Posts Tagged ‘Curriculum’
I know that much of the emotional pain I feel about this subject comes from within me. The administration, my fellow teachers as well as the students’ parents claimed to be very happy and impressed with my work with the students, and many of the children claimed to love my classes. But the fact remains that I know in my heart that I did not serve them the way they all deserved to be served. I am very glad to be on the road to a greater understanding of the practical and philosophical aspects of teaching theatre as well and adequate practical experience that in the future will lead me to be a teacher worthy of the trust my students and their parents place in me. I hope to somehow become a resource to colleagues and to offer them an educated, backed-by-research perspective on how creative drama and theatre activities can help increase their student’s engagement with the curriculum. I hope I might also be of service in helping to foster learning that will become part of a student’s knowledge base in a way that opens up not only their understanding of the subject matter, but that I might be useful to them in helping to cultivate an understanding of and confidence in themselves as inquiring, successful, life long learners, no matter whether they are so-called “typically developing” or have been identified as having a learning impairment.
But now to return to the subject of new concepts I learned through my research, starting with the term, Theory of Mind (TOM). The Corbett et al article taught me much about this concept, starting with how TOM requires that one learn to “apply mental state concepts to interpret and predict self and other behavior.” (Corbett et al, 2010) Here again is another example of something I knew intrinsically was an important skill, and one that the special needs population often has trouble with, but reading research specifically discussing the subject and accounts of work seeking specifically to enhance it in students was incredibly helpful in enhancing my increased awareness of the topic.
I also felt this way about the discussions of the development of narrative ability in impaired students. The two Peter articles dealt explicitly with this concept, and the resulting knowledge I gained in how important it is to cultivate a child’s ability to play and express himself in narrative style and how that informs (yes!) TOM skills and communication abilities made me feel as if I was suddenly seeing through a fog that had lifted away from an important landscape. How odd it seems to have known this intrinsically (and am I not luckily to have been randomly born to effortless insight into communication?) but not to have actually realized until a research article epiphany just exactly the manifestations the lack of this narrative skill would have on so many aspects of communication skills.
In my view, Best Practices means an active classroom where children are learning to be responsible for much of their own learning. The classroom we visited last semester during Creative Drama comes to mind: the room was chock full of books on many different subjects, and was divided up into learning centers where children could visit, experience and make their own discoveries rather than, for example, sit and be told something and then do a worksheet. One of the centers was special time with the teacher who was assessing the children she was working with as she interacted with them. There were engaging, informational, decorative and cheerful posters and charts all over the classroom walls and even hanging from the ceiling! The children’s seats were grouped in clusters rather than in rows, which made sharing and discussions of content much more likely.
When the children were working they appeared busily involved in what they were doing and appeared relaxed and engaged as they went about their tasks, which led me to believe that the teacher had been successful in influencing the children that they were not only going to enjoy what they were doing but that they were fully capable of gaining mastery of the content – no need to fear the tasks.
I also feel that Best Practices takes into consideration the learning styles of all children in the classroom, and that towards the success of all learners many varied opportunities for gaining content are offered. I see a Best Practices curriculum as one which integrates across all subjects thematically, providing another way to assure that the children will have diverse experiences through which to gain knowledge. Further, influences from Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences should be considered in the creating of the Best Practices learning environment as another way to foster learning, success and self actualization in all our students.
The student’s own views on their learning are a Best Practices assessment tool that I feel is invaluable. I am reminded of the Y.-L.P. Chan article we read at the beginning of this semester and her study of the ways students, some of them very little people, were able to relate to the researchers their feelings about what they had learned in their drama lessons. While the children did not always see the value of the lessons, making statements such as, “We were just playing around in class!”, when the researchers discussed the experiences with the children further they were able to uncover verbal evidence that the children had made great strides in learning the cross curricular lessons that were the goal of that day’s activities. As one student said, “I used to know that the farmer’s lives are harsh. However, taking part in the drama lessons, I got to feel that the hardship was much bigger than I imagined. Clearly, this child had learned a great deal through a “non-traditional” social studies teaching strategy, and was able to provide his teacher with a clear verbal self report through which she will be able to access his understanding of the content. (Chan, Y.-L.P 2009, pg. 201)
Yuk-Lan Pheobe Chan(2009): In their own words: how do students relate drama pedagogy to their learning in curriculum subjects? Research in Drama Education: The Journal of applied Theatre and Performance, 14:2, 191 – 209.
