During my time as an Apprentice Resident Artist Educator at YPT, I got to observe many different settings where education takes place. I got to watch many different approaches to teaching and learning. I got to see many different children with diverse backgrounds learning how to interpret the world around them. Through the children’s interpretation, I noticed how eager they were to push their limitations, to widen their perspective.
In one instance, a group of young homeschoolers worked on a shadow puppet show based on a book called “The Fog” – a clever and whimsical environmental fable about a bird who is a human-watcher. The discussion with this group of young children about early activism, and the message that the first step to addressing a problem is acknowledging its existence, was just breathtaking. The children drew and cut out their own puppets, they helped in setting up the stage, they learned to speak on behalf of their characters, and by the time they performed the play in front of their parents, the twinkle in their eyes couldn’t go unnoticed.
While observing a session with a diverse group of newcomers at the Toronto Plaza Hotel, I got to know a little girl named Baran, which means “rain”. Her best friend was a girl from Yemen who could not understand a word Baran was saying to her, but was so concerned about her that she asked me if I could speak Baran’s language. Coincidentally, I could. So Baran told me that she has not learned to speak English yet, but loves drama. She said she loves drama so much that going to the weekly drama sessions at the hotel was the end goal of her entire week. In that session, the children, in pairs, shouted “hello” in as many languages as they knew. Their voices, so powerful, loud, proud and free, were all I could hear and think of for the rest of the week.
As part of the pre and post-show workshops at schools, I watched as students took part in drama games through which they explored the concepts of power, equality and respect. In celebrating the idea behind the show We Are All Treaty People, which they saw at YPT, children took part in discussing and sharing their points of view. In the beginning, some students were shy and reluctant to speak, while a few others were absent-minded or disengaged. However, by the end of the session I could hear them all laughing out loud and energetically discussing topics that were actually relevant to their lives. Witnessing this transformation was bliss.
As an ARAE, I learned a lot. I learned from the RAEs, and I learned from the children. From the RAEs I learned different approaches to teaching – what to change when things do not work out the way you planned, how to start a discussion and how to address an issue. From children, I learned how to be open-minded, how to be brave, how to take risks.
During my time at YPT, I learned how one person and one organization’s work can make an impact – how it can lead to a child saying out loud how she could do drama all day, and look forward every week to a very special day. Through drama education, I was reminded again of hope. Hope for a better future – a better future that is unimaginable without the arts.
Setareh has been working with socially-excluded children and women for the last ten years using different art mediums such as interactive theatre, drama and storytelling in search of social justice, harmony and inclusiveness. Having completed a Masters degree in Education from Oxford University, Setareh has worked with undocumented children in Iran, street children in Cambodia and refugee teenagers in the UK, trying to establish creative ways to transcend prejudice and raise critical consciousness. Setareh is thrilled about continuing her journey at YPT.