Posts Tagged ‘Many Things’
Our Creative Drama class has taught me so many things about the teaching/learning relationship that I hardly know where to begin. I have learned that planning is the absolute bottom line in success with students. I have learned that the focus of the lesson must be clear, that what I am trying to teach the children must be the place that all elements of the lesson return to or it is not going to be a cohesive experience for them. I have learned that it is not necessary to work from a script or write a script to work from in order to create a meaningful experience for students.
I now have the concept embroidered on my soul that we teach two things to children when we use drama: About being human and about drama itself. That one of the reasons teaching through creative drama works so well is that it is always about being human. Even if our work is about a family of rocks, the rocks will be endowed with human traits and this will facilitate the knowledge we are trying to impart to the students becoming part of them.
Through the discussions and in our reading I have had my eyes opened up to so many new ways of approaching and offering content to children. I feel the knowledge with which I entered the program is now embellished with truly focused, responsible teaching skills.
There has always felt to me like I had some intrinsic knowledge when it came to working with and teaching children. But I have always thought to myself that it felt like there were links missing in my own knowledge base. I know that I must still strive to think more and more outside of the box I have been operating from these last years in my work with children, but I feel that that all I have gained in this class has launched me, catapulted me straight out into that journey.
I am very grateful.
I met this week with Peter Duffy of the MAT in Teaching Theatre program at USC and was so happy to find him friendly and easy to talk to, and that we were of like minds about so many things concerning what kids can gain through theatre arts activities. He was kind enough to tell me he felt I was going to be a very strong candidate for the program, and as I walked back to my car surrounded by the huge buildings of the theatre complex I dared to think: oh now I am really, finally, completely home.
Hey Susan—so glad to hear from you!!
I’ve dashed off something for you to share with the kids….I hope that it encourages a lot of discussion for many things!
Please tell me how it all pans out.
I used the words that I used to describe the black people in a way that was typical for the time that the play takes place.
Let me explain it this way in regards to black people—
Words are very powerful. You can use words to keep people down and you can use words to give power to people.
There are many ways that we keep people down with words. When we call people who look differently or act differently from us names:
a. We call smart people nerds or geeks.
b. We call students who need more time or instruction to understand their studies, slow, dummies or stupid.
c. We call females we don’t like, or threatened by, bitches, sluts or hos.
d. We call males who are interested in cooking, design or fashion faggots…sometimes this word is used in a very different way—like when males are acting ‘too feminine, silly or acting in some other less than desirable way.
e. We call black people niggers (N-word) when we are afraid of black people we don’t know or we when want to hurt feelings, or when we want to feel powerful by using the word to make the black person feel smaller and less powerful than ourselves.
There has been a lot of language that has been used in the American culture to describe people—and unfortunately much of it has been put people down, or being oppressive.
During slavery, black people were called niggers because it was slang term for the Spanish word Negro—which means black. When the Spaniards compared their skin color to the Africans –the Spaniards skin color looked (to them) white and the Africans skin color looked the opposite—black. The Spaniards and Portuguese were the first to enslave people from Africa—so they named the people Negro —because they had the power in that situation.
They didn’t ask the Africans what they called themselves or they wanted to be called—they just named them Negro.
As slavery progressed in North America, other Europeans nations got involved with slavery to make money. The British, not understanding too much Spanish, too the word Negro and it morphed into the word nigger.
The word colored was used in relation to black people in America. It was a simple straight forward word to describe nonwhite people.
After slavery black people were continued to be called less than desirable names like Sambo (a character in a story about a little black boy in India), Coon and Darkie (which were based on characters performed in Minstrel Shows), variations of the N-word…Nigras, Nigs; words describing black people who were more loyal to white people than to black people—Uncle Toms, Aunt Jemima and Oreos.
By the time I was in 7th or 8th grade, young black people started calling themselves black. The older generations of black people hated using the word because it made them remember words like Darkie and Sambo…they preferred to be call colored or Negro. But when the young people EMBRACED the word ‘black’ (“say it loud I’m black and I’m proud”) they actually took all of the negative power out of the word and infused it with a different kind of energy—which made it a positive word for black folks.
We started to look at other ways to ‘name’ ourselves….and very quickly (before I was ever out of high school) we were calling ourselves, AFRO-Americans. By the time I got out of college in the last 1970s, the AFRO was a hairstyle and we were now calling ourselves AFRICAN-Americans.
The fact that the young people today use the N-word, I feel, is because they’ve never experienced the negative impact of the word’s usage. The kids of today aren’t aware of their own history—hardly anything about the horrors of slavery, nothing about lynchings, nothing about reconstruction, nothing about Jim Crow laws and very, very little about the Civil Rights movement in America. As long as one does not know history—especially their own history—many times they won’t even KNOW that they are being slighted…cursed…or even oppressed.
Language is one of the most powerful tools known to man. We use language, whether it is written down or memorized by generations upon generations. We use language to record: for identity, feelings, discoveries and histories—just to name a tiny bit about how language is used.
I think we all have the right to name ourselves….and to give voice to how we identify ourselves. The worst thing a person can do (in my book) is not make the EFFORT to pronounce your name correctly….or to call you what YOU do not want to be called.
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!