One of the questions asked in my developmental psych class concerned the idea that perhaps we are rushing our children through childhood. Here are some of my thoughts on a subject that worries me a great deal:
…I also think about how the internet, cell phones and other social and technological advances have brought way too much information and opportunities into the lives of our children. There are so many new ways for them to become too aware, and I feel they are not ready so much of what they can access easily. A couple of years ago in a summer program I was running one of my kindergarteners pulled a cell phone out of his lunch box. This astonished me! His mama wanted him to have it in case he got lost, or needed her, and care about those things are certainly not ways to make a child grow up too quickly, I’ll admit that. But the level of technology in the life of this little one, as well as the way we must more vigilantly guard the safety of our children now do point toward that end.
I believe that our society’s tendency toward exhilarating children through childhood is also a factor in the loss of creativity and joy in learning that many of our young people experience very quickly upon entering society. School systems – and here please do not think I make light of the absolutely enormous responsibilities teachers face today, nor of their overwhelming workload – seem to me often to be organized in such a way that the documentation of fulfillment of state standards comes at the cost of the individual child’s learning style and self esteem. One of my goals in education is to find ways to incorporate the way a child learns and what he most loves to learn about across the curriculum.
A pipe dream? Quite possibly. But in my mind, this could make all the difference in the level of personal connection of each child to the contents of what the state says our children must learn.
This week I was delighted to receive notice that I have been accepted into the MAT in Teaching Theatre program here at the University of South Carolina’s graduate school. In this program I will have opportunities not only to hone my skills as a teacher and to learn to keep a better classroom with planning and organization, but I will have the chance to take more training in acting, Directing and design for the theatre. Who knows? I might even have the chance to take a Dance Class!
While the world of the theatre is anything but thriving under the current economic situation, and school around the country are cutting the arts budgets, for some reason here in South Carolina our school have kept the money in place for the theatre programs. It is common even in elementary schools here for there to be a drama teacher in place, making this a great place for being a theatre arts teacher. So far.
Peter Duffy, the director of the USC program, told me that he feels that theatre teachers must make themselves indispensable to our schools. A wise statement, and one I think I understand very well. We must make very clear that what we do with the children in our schools is not only to provide rehearsal and performance opportunities, not only to show the children off in this way, but to provide an alternative learning environment, whether across the curriculum or in the theatre classroom itself. We can accommodate the learning of children who learn in other than traditional ways, and within those experiences bring to our kids all the emotional and developmental benefits found in theatre arts activities.
Today I wrote to Head of School Chris Winkler and asked to meet with him early next week. Fall approaches quickly and I would love the chance to sit and chat with him about his expectations for the drama experiences he hopes the students will have. He has already told me will be a spaghetti dinner in mid October and he would like the students to have a piece ready to perform at that point. I think I will look at some of Alan Shepherd’s one acts and see if there is anything appropriate.
I also wrote to the elementary teacher and introduced myself, and asked what she thought would work for her guys for Drama experiences. I am happy to go into her class however often she would like me to, and am pretty excited about perhaps helping with experiences across the curriculum for these littler guys.
There is bound to be a lot of crossover between the Glenforest school drama program and the Center Stage program. Chris and I have already talked a good bit about how there may frequently be not enough students to fill an entire cast list – Glenforest is a small school - so that there will often be opportunities for other kids from the community to participate in the school shows.
Also, with Center Stage being located in the Glenforest building, hopefully many of the Glenforest students will want to take advantage of our community workshops and classes and plays as well.