'Drawing to music' is an activity which has been done before with children at TYO. This week, I ran the same exercise with my classes, and produced this video from their expressive results...
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It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge. Albert Einstein
It seems that each week here in Nablus provides just as many learning opportunities for me as it does for those that I am teaching! Last week's drama lessons focused on the theme of feelings, equipping the children with a repertoire of emotions to use throughout all our acting exercises. This week's lessons have seen the children starting on the Global Explorers project, learning new things about their world and writing sketches based in different countries.
Throughout the internship so far the concept of self-expression has been one that has provided much food thought for all of us interns. It's great to have the opportunity to focus on this in our blog posts this week. The importance of expression in drama is obvious, however the irony for me is that drama requires not only self-expression, but also the ability to express someone else or to express a feeling that may be quite alien to us and even a little embarrassing! What I have discovered is that the children tend to fall into one of three groups when it comes to self-expression. There are some children who were very shy and withdrawn at first and are increasing with confidence each week, which is a pleasure to witness. In addition there are some other children who may have confidence in bundles when working with groups of friends but when put in the slightly pressured situation of performing in front of others become very shy and giggly! There are also kids in both of these groups that may have enough confidence to express but struggle at times to find the experience to draw upon in their performances.
What has struck me is that the children aren't used to role playing situations in the same way as I have seen elsewhere. I wonder whether children play in different ways here and whether play-acting different scenarios for fun is not so common here. It also seems that for many of the children, this has not only been their first chance to try drama but also their first chances to learn new things about the world. Therefore it seems to me that if expression was reduced to an over-simplified and unnecessary formula it would look something like this-
Confidence + Experience = Expression
I know that all of us here at TYO value the importance of expression. One of my main aims during my short time here is to give the children as many opportunities to not only develop confidence, but also to expose them to many different experiences, giving them chance to shine. Some of the greatest moments of joy so far have been when the kids have expressed themselves with so much conviction and energy as to provoke loud bursts of laughter and applause from those that have been watching. I am looking forward to many moments like these to come!
There’s not much in the world better than the feeling after you’ve scored a goal. You turn around to your team, support buzzing in your ears, smiling ear-to-ear, prideful of what you have accomplished with them. It's moments like these that build true confidence.
As I tell my students the “English word of the day,” I try and define “confident” in only a couple of sentences. Pride, realizing your potential, knowing that you can succeed at scoring a goal, knowing that you are a good person, a good son or daughter, a good kid. They practice saying the word and listen to me saying it with care. Because I might say this word at any moment through out class, when I do they all raise their arms flexing their arms and yelling, “I am confident.” The last person to do it must do our famous “I’m a star” jump. Other students have begun to join in supporting the “I’m a star” jumper.
Sports allow us to find this confidence, to let it emerge and grow so that we may use it other aspects of our lives. With confidence we express our thoughts, our ideas and feelings making our lives better and the lives of those around us better too. Expression through team sports teaches so much about life, about living in a community, how to sacrifice for the good of the whole in order to accomplish something you could not do alone. It teaches you how to deal with failure, how to learn and focus your anger.
Each class has a team identity, the Lions, the Kangaroos, the Monkeys and the Elephants. We have been working on group dynamics and team building activities that create trust and unity for each class. I do this by selecting more shy or less athletic students to lead in certain activities, such as “silly soccer” where only once person can score with their hands while the others follow regular soccer rules. Each class is slowly becoming more of a team as they work out their dynamics through sports. As confidence grows I see more expression and joy growing on the previously shy students. Rather it’s Mohammad as he yells, “España” and charges towards his penalty’s kick to victory or Hala’s determined face as she steps up gathering all the confidence she has. I am proud of the students this week as they began to cheer despite the outcome of each shot. With encouragement they cheered each other for taking each risk at success.
We still have a lot to do. Competition brings out the best and worst of people. It focuses often hyper, scattered children until they loose at a game and break down. Losing is the best teacher it gives you the chance to improve and try again. In the next couple of weeks we will be focusing on channeling our emotions and using our expression to fuel our drive on the sports field.
It's not unusual for art to be cut from a school's general education curriculum. Unfortunately, this trend in devaluing the power of art education is also present here in Palestine. Art is such an important form of communication, especially for children, because they can sometimes articulate their thoughts and feelings through pictures better than with words. To take away or even reduce their exposure to art is a disservice to childhood development, which is why after school programs that provide artistic outlets are so important.
In all of my classes there are a handful of students who require more attention, whether it is due to their hyperactivity, troubled home situations, or other special needs. At times it can be overwhelming trying to deliver classroom instruction while simultaneously redirecting the focus of these students. But the scenario changes as soon as the kids begin working on their individual projects. Suddenly, even the most boisterous students are absorbed in their artistic efforts.