Posts Tagged ‘Challenges’
This week we worked more on getting ready for our photo shoot for Alice in Wonderland, we painted (we are painting) a big giant backdrop in class, and began rehearsing “When You Wish Upon a Star” for our school awards ceremony. I am excited to give the kids this opportunity, and while everyday there are glitches to overcome, conflicts to discuss, and personal issues and learning challenges that interfere with our work, the kids sound really pretty on that song!
I am hopeful this will be the first in a long line of singing traditions. I do feel that more singing opportunities would add so much to our school, as well as to the self esteem and creative experience of our kids.
This month is African American History month, and during a reading of the wonderful play by Kim Hines, “Home on the Mornin’ Train” in our Drama/Music class which we read as part of our school’s homage to this special month, a certain issue came up concerning some of the language chosen by the playwright that my co teacher and I were not able settle. My suggestion to the class was that I write to the playwright herself and ask her. Below is the letter. I am very hopeful to receive a response as Ms. Hines is very approachable. When and if that happens, I will certainly post that response as well.
I am hopeful that you will remember me, and probably you willnot. Several years ago I directed Home on the Mornin’ Train in a middle school in VT, and you were kind enough to offer your counsel to me on how the show could be done with all white VT kids.
Well, many things have changed in my life since then, and now I am drama teacher at the Glenforest School – a K-12 school for kids with learning differences – as well as the director of a Youth Theatre program here in Columbia SC.
I recently had my drama/music class read Home on the Mornin’ Train and study the spirituals within the script to increase awareness during African American History Month. as you might imagine, there are many more African American kids in my classes now!
Here’s what I ran into: the African American kids took exception to the way the characters in the play and the stage directions use the words Colored, Negro and black. My co-teacher and I attempted to explain what we thought the purpose was: that the characters were using terms that were accurate to the time period, but our explanations fell flat and it seemed to me that the kids either did not understand or did not believe us. Our students can be less than worldly thinkers – I do not say this in a judgmental way, but only to give you knowledge of our kids who have a range of challenges including ADHD, Aspergers Syndrome, Dyslexia and other learning differences. At any rate this makes any but concrete thinking difficult for them in many cases and I think they had a hard time seeing the use of the specific language from any but their own perspective.
So my request is this: if you have any time at all for such things anymore, would you be willing to make a statement to our students concerning your choices for the language in the play? When I mentioned that I had in fact communicated with you several years ago the students perked up their ears and really seemed to get excited that you, the playwright, were not only a real person, but someone one could communicate with! lol – again, that concrete way of thinking and looking at things.
So anyway Kim, I do hope things are going well with you, and let me tell you I really enjoyed revisiting the play. And if you happen to find time to help us out with these guys and their understanding of the language in the play, I think it would help them on many levels.
Thank you, and best of luck to you!
I admit it – respect is my theme of the week with my students. I have gotten very tired of the way some of the students talk to each other, to me and the other teachers and I despaired of knowing what to do about it, until finally I got the chance to discuss it with another teacher. It is just not ok. I had been so frustrated by what appeared to me to be a lack of respect, self control and just plain politeness from the kids that I had been overwrought; I did not know how to handle it. And so after my discussion with the teacher and her admission that this was indeed not appropriate behavior for kids with the challenges our students face, I felt finally I had to put my foot down about it in my classes Friday and to talk about it with the principal today. He was very supportive and agreed we do our students no service if we allow them to interact this way, and supported me in my wishing to take a harder line on the matters of common courtesy and respect.
This week has brought home to me with much greater clarity the challenges I am to be meeting in my job as Drama teacher in a school for children and teens with learning differences. Each child has their own special mix of challenges that they are dealing with, the way he or she responds to different teaching styles and the simple fact that adding to their issues are all the issues that come with being a growing changing child or adolescent, it is overwhelming to think about just what our students are experiencing.
A article on the subject:
I recently wrote an article describing the experience I had volunteering this summer at a social skills camp for Autistic children. One of the most interesting moments for me was listening to the conversation a couple of the teenaged girls were having about their condition, the other programs they attended, the other students they had met and the conditions they suffered from, their meds and their therapists. And I wondered what it was like to be a teenager with a serious condition like autism, and yet be cognizant enough of yourself and your world to be able to be an observer of your own life, the lives of others around you with similar challenges, and to be able to feel how the rest of the world perceives you.
Solar Bear Theatre in Scotland – http://www.solarbear.org.uk/What-s-Happening/this-is-me.html – in association with Who Cares, an association for kids in the U.K. who are in foster care, have created a performance piece called This Is Me, which explores “ how it feels to be looked-after and accommodated, the challenges being looked-after brings them, and their hopes for the future.”