vendredi 13 novembre 2009

Yes, ok, I do like teaching

Ok, ok, I'll finally admit it: I like teaching. Not just to make an extra buck (tutoring), but just because I like it. That's the scoop.
With Touchstone, I'm involved in education programs where we use theatre as a learning tool. We are currently working with a group of middle-school and high-school kids who have various issues - psychological problems, not able to deal with authority, depression, stuff like that. They really seem to enjoy the course so far. They're responsive, and come up with very interesting ideas, thoughts and confessions. I think we definitely lucked out with our group this year, since all the kids are surprisingly cooperative, but I also think that it has a lot to do with the program's approach. Vicki, Touchstone's education coordinator, is a very calm and tolerant person, and she's the one who structured the course.
During the first few weeks, many theatre games are introduced to encourage group solidarity, listening and responding. Little by little, elements of acting and performance are incorporated in the program, allowing the kids to finally share their own creative works in a showcase at Touchstone theatre. The aim of the program is to get those kids to work together, to help them communicate with each other in a positive way.
By doing this, I'm realizing how important it is to give people - and kids in particular - a chance to express themselves, and a space where they can be taken seriously. And sometimes, school isn't the place where that's going to happen: because there are many kids in a class, there's a curriculum to follow, etc. That's why programs offered by people from the outside, like the ones Touchstone is offering, are so important. It's a way for society at large to say that it cares about these kids beyond the institutional structure of the school. It's also a way for kids to see that they are worthy and smart even if they're not getting good grades.
I wonder how this program would translate in a French school. I'm really very curious about that. Since the French system is so much stricter, so much more regimented, the kids would probably need a time of adaptation. They would have to be assured and reassured that it's okay to express their ideas, it's okay to get up on their feet to play silly games. They would also be told that the program wouldn't be graded, they wouldn't be judged.
I think that such a program would be very beneficial in a french setting, especially for the kids who feel rejected by the school system (and there are many!). There must already be some similar initiatives in France, in banlieue schools or elsewhere, but I'm just not aware of them. Getting information about stuff like that on the internet is not so easy. A lot of actors in Paris supplement their income by doing educational stuff, and also working in prisons, but I don't know how they actually get the jobs... I wonder if there's a structure that organises those missions, or if it's disorganised, "au petit bonheur la chance"... if someone knows something about this, feel free to comment!

3 commentaires:

Cyril a dit…

I think that Marie could answer you about this. She works with children in hospitals I think, and in other kind of environments. I'm sure she would be pleased to tell you more about this.

Anne Losq a dit…

Thanks, Cyril! Je pensais aussi à Marie, il faudrait que je lui demande. Hope you're doing well!

Christine a dit…

The Touchstone experience (communication is an act of working together to both speak and listen in positive, respectful ways) SHOULD be every child's school experience (and every child's home experience) and IS the experience of those children who have the great good luck of getting a truly professional teacher. In the school setting, this is called "creating a classroom community;" and good teachers do this before they ever begin to teach the curriculum, knowing that, without a classroom community, the hurdles of learning the curriculum become almost insurmountable. The Touchstone outread teaching style that you describe permeates the way a good teacher presents the curriculum, regardless of stresses and strains of what is imposed from above. A good teacher is always a bit subversive, of necessity, because every curriculum, no matter how good, has to be custom-tailored, day-in-day-out, to what students already know and what they are ready to tackle next. Unfortunately, there are too few truly good teachers. Unfortunately, there are too many children who are not listened to, who do not have an experience of conversation (even within their own families let alone in the classroom of a less than great teacher), and who, therefore, first have to learn how to be students. Outreach programs like those at Touchstone are wonderful because they model what is possible when children (yes middle schoolers and high schoolers are still children) trust themselves into the hands of talented professionals who know, understand, and practice the ART of teaching.
And a word about parents: a parent's first job is also that of a teacher; and very few people really understand this primary role of parenting. Teachers alone can rarely overcome the privations imposed on children by overworked, unresponsive parents.