Earlier this year GETheatre core member, Ashley Olson, spent three months in Myanmar teaching at the Ayeyarwaddy International School.  Ashley introduced a group of  teachers to  GETheatre’s unique use of theatre and drama in the classroom. Hear what Ashley has to say about this fantastic new GETheatre program:

Theatre isn’t a word you hear a lot in Myanmar, especially in the context of education. I’ll admit that when I accepted a job teaching at a new American school in the controversial nation still known to most of the world as Burma I was nervous about how our theatrical approach to education would be received. On the first day of summer session classes, I taught my level 3 students (10-12 years old) and local teaching assistant two of my favorite warm ups: Shake Down and Magic/Energy Ball, both staples of the GETheatre curriculum. The students jumped right in and I could tell by the sheer energy in the room that I would have no trouble coaxing creativity from this population of students. I was excited to have seen GETheatre’s theatrical techniques in action with a new population of students, thrilled to have seen them work so well, and honored when I was asked to further share these activities with my teaching colleagues.

Teacher training has always been an important part of GETheatre’s work in India and East Africa, but the Myanmar teacher training was something different. Usually teachers are trained through observation and participation in our two-week English literacy and empowerment through theatre workshops with students. The request for teacher training in Myanmar required a new stand alone format.

There were over 40 people gathered in an oversized classroom at Ayeyarwaddy International School on March 14th for GETheatre’s first formal teacher training workshop. The visual impact of a group this large is significant, and I couldn’t help but think about the potential number of students that might experience GETheatre indirectly as a result of the workshop.

There were western teachers in attendance from the US, UK, and Canada, all of whom serve as lead teachers at the school, as well as administrators and at least 30 enthusiastic local Myanmar teachers’ assistants. With notebooks in hand there was seriousness in the air and it can be challenging to get a large group of people, especially adults, to play, but GETheatre’s philosophy is based on communicative, interactive, and creative learning. I told the participants, “I cannot just tell you, I cannot just show you, my aim is for you to experience the ideas I am offering today first hand as it will make all the difference when you bring these techniques into your classrooms.” Much like my students on the first day of class, the AIS teachers did not disappoint and the next three hours went by quickly. We covered a variety of games, activities and techniques, as well as variations and adaptations for different ages and content areas.

The energy and engagement in the room throughout the morning indicated the success of the workshop, but there was also an abundance of written and verbal feedback from participants. One excited teacher came up to me after class and referred to the material as “gold” and said he couldn’t wait to get into his classroom.

Check out what some other participants said:

“An enjoyable and (literally) stimulating morning, which has certainly provided much in the way of ideas for lessons and activities. . . I had a great time, thanks so much!”

“All the games are helpful for me. They [GETheatre activities] can get the students to be active, to have rich vocabulary, and to get creative thinking. Thank you!”

“I enjoyed the session and will definitely be able to use these with my class.”

“We had fun!”

“Some very helpful tools to use in the classroom, well done!”

“I got many good ideas for teaching. I am so happy. I must follow the games and activities like you. Thank you.”

“Your class has given me many new ideas and thus more confidence to deliver fun and interactive classes/lessons. You teach with great energy and enthusiasm. I am a fan!”

“I do love this program, I wish I could learn more from you.”

“The workshop was great. You gave me a lot of great ideas for stimulating the students’ imaginations. I feel a lot more comfortable getting into the classroom now. You had great energy.”

The Ayeyarwaddy International School is full of thoughtful and enthusiastic teachers. Thanks to all who participated and all of GETheatre’s supporters. With continued support, we hope to expand the teacher training program and I will look forward to working with Myanmar based teachers again in the future.

~Ashley Olson

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