LaidLaw Final Reflective Report
In summer two, I take the option of conducting an in-field application of my discoveries from last summer. It is done through this whole July in Ba’Chuan International School in Chongqing City, China where I design and preside an educational theatre-making programme for ten kids of the secondary school. They are taught the artistic principles and methods of my ‘game theatre’ with which they take charge of a production project to make a show of their own. Thanks to it my academic and practical leadership are greatly improved.
- What do I learn from last summer: a good leader learns from retrospection
It is key to prepare fundamental theories and pedagogy when I design the programme and they come from a careful distillation of the discoveries of last summer. They prove that it is very difficult to produce a ‘game theatre’ piece but it is possible to use some of its working principles for pedagogic purposes. With an in-depth re-examination of the reflective reports and other stored materials from last summer, a systematic teaching model is created. Though for a good leader and artist, retrospection never stops because there are always inspirations waiting for digging in the past. To polish my model, I continue to revisit materials from my schoolwork and working experience beyond my Laidlaw journey - all sorts of design portfolios, for example. Some contribute to clarifying the rationales of my teaching model consolidating it and some become the teaching content. The retrospection process is very fulfilling because one imperceptibly stands high to see the panorama over-viewing the paths one has taken.
- Locating a partner: leader’s networking and decision making
Networking is indispensable for a leader when it comes to accessing the necessary resources you need to accomplish your goals and at this early but significant stage, a leader must dare to make difficult decisions. My in-field application consists in exploring new possibilities of theatre education in formal education systems that refer to socially recognized schools. However, they do not open their gates to anybody from outside. This is when you need to network. Firstly, I list the institutions I intend to reach to do the teaching. I decide to reach international schools because the kids there are more studying out of interest and passion for diverse educational experience. Arts study is an important component of it.
Then I list the people I know who might be able to bridge me and my targets. I have some friends who manage to introduce me to two private international schools. The first school is not very enthusiastic about my proposal and insists that if the programme is launched there their students must be named the ‘launcher’ instead of me because I am not one of the school but an outsider (though I am still recognized the owner and leader of it). I swallow all of these in order to make my programme land in time - this is what a leader needs to be capable of, i.e., to get things done while containing self-esteem if necessary. But when after a week there is no good publicity for it, I turn to the other school immediately. It is a decisive move and great learning. Network hard to access resources you need but don’t overvalue it when you must move on. The key is to get things done. It turns out the other school (the Ba’Chuan International School) takes this more seriously. I meet its vice president and she gives me a chance to talk in the main hall of the school to the students about my proposal. Many of them enrol on the spot and a wonderful dance studio is granted to me with other requirements of my research met. I am grateful to the school and also proud of myself who can act swiftly for the right things, which greatly strengthens my confidence as a leader.
- Teaching Teenagers: Empower Your Crew
I learn a lot about how to become a good leader when I lead the kids from the school (they are my students but mostly we feel more like co-workers collaborating to produce performances) and the first one is empowering your crew. Extraordinary leaders in history are those who are not afraid to share leadership to stimulate people’s initiative and creativity. This comes from one of the theatre-making principles of my research that deconstructs the traditional director-centred hierarchy and encourages everyone to contribute and lead dynamically the devising process. Behind the principle appears again the ‘get-the-job-done’ logic. Empowered crew will thank their leader for impressive efficiency and quality.
I empower my students both in and out of the class. For example, before the class begins, I appoint one of the students to help me instruct others to arrange the classroom for today’s teaching and then lead the warm-ups to prepare for the class. During the class, especially as I move quickly from me speaking to collective theatre-making, I choose some of them to be directors to lead while I sit aside watching. I only jump out from time to time to point out what is fundamentally going wrong (of course, there must be a nice balance and I have to trust my students/crew from the bottom of my heart). As result, the young students never fail to amaze me with their ingenious pieces of performance. As the head leader I make sure these works are dramaturgically (fundamentally) delivering the right messages but how they look on stage is up to the kids. This principle of leadership also shapes my understanding towards theatre education that should encourage students to spend more time with their classmates to make works and then present to teachers. This is when they learn and get inspired by their peers. It teaches them to listen to others, express their own ideas, and be modest and eclectic.