Category Archives: International Education

New Year, My 2017-18 Reflective Teaching Journal

It’s a new year!

Hey! It’s a new year, my third year at ISG Jubail School in Saudi Arabia teaching DRAMA full time and we’re moving towards implementing the IB program in 2018.

I have been chosen to deliver the IB Theatre course, and am working hard to prepare for this and also align my curriculum downwards into the unofficial MYP program of drama and theatre studies, and junior high drama which would constitute grades six to eight drama. Got that? Yes? I’m busy…about to become busier.

What I’ll be teaching

My teaching load consists of 5 ‘preps’ or subjects (Drama 6, 7, 8, 9-10 and 11-12) plus advance planning for IB Theatre 1 and 2 (Grades 11-12) to start in 2018. That is a lot by most teachers’ standards.

But the beauty is, I run my own program. I create it. I shape it. I have the personal control that as an English teacher for twenty years I did not have. I truly cherish my job and role here at this school.

My mission (as charged by our school principal who was raised by a drama teaching mom) is to ‘make this the most outstanding drama program on the east coast of Saudi Arabia’. Why? To serve our somewhat isolated ISG community here in Jubail (the largest oil industrial city in the world) by delivering and engaging our community in a unique blend of performances with my colleagues in the Fine Arts Department. As part of that, it is to increase the appreciation of theatre and performance, and I’m sure that list of goals will grow (hey! I might have to make a list).

As Head of Innovation for Fine Arts across the district at ISG (International Schools Group, arguably one of the best international school providers in KSA), I hope to continue to promote the cross collaboration of our programs with other schools. As a district, we are re-aligning our overarching strategic goals, and innovation is a key priority. In-school, this year, we have a focus on Assessment and re-designing our policies and systems around that and the coming IB program.

What else is going on this year?

Additionally, there is an ISTA (International School Theatre Association) training for middle school students in Jeddah’s KAUST School. I hope to encourage my students to attend and participate with me.

We have the unique problem of security in the Kingdom, and compete – it seems – with the love of sports. Parents don’t want their children traveling too far or often, and priorities aren’t necessarily drama. Creating compelling reasons for students to go and for parents to allow them to is still part of my mandate for this program.

Finally, I am working with my colleague, the band teacher, to take a group of Grade 8 students to Thailand on our Week Without Walls (WWW) trip focusing on circus skills and cultural exchange with the hill tribe children outside of Chiang Mai.

Within our own fine arts department, we are working to groom students towards a readiness to participate in a school musical (for the future).

My professional interests as a drama teacher and what I know and am learning now

Specifically, I was trained as a young drama education student in popular (social action) theatre and the work in community theatre activist and director Augusto Boal. Like most North American teachers, I was also trained in the modern method of acting by Augusto Stanislavkski, which is the basis from which my senior high students start to engage with script for realistic performance.

In 2016, my training in eastern acting and theatrical methods began when I attended the EARCOS teaching conference in Manila, thanks to my school’s investment in me. The focus was on Butoh (Japanese theatre) and Suzuki’s methods. I was also introduced to gesture, body language and the essential building blocks for devised theatre as it’s known in IB (in my day, we called it ‘collective creation’ or that may just be a Canadian term). I was exposed to the exciting work of Frantic Assembly – a theatre company out of the UK – as everyone kept talking about them, and this ignited my love of physical theatre, which I trialled with students last year.

In 2017, I trained in Dubai with Annie Sutton who co-wrote Theatre In Practice and who brought the methods of Brecht, Lecoq and Berkoff to my attention. Annie will return in 2018 to Dubai, and I will attend her fantastic follow-up course both to learn more but also to connect with other like-minded, aspiring drama teachers!

I’m continuing to develop my own exposure to these companies, practitioners, world theatre traditions and the plays and methods for devising that fundamentally teaches actors and student actors how to view drama and theatre through the lenses of both the disciplines but the reasons for engaging in theatre altogether at the level of society.

Coming full circle, then, I’m pleased to be teaching from a socially conscious and conscientious place. It is my fundamental aim to grow global citizens with a heart and mind capable of dealing with the concerns of our 21st Century world…filled with strife, conflicting interests and the need for balance and leadership.

I’m sure the district’s and our school’s language and goals will embed more into my writing as we re-create ourselves together, professionally.

The value of professional development is the development of professional learning networks

Collaboration and learning can occur even across the distance; it revolutionizes thinking for teachers and that revolutionizes education for students. – Lorelei Loveridge

I am currently collaborating with one teacher from that group (based in Dubai) and another met in Manila (teaching in Mumbai). Both of these people are already teaching IB Theatre, and we share resources digitally, swap ideas and build on each others’ strengths.

