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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Drama: Kings, Queens, and Productivity

Drama: Kings, Queens, and Productivity

By Sonia R. Walker
Adjunct College Professor/Department Chair/Business Instructor
Maryville University - St Louis, MO & Clinton Prairie Jr./Sr. High School–Frankfort, IN
Doctoral Student
Indiana State University
Ryan Donlan
Assistant Professor
Department of Educational Leadership
Bayh College of Education
Indiana State University

As Dr. Nate Regier and the good folks at Next Element Consulting remind us – “Drama:  Good for Ratings; Bad for Business.”
Yet, drama is something that we experience as a part of our everyday lives.  Some people seemingly love drama.  They either manufacture it, or feed into it, while others work steadfastly to minimize its existence and impact … it’s lure.
In K-12 schools, not a day goes by it seems, that we can avoid experiencing or teaching a student who is involved in drama.  The same could hold true for fellow staff.
Drama can manifest itself as one seeks or wants attention.  “Drama sucks all of the energy out of your life,” as noted in Beyond Drama – Transcending Energy Vampires (Regier & King, 2013, p. 1). “Drama is an energy vampire, sucking the lifeblood out of everyone and everything around it.”
The authors told the story of a company where administrators ran a business with constant drama.  Employees wanted something different, so even in the midst of an economically dangerous national recession, they took it upon themselves to start their own business to coach and provide consulting to employees worldwide in how to understand, minimize, and avoid drama in their workplaces and lives.  They then went on to live this professional lifestyle in their own organization.
Those who have worked in education and in corporate America can see the parallels in drama at work and at school.  Many of us have been raised with drama modeled at home, with either parents or siblings adopting roles as drama kings or queens. Without a conscientious decision to step out and beyond those roles, we have run the risk following drama in its footsteps, as it comes more naturally than its converse, which Regier and King (2013) described as “Compassion” (or “to struggle with”). 
Some more predisposed to distress and drama appear quickly to don a king’s or queen’s crown, as a learned reaction to difficult experiences they face.  Some retort that it’s a defense mechanism, taught and modeled by parents.  We know it, as well, from a different standpoint – that of any human being’s potential to wear of a mask while in distress, one that cover up the real person underneath – the OK “me.”

Children Students & Drama

Many time students who are leaders in drama are students who are not getting their needs met.  Kahler (2008) described them as those who on their better days are persuasive, adaptable, and charming, yet have a psychological need for incidence (a bit of risk and the potential of a payoff – a “rush”).  When a situation in school is presented to them, whether academic, social or otherwise, they “take action” and DO something with it, even if fraught with repercussions. 
Many educators do not understand this need, or the actions of these students, and thus, require those with such energy to sit in rows and be silent.  What happens instead is that in the absence of positive fulfillment of their needs, children seek their negative fulfillment.  They manipulate the situation until drama torques-up.  They get their rush, and so do many others around them, in a negative way.  This involves a ripple effect upon others in the classroom, eventually culminating with children and adults, alike, assuming the classic roles of persecutors, victims, and rescuers – Karpman’s (1968) classic triangle of drama. 

Managing Kings and Queens

In studying the book, First Break All the Rules, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, we pose that good managers and good teachers have a lot in common.  Teachers who can “relate” are those who can re-direct those who tend toward drama.  They invite the drama king or queen to “dial-down” by changing their own approaches as adults to intervention and teaching, while allowing students to connect with them and learn as they learn best. 
Our better teachers are stewards who avoid a one-size-fits-all approach (last year’s lesson plans or last scenario’s tool kit) and recognize that various personalities and their needs predominate in “today’s” classroom, as yesterday’s drama kings and queens might have abdicated their thrones.  This is not limited to K-12 schools.  Drama occurs in colleges and universities as well, as it is not outgrown when psychological needs are not met. 
Haven’t we all seen, at times, our co-workers’ acting as persecutors, victims, and rescuers? Take for instance the teachers’ lounge of Anytown’s high school, or periodically the commons area of a local college – with educators’ “holding court,” complaining about the student who wants too much attention or the higher-up who just doesn’t have a clue? 
Same crowns, different neighborhoods.  
What is particularly interesting in teacher/student drama is the context of who is playing persecutor, rescuer, or victim.  Even more fascinating are situations in which they switch roles. 
Yet “people-watching aside” – The fact remains as follows -- Drama:  Good for ratings; bad for business.
It’s even worse for teaching and learning.
A wonderful opportunity exists for us to learn about the rudimentary elements of drama, and more so, to learn that drama does not represent the true identities of those involved; rather, it represents masks they are wearing that with the right approach, can be “invited” off so that productive communication can occur. 

Once these folks are OK/OK, drama will learn to check itself at the schoolhouse door.


Buckingham, M., & Coffman, K. (1999). First, break all the rules: What the world's
greatest managers do differently. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Kahler, T. (2008). The process therapy model: Six different personality types and
            adaptations. Hot Springs, AR: Taibi Kahler & Associates.
Regier, N., & King, J. (2013). Beyond drama: Transcending energy Vampires. Newton,
Kansas: Next Element Consulting.

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