Drama has always been a part of my life in one way or another ever since I can remember, even before I knew what Drama was.
I spent hours of my playtime as a child, making up stories and acting out the characters I saw in picture books or Disney movies.
My parents quickly realised my interest in performance and enrolled me in extra mural Speech and Drama classes at a private Drama studio and pulled together what they could for me to do it. For me Drama turned out to be the one thing I was really good at. I wasn’t an academic or even remotely good at sport. We all have our strengths and finding mine at an early age gave me focus and direction, it gave me self-confidence and eventually ambition.
In my opinion our school years should be a time when you begin to discover who you want to be, explore your passions, learn your strengths and develop them further. In doing so a child builds confidence and begins to create dreams for their future and this in turn positively effects how they re-act to the world around them and deal with challenges they may face. I knew the sacrifices my parents were making, but I never really understood, how difficult it must have been for them at the time and ultimately how lucky I was, as there were so many children in my school that I could see, would have greatly benefited from what I was learning in my Drama lessons.
For most of my fellow classmates however, it either wasn’t an affordable option or it would’ve been too difficult logistically, as most of the children at my school relied on public transport to travel home. The only way it seemed then, that they would be able to do extra mural Speech and Drama, was if it became more affordable (so that more children had the option) and if a Speech and Drama teacher came to the school and held classes there.
Once I received my teaching qualification, I set out on my own and started teaching at a few schools. By keeping costs affordable and offering to teach classes at the school, I found tremendous interest from teachers, students and parents alike. During this time I also began developing what is now our tried and tested syllabus which is tailored made to meet the needs of the students and utilizes all aspects of Speech Drama to also teach practical and essential life skills.
I have always known that Drama was an incredible tool for learning, growth and development, if that was the overall aim of the teacher, rather than merely focusing on developing skills for performance. I realised that using Drama to teach and develop the student as a whole, was what I really wanted our school and the syllabus to be about. Thereafter the combination of affordable and accessible Speech and Drama classes plus our life skills focused syllabus became a dynamite package and schools and parents from all over, started contacting me about our classes and wanting our program to be brought to their school.
Over the years I’ve had countless parents telling me how much our Speech and Drama classes and our syllabus have benefited their children, whether it be an improvement in their child’s literacy level, concentration skills, their child’s speech, communication skills or self-confidence. Numerous parents have even found an improvement in their child’s school work across the board.
It’s clear that we’re doing something right and that we are fulfilling a great need in our schools and communities, a role we take very seriously and with a deep sense of gratitude. We started in the Western Cape and as we grew our butterfly wings soon spread to Gauteng!
It seems when you’re onto a good thing, it takes a life of its own and before you know it, you’ve started the ‘Isabel Byers School of Speech and Drama.’