Saturday, May 28, 2011

Being Schooled at 21 by 13 year-olds



Recently, I had the fortune of being asked to conduct a drama enrichment programme at Edgefield Secondary School. The thought of teaching drama to secondary school students filled me with a mix of excitement and dread. Such feelings are influenced by the fact that I am finally getting paid to do something that I love but if my relief teaching experiences were anything to go by, it may not be what I expected. As it turns out, it was indeed not what I expected. Unexpected in all senses of the word for I felt that they taught me more than I taught them.

Despite being in normal academic* which, in this country, meant that they shoulder prejudice and the occasional dismissal of their ideas or capabilities, they were able to carry their own weight and stand by their ideas. They possess a strength that most of us seem to have lost in face of an overpowering authority or someone that we truly admire for their knowledge for the fear of appearing silly or childish.

While they are learning the basic principles of drama through games or working on their project of creating a short ten-minute skit, I am often struck by their immense creativity and how it is translated to solving various problems that cropped up along the way. While they often expressed their awe when I worked with them on improving their plots, I am more amazed at how they managed to deliver on the several occasions when I said to them, "I don't know how you are going to do it, but I want this done." That is why I find myself cringing whenever I had to impose boundaries on them as I know that it will kill their creativity bit by bit.

Another instance of maturity and strength was illustrated by one of the boys in the class. The director of his group was absent as one of his grandparents had unfortunately passed away. Most of his group members were panicking, as the director was the only one who knows what was going on and what the blocking should be, except that boy. What he did next was simply amazing. He picked up the pieces by asking his group members if they knew anything about what is happening next and tried to block the piece to the best of his ability while constantly seeking my opinion. For someone who has no experience in drama whatsoever, he really puts all of us to shame.

Seeing these children reaffirms my love for drama and how it is so important to help them fulfill their potential and not stifle it by expectations and academic grades. While it was only a very short span of time that I got to train them, I certainly missed them and definitely will do so for a long time as they are my very first class. And till now, I have no idea who was the teacher and who was the student.
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*For those who are not familiar with Singapore's education system, click here to find out more.

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