I have learned and can note here that most teachers are not willing to share to that degree or work that closely together, but I value this and believe in it, and that is a result of my work at Qatar Academy and the Qatar Foundation, which I loved (2010-12) and which fundamentally changed me as a teacher and person.

This was where I became truly 21C in my approach to education. Under outstanding leadership, this is also where I came into my own capacity as a middle leader (Community & Service Coordinator and head of Personal and Social Education) in the organization and also began to undertake post graduate studies in IT and educational leadership concurrently with my now finished Master’s of Business Management degree.

QA exposed me to the ideas of ‘learning organizations’ and ‘professional learning networks’. I learned about digital networks and so much more. This completely revolutionized my entire view of how I work (digitally vs. paper, mostly) and share my resources with students and other teachers. I share my resources freely, easily and openly provided there is reciprocity. It’s perplexing to me when I meet others who don’t see the value in this.

Fundamentally, I’m open source rather than protectionist in my thinking, as I believe education is a human right for all and information in the digital age should flow freely. I take this view from two tech gurus I studied under: Wesley Fryer out of the US and Alec Couros out of Canada.

My production schedule for 2017-18 and how this has evolved from the work of the past two years

This year my extra-curricular drama program will consist of at least two scripted one-act performances.

Last year and the year before, I directed one show a year, and produced two others from in-class work for the sole purpose of promoting engagement to all of the drama students – rather than to devote energy only to the few who gravitate to drama.

The goal was to root out the cliques that had formed around the arts and to expose many more students to the potential of this program by exposing more students (1/4 of the whole upper school) to performance, and to bring in their parents to watch them…and their friends, too. (I will blog about this another time.)

Last year, the program evolved from a collective creation in the first year, with a fairy tales night and finally a scripted double act play to a collective creation with all drama students (again) plus a one act and short-short play festival featuring the in-class scripted work of the high school students.

It was a success, particularly because this was combined with the in-school ‘Academy Awards’ run by the senior students who took this on as a service project.

This year, I’m shifting the emphasis to more teacher-directed pieces, and will be attempting to get more of our sports-motivated students to consider trying a part in a play). In class work will be presented through school assemblies and online. I will endeavor to delight the world with more posted pieces about process and final performances online. The student short-short play festival with in-house ‘Academy Awards’ will continue. I think we’ve started to embed a new tradition that kids say they love: recognition, they say, goes a long way. The things you learn.

Why I’m going to keep a teaching blog this year and what I’ll be focused on

I thought I would start keeping a daily teaching blog about the things I’m learning as I learn them, for life flies by and before you know it all is done, gone and forgotten. I’m starting my 27th year of teaching, and I am driven to go more deeply than ever into my work.

Anthony Robbins once said, “If your life is worth living, it’s worth recording.”

In the interests of learning more, and being a better practitioner, perhaps veering towards leadership or counseling or both at some point in the not too distant future (though I did say I could easily put in another 10 years into international teaching…it’s highly rewarding), I’m going to blog about the following:

  • lessons learned in managing stress and workload while in startup at a new school
  • mindfulness in education
  • lessons learned through ‘teachable moments’
  • drama and theatre, of course!
  • different pedagogical theories and ideas that I come across
  • leadership and inspiring leaders

That should be more than enough to keep this interesting.

I hope you’ll subscribe and enjoy the read. Drop a note if anything provokes a thought.



Music as a Teaching Modality

Now, I want to go to this school! (Teacher envy.)

Ziauddin Yousafzai speaks out against the Taliban massacre of children

What an incredible sadness regarding the massacre in a Pakistani school yesterday. Listening to Malala’s father talk about it on the BBC today…made me cry in the car this morning just before walking into my school.

This is what he said:

It is good to have courageous people speak. They suffer for it, but it is good that the world has them. Thank you to Malala and her father Ziauddin Yousafzai for standing up for the education of all children, regardless of their circumstances. Education is the only hope there is to stop such senselessness from happening again.

What a modern national campaign for education looks like – Qatar’s example

Why don’t more countries get it…and do it? Promotion of education is a national and international imperative. My former employer, the Qatar Foundation, established by the former Emir of Qatar and Her Highness, is a state of the art example of how to make education exciting. Link it to research and community development and you have the perfect equation.

And, yes, I was a proud member of the QF family. It’s changed me as an educator, profoundly, forever.

An educational campaign for the 21st Century ~ Qatar Foundation
An educational campaign for the 21st Century ~ Qatar Foundation