Sunday, March 06, 2005

Field Trip Fun

Sorry folks.

No I haven’t fallen off the end of the earth, it just seems that way.

I’m not entirely sure why, either. Possibly because I feel guilty bringing my boring life into print, so I try to wait for exciting bits. Recently, however, reading some other blogs on the RAOK ring, I’ve come to realize that the blogs I love most are the ones where everyday normal life IS the exciting bit. SO, I am endeavouring, for the next month, to blog on a daily basis. I make no promises as to quality, not even knitting content, but blog I shall.

So….what’s happened since last we spoke? OH! I rounded up all of my Grade 9 Drama students and took them to see Holy Body Tattoo at the National Arts Centre. We saw a show called “monumental”. Here is some needed background, for those of you just tuning in. The school at which I teach houses the poorest students in the city. More than half are first generation Canadians or brand new immigrants, generally from Africa and the Middle East. I absolutely adore the school, the staff, and generally everything about the place. We always seem to turn weaknesses into strengths, and this show was no exception.

For most of the students, this was their first time ever seeing live performance. For all but 3, it was their first time to the NAC (a very impressive edifice). For every single one, it was their first time seeing modern dance. Thus some…preparation…seemed necessary. First, I had to explain how very very impressive it was that we had this opportunity. I did this by introducing the idea of a field trip, and then asking my class if, in their estimation, they could behave up to the very high standards require…with some help, of course. They discussed the matter and decided two things. First, that getting out of school for a morning was DEFINITELY worth ten dollars, and that the few who couldn’t afford it might be able to borrow money and pay back slowly. (NB. The school actually covers a few of these kids regularly, but we never mention that in class. The funding is for the “very poor”, so most of our kids, who are merely “poor” don’t qualify.)

Second, that they would indeed like to learn theatre manners, and that the few who didn’t really want to learn would acquiesce if only to get out of school. Fair enough.

So we looked at dance. We looked at communicating without words. We figured out ways that we could communicate using multimedia to add to dance (a projector and a CD player). Then we practiced our “boredom busters”. For those of you not teachers, if you place 20+ young teens into a theatre, out of school, they will talk. Then they will pass notes. Furthermore, they will attempt to do so in a manner that is so pathetically sneaky that it is completely impossible to ignore. I explained this to my class. They disagreed. I pointed out much evidence to support my theory. They finally admitted that I was correct. Then I introduced the boredom busters.

A boredom buster is a mental game that can be played without moving or changing one’s expression. They each came up with several of these, and we practiced them.

The day came. We took the city bus to the theatre. Halfway there, I thought I was going to have a difficulty. One of my less well-behaved boys stood up, followed by his buddy, and both moved towards the front door. As the bus came to a stop, I judged whether I could run along the bus corridor and grab the boys before they took off. I took one step, and then a second, and then stopped sheepishly as my two boys helped a mother carry a stroller onto the bus and stood so that she’d have seating.

Into the theatre we trotted, with nary a second to lose, as the city bus had been late. The NAC had been very kind to us, and given us discounted tickets…but in the highest balcony. On my way up the stairs, I heard the first of my students turn the final corner, look at the theatre and gasp “Miss got us into the penthouse! WOW! Look!” I love these kids.

During the performance, my students were silent. Not “I’m in terror” silent. These kids were entranced. We’d already discussed the fact that dance communicates to your emotions, so figuring it out involves paying attention to how you feel, not what you think.
At no point did any student so much as wriggle, not once during over an hour of very high level modern dance did I have to quell a whisper, or glare. Whoops, I lied. At one point, a student leaned over to me and asked, of the Grade 12 audience below “Don’t they know that when they talk like that, they’re interfering with the communication?”

The bus ride home required us to walk through a shopping mall, at 11:30 am, past the food court, to catch a bus that the kids are familiar with. I didn’t lose one kid. I was so impressed, that I gave them a little leeway. Since we had our class right after lunch, and the bus ride was cutting into their lunch period, I’d give them a ten minute window after the bell, so that they had time to get food and eat. Furthermore, they could, one time only, eat in class as we discussed the show.

When the ball rang, every single kid was at the classroom door, waiting. Moreover, the class discussion was not only interesting, it was insightful. At one point during the show, three pairs are dancing together. One member in each pair falls to the ground, and what follows looks disturbingly like a sexual assault. The first pair has a male crouching over a female who is trying to escape. The second pair is two women in the same position. The last pair has the female on top. One young man’s comment: “When I saw the guy on top of the girl, I wanted to protect her. When I saw the two girls, I wanted to watch, and when I saw the girl on top, I wanted to laugh. Miss, do you think that the dancers were trying to point out how we treat bad things differently depending on who’s involved?”

Altogether a rewarding event.

Tune in tomorrow, when I continue to catch you up on the joy of being me.

PS. That baby blanket? Still not finished. 28 rows left.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds like not only a wonderful dance performance, but also a great class. I'm so glad you shared with us.

Glad you're back. Missed you.

11:40 p.m.  

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