawing on principles of Mantle of the Expert, developed by the inspirational, gifted and internationally renowned Educator Dorothy Heathcote.
In a Mantle of the Expert, a fictional world is created in which the children all have roles as an expert in a particular field. Their presumed expertise develops into a genuine expertise in certain areas of learning (some of them pre-planned by the teacher) and their understanding of certain concepts (again, planned by the teacher) is greatly enhanced. Almost any area of the curriculum could be taught through a Mantle of the Expert.
Why do we do it this way?
When we are in this room of belief, and especially utilising the subtle and alchemical power of MOE (Mantle of the Expert), change really begins to happen.
She partly builds belief by abandoning disbelief. In the drama, the children readily, enthusiastically, are prepared to suspend their disbelief and take on the role of an adult member of a very important organization. Already, we have got rid of some negativity.
Over time we now begin to enter a room where, through the drama, we have temporarily allowed ourselves to free ourselves of constraints and negative “cant’s” and begun to act as if we can!
A journey of a thousand miles has begun with a single step! A shift of belief has happened. “I wanted to be happy in my life and so I decided to be” Neil Baldwin. (Nello in the film “Marvellous”) Do you remember as a child that you could dream of being anything in any time or space and the world was full of possibilities? It still is!
This is vitally important enlightenment: that our happiness is here, now! You live!
In the fictional world, the children, working as part of a successful community, can be successful adults. They act “as if” and increasingly find that they can. In the drama we will begin to behave differently, as responsible, important people, with adult powers, which children want to have.
Now a narrative can begin to be woven, by the teacher AND the children as they bring questions and thoughts to the situation, in the role and out of role.
In role, we know that people are prepared to “behave as if”, and are able to “go beyond themselves”, feeling, empathizing, problem-solving, decision-making in a challenging, positive, communal enterprise which is totally engaging yet able to be stepped away from. They naturally start using specialist language. They can naturally start using another language.
In the minds of the children (and teacher!) the work of the organisation they are running often exists as another realm where tensions, difficulties, triumphs and celebrations are experienced registered in the mind and felt in an almost real way.
Danger and safety exist simultaneously.
Because they are not being judged (though she will be quietly and sensitively aware of their progress and sharing good feedback), the children grow through the various tensions and activities, celebrations of communal effort.
The children awake to their role in highly successful enterprise at the beginning of the term and take on a “mantle of the expert”.
We ARE successful because we ACT successfully.
And as we all know actions speak louder than words.
For further information about Mantles co-created by each class in recent years please visit This Year’s Work