By Lionel Cranenburgh Community contribution / January 24, 2017
Jessica Lily, a performing arts teacher in Western Australia, wants schools to make the arts a powerful catalyst for educational reform using artistic creative expression that will enrich students’ knowledge and abilities.
“Acting is about representing the human condition and telling stories that are meaningful,” she says.
“It is about bringing positive change in our society.
“It will reform how children learn, give them greater freedom to think outside the box and improve how they learn by reducing obstacles to learning.
“They will feel confident and valued, give them a sense of belonging and create positive behaviours,” Jessica adds.
Robyn Ewing, professor of teacher education and the Arts at Sydney University, expressed similar views in the Australian Education Review suggesting that authentic literary texts develop students’ imaginations and critical literacy.
Jessica’s credentials as a teacher are impressive with degrees in contemporary drama from Deakin University, a Graduate Diploma in Drama from Edith Cowan University, studies at the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Theatre and Screen from Sydney, the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts and a production internship at RMITV in Melbourne.
She has notched up a string of successes as an actor on television, film and theatre by writing, directing and producing several productions in Perth, Sydney and Melbourne using her professional expertise to achieve arts-rich schools.
“Experiencing these complementary roles enables me to have a creative vision where I can communicate a unique message and perspective,” Jessica says.
National research shows there were schools that were arts-rich and arts-poor and, reviews quoted by Professor Robyn Ewing, shows that many children do not get exposure to the arts.
“It is evident that an arts-rich school will have specialist arts teachers, engage students in big productions, excursions and festivals.
The arts have to be a compelling force in the school if every child is to benefit,” Jessica says.
She suggests that the arts can send powerful messages for social transformation, as part of socio-drama that she did with her production of Gaia, (a Hindi word meaning mother and goddess of earth) in a drama that she wrote and directed at Iona Presentation College in WA.
“It challenged children to reflect and discuss environmental issues while others were engaged in sustainability as they reached beyond themselves,” she says.
Jessica uses drama to challenge and encourage reflection and creativity using movement, metaphor and symbolism to communicate ideas in original forms.
In an original production on the topic of depression for the YOH Fest (Youth on Health), the group used movement, symbolism and acting that won awards.
Jessica uses her talent in various forms of the arts to combine music, dance and drama in a sensory feast as she did in an original production of the Majik Tree.
It was a Jessica’s classic signature where she merges artforms to entertain, communicate and engage children with diverse talents so that every child has a chance to use his or her talents and enrich their creativity.
Jessica explored the richness and complexity of the arts with the short documentary that she produced at RMITV studios about a group of Muslim women called Crooked Rib. It gave the audience an insight into cross-cultural and other issues in an attempt to break down prejudice.
To build an arts-rich school Jessica sees her professional background in TV, theatre and film as a catalyst for passing on her passion so that students who want to make a career of the arts can do so.
She believes that teachers have an opportunity to make the arts flourish in schools if they train continually and with passion.
“Teachers of the arts need to be aware of the social and emotional issues facing some children and give them an opportunity to express their individuality,” she says.
“They need to understand children with special needs and behaviours as the performing arts help children to improve behaviour, collaborate, learn commitment and work as a team.”
Jessica sees the arts as a basic entitlement of every child allowing each one to gain access to real and imaginative worlds.