Look what I made!

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On Friday Sharon and I attended a professional development workshop for teachers at the Academy of Singapore Teachers. It was organized by my friend Kanni who also works at AST.

The workshop was designed to help teachers deal with stress. I think it more than accomplished its goal.

About 25 of us participated in the workshop lead by Mr. Chua and Mr. Koo, local Clay artists. On each table was a huge block of clay, a bowl of water and various tools. Mr. Chua led us through two different clay projects, one a sort of plate, and the second, a vase-ish project.

For those of you who know me, you know I have a hard time following the rules for an assignment, particularly if they are artistic projects. This time was no exception.

For the second project instead of making a vase I made a mug. Sharon made one, too, so we rebelled together.

I’m not sure I’m a natural born potter, but it was a fun workshop, and I did feel less stressed afterwards. I think we should do more of these kinds of workshops in the US.

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School Bells

We do not use bells to indicate the start / end of classes at my school in Seattle. Generally, classes start and end at the same time and the students quickly move to their next class. I like not using bells; I think it reflects the culture of my school, and it puts more responsibility into the hands of the students.

Every school in Singapore I have visited uses bells, including the school directly behind my apartment building (I hear the bells and the Singapore National Anthem every morning). The sounds of the bells here are much different than the school bells I have been exposed to in the United States. In Singapore, the school bells are very pleasant (the ones I have heard anyway); they are more like chimes.

Beautiful, lovely chimes.

In fact, most of the schools I have visited use a chime quite familiar to me – it was the same one used on my grandparents’ cuckoo clock. For about a month, every time I would hear the bell I found myself anticipating the cuckoo.

The bell inspires a nice memory of my grandparents who were both educators and wonderful people.

As I was visiting a secondary school the other day, the song “Chim Chim Chiminee” starting playing on the intercom. The students seemed non-plussed by this and continued with their work. I asked one of the students what it meant. “Oh,” he said, “that means our recess is finished. And we have to gather in the hall.”

That’s pretty awesome.

The Second Workshop…

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Yesterday was a frantic day. I spent the morning trying to catch up on emails, etc. and then rushed over to the US Deputy Chief of Mission’s residence for lunch with him, folks from the American Embassy, and other Fulbrighters currently in Singapore. Fantastic and inspiring group of people! Unfortunately, I made horrible sweat-inducing mistake of taking the bus to the luncheon; I had to walk about 2 km on a very hot day…

I had to leave the luncheon early to rush over to Victoria Junior College to meet with the students prior to our second workshop with elders from Touch Senior Activities Centre.

Two of the five VJC participants were not able to attend yesterday’s session (yikes!), so, dur to Jaclyn’s quick thinking, three other theatre studies students were recruited to participate.

The workshop went really well. Everyone is becoming more comfortable now. Fantastic.

All ten of the elders were there and greeted us with smiles, handshakes, hugs. They all said they were happy to see us, and several of them brought photo albums and personal memorabilia to share with the students.

I started the workshop with a check in circle (sort of Playback Theatre based) and a physical warm up activity. After about 10 minutes, I turned the class over to the students. They had designed two activities to lead, and did the facilitating on their own.

The first activity included small group work – a reminiscene activity and the short “charade” type presentations reflecting different style of entertainment. Each small group (of 4 or 5) presented their charade and the rest of the participants guessed the entertainment type.

The second pair of students facilitated the second activity. The participants went back into their small groups, and each person shared movies or songs they enjoyed. The group chose a scene from a movie they all knew and presented the scenes to the rest of the group.

After this activity I led the group through an improvisational theatre game for the last 5 minutes of the session.

I was really impressed with how easily the students led the group, and how well their activities worked. Everyone seemed to have a good time.

When we returned from the session, I sat down with the students and talked through the workshop and helped them design the next one. Several of them remarked that the elders seemed more comfortable this session, but that not everyone participated as fully in the performance of scenes. We strategized about how to vary the activities next time, and brainstormed some ways to improve facilitation.

As we move forward into the next workshops, I want to push the participants further in their theatre skill and storytelling development, using an exchange of personal narratives in the creation of drama. It is my hope that at the end of our project we will have some scenes to share with an audience of family members and students.

Each student designed an activity for next week’s session and I helped them stitch the activities together. I will be involved less and less in the planning and facilitation process as the weeks continue.

Their students’ workshop for next week (theme: fashion) is really fantastic. I can’t wait to see how it works.

Because this project is my Fulbright capstone project, the students are being interviewed, photographed, etc during this process. They are also keeping personal journals about their experience in this work.

The following are some quotes from the students’ project participation journals from the first two sessions:

I hope that I can share some love with these elderly too. To let them know that they are not alone.

I always had the impression the elderly would be temperemental [sic] and grouchy sometimes, but all of them looked cheery and eager. This really lifted my spirits after school and made me more enthusiastic.

I am definitely eager to know more about Uncle Hway and Uncle Zhong, and for them to open up to me more, and that I would really develop empathy and greater respect for the elders.

What really touched me was the care they show to us students, waving and greeting us.

It’s really the joy I get from these simple sessions that I will never forget.

Theatre change works both ways, it changes both the group of facilitators and ‘audience,’ even if we ‘planned.’

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