Writing a late blog is becoming a bit of a theme with me recently! I think I am actually going to have to change my usual blog Monday to a different day as Game of Thrones is taking up a large chunk of my Monday evenings! Obviously, this is a sacrifice I am willing to make, as any Game of Thrones fan will agree, it is a very imperative part of the week at the moment!
Today I received some exciting news from West Midlands Children’s Theatre! I will be playing the role of Lady Hemlock in their Autumn tour of Dick Whittington! Very excited as I absolutely love playing strong character roles. Lady Hemlock is essentially an evil Queen type of character who has a very idiotic sidekick. I am really looking forward to bringing the character to life and becoming an evil woman over November and December. I have no idea who else I will be touring with, but I’m sure all will be revealed in due course.
Over the past two weeks I have been involved in a very interesting workshop experience. I have been teaching and assisting workshops for students aged 11 – 17 years from Taiwan! A mother of a child who used to attend PQA had arranged the workshops and set them up with myself and 3 other teachers from PQA. Over the two weeks between us we ran workshops in Drama, Physical Theatre and Film and Television.
The workshops have been an absolute eye opener concerning the differences cultures can make.
When we first met the students they were all very timid, reluctant to offer any thoughts and ideas and would absolutely not perform anything in front of others. It was as if the whole process was completely alien to them and probably rather terrifying. As the workshops progressed day by day, we really did begin to see the students open up and become more confident, which was very enjoyable to watch.
I’m not going to lie, but asking a group of students a question and receiving absolutely no response back is extremely difficult. I would ask a question and be received with blank expressions and a stiffness in body as if the students were afraid to speak and move. Little did I know, their response was due to a huge culture difference.
As the workshops progressed I got to learn an abundance about the Taiwanese schooling system from various things that the students began to open up about. They told me that their school day would begin at 7/8am and would finish at 5pm. They have 9 lessons a day! (I remember being at school and still being exhausted after having 5 lessons a day!) I also learned that they are absolutely not allowed to talk in their lessons and they only speak if the teacher directly asks them a question. They also do not put their hand in the air to answer questions either. Not only do they have these immensely long school days, but they arrive home with up to 4 hours worth of homework on top of that. Good grief. One of the students actually informed me that sometimes students fall asleep in lessons because they are just so exhausted and the teachers actually allow them to have a nap. Can you even imagine if we got caught sleeping in school! Absolutely mental.
I think for the students, coming to the UK and seeing the differences was a huge culture shock. When I told them about what it’s like to attend a British school, they couldn’t believe the difference. So for your children or future children, if they ever moan about going to school again, just inform them that they should be grateful that they don’t attend a school in Taiwan!
What I was utterly impressed with, was the level of English language skills that the students had. Especially when you take into account that some of the students were only 11 years old. They didn’t understand everything that we said to them and some words were completely new to them to read, but I thought their abilities were highly impressive.
I really do enjoy teaching anything performance based. I remember when I used to work as a Classroom Assistant before I went to University and the then Headteacher (as she has since retired) asked me, “Don’t you want to be a teacher, Emma? You would make such a great one.” I was very flattered by her comments and as much as I find teaching rewarding, I could never become a teacher full time as I wouldn’t be fulfilling my Acting ambitions and I would always feel very regretful about that. I do however, love having freelance teaching opportunities and flexibility.
The main goals and outcomes for the workshops were to improve the students’ English speaking abilities, presenting skills and confidence. I think as a group we definitely achieved this. By the end of the workshops the students were all able to get up in front of an audience and perform various scenes that they either read from a script or improvised themselves. It was really heartwarming to see the level of improvement the students had undergone from the beginning to end. Even the Taiwanese teachers commented on the improved confidence levels of nearly all of the students.
All in all, as difficult as the workshops were at the beginning, I had a really great few days and enjoyed working with the students. It was a challenging yet eye opening experience.
I unfortunately didn’t get any photos from the workshops, but when the workshops ended myself and the other teachers felt like mini celebrities as the students flocked around us asking for photos. Bless them.
As usual, a busy week or so for me! Honestly, my diary is very rarely empty, but I rather like it that way. Let’s see what’s coming my way in the next couple of weeks.