10 days. Just 10 days. My latest visit to Isha Home School lasted just 10 days, but in that short time I not only interacted with a great range of the students and teachers at Isha, but I learned a great deal about history and literature. I made the visit this time to follow up on my 2014 trip.
The greatest joy of those ten days was reengaging with both students and teachers. Many teachers chose to participate in a two session workshop, which extended and enhanced the workshops offered in 2014. Since several of the teachers were repeating the experience, they proved to be more confident participants and enthusiastically embrace the drama-based pedagogy, since they were more familiar and had already have a chance to experience how such drama work enhanced student learning. In addition, I was able to present several more demonstration sessions in a range of classes, sessions that successfully showed how engaged the students could be, how the drama strategies helped deepen student discussions and comprehension and how every student demonstrated high levels of achievement through the drama learning experiences.
When working with the students, I had the great fortune of reaching a true milestone in my own work. In 2014, I worked with many of the then 8th standard students. In this current trip I once again worked with those same students, now 9th standard, in both literature and history classes. For me, this meant that I worked with this particular group of students more times than I have with any other class of students, anywhere. When I shared this information with the 9th standard students, they broke into applause, and seemed to relish the uniqueness of our time together.
As the ten days slowly passed, many students approached me along the pathways of Isha, asking when and/or if I was going to return to their class for more drama experiences. Just as the teachers witnessed the success of student learning through the drama sessions, the students felt the joy and immediacy of the learning. As one student noted, “Drama helped take a subject that can be a little dry to study and made it more exciting and interesting.” As one teacher noted, “Suddenly, a day after the drama session, the students showed more interest in our reading class then they have before.”
I have to admit, though, that for me, my short time with the Theatre TED group was a true highlight. That small group of students participated in a cold reading of a new play I wrote in honor of the Isha drama teachers (Swami Ekapada, Anandhi and Amishi). The small group of six students (and two teachers) did a superb job bringing to life nearly 50 different characters! And their unbridled joy about the play made me feel quite good, as I always hoped that Isha students would get a chance to read the play, as I had written it with them in mind. Even before we finished reading the manuscript, the students were asking if they could perform the play. In our second session, we stage a few scenes to both help me better understand the play and to engage them deeper in character development and creative expression. The staging experience made them desire even more the possibility of performing the play. There can be no better validation for a playwright.
When you add all of these experiences to celebrating the new year at the school and having an evening’s meal under the stars with the student body, this short visit to Isha was almost a home-coming of sorts. It’s a great experience to visit a place like Isha Home School, but it is much more satisfying to extend relationships with the people of Isha.
I walked away enriched because I felt as though I had enriched many during my brief 10 day adventure.
Daniel A. Kelin, II has served as Director of Drama Education at Honolulu Theatre for Youth since 1987 and was President of the American Alliance for Theatre and Education from 2011-13. A nationally recognized Master Teaching Artist in Drama/Theatre, Dan is on the National Teaching Artist roster of the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington DC. Dan holds an MFA in Child Drama from the University of Hawaii and serves as a consultant and trainer nationally and internationally. A Fulbright-Nehru Senior Research Scholar in Education and an award-winning writer, Kelin presents regularly at conferences across the globe and has been providing professional development for teachers in the US and internationally for over 20 years.