Twenty-five secondary school teachers gathered at the Daphne Joseph-Hackett Theatre in Queen’s Park on Friday, May 10 for a professional development workshop catering to drama teachers, all part of the National Cultural Foundation’s (NCF’s) Drama in Schools Project, an ongoing developmental programme in place for the last few years.
When Theatre Arts was first established as part of the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) curricula, a number of the teachers were qualified in English with very little training or experience in the field of Drama/Theatre Arts. The Foundation, as part of its developmental mandate, assumed the task of providing that requisite support for students and teachers in secondary schools with CSEC Theatre Arts through the employment of five trained tutors in these schools.
The programme focuses on exploring the skills and knowledge key to the practice of theatre as an artistic discipline from the student’s perspective, while increasing and expanding the knowledge and skills base of the teachers charged with preparing these students for CSEC Theatre Arts examinations.
However, Theatre Arts is not just about curriculum development and examinations, but about confidence building, trust, an appreciation for our culture, and nationalistic/regional pride. It is about personal, curriculum and community development and it is against that backdrop that the NCF decided to take the programme a step further with the facilitation of Friday’s professional development day for drama teachers. It was led by two fantastic presenters – veteran drama educator and CSEC examiner, Cecily Spencer-Cross, and seasoned theatre professional, Varia Williams, who coached the teachers through hands on, interactive sessions providing strategies that could prove beneficial in their classrooms.
Alison Sealy-Smith the co-ordinator of the programme noted that the workshop was centred on this whole idea of play and how essential it is to our learning process. She added, “One thing that theatre arts can do is to keep that idea of play, that idea of curiosity, that idea of jumping into things and just doing it, that idea of team work, and of confidence building. We can use the theatre arts to do all that and that is what these teachers have been doing, they have been learning through play and sharing some of the challenges encountered, as well as their triumphs.”
Friday’s workshop was a testimony to the benefits of the NCF’s developmental programmes, providing a really good example of the effects of training the trainers. The workshop which ran from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. introduced participants to Drama Pedagogy and Caribbean Cultural Forms, in addition to the Basics of the Theatrical Process, Playmaking and Improvisation.