As 2018 comes to a close, we sat down with five Shanghai teachers to talk about the year ahead and delve into an element of their college program. They tell us about developments for 2019 and how they encourage all students to embrace the opportunities that will prepare them for the world after graduation.
This week, we have a chat with Timothy Booth, who is the Head of Drama at Shanghai United International School (Gubei).
We understand you have a strong performing arts program at SUIS Gubei. Can you explain what differentiates it?
One of the contributing factors to the success of our arts program is the comprehensive support given by the school administration, which sees the performing arts as a priority. The arts have long been considered isolated subjects within schools; a stage-based activity with a sole purpose of entertainment. Our performing arts program is focused on building character, vital soft skills and enhancing students’ appreciation of global culture. We have access to state-of-the-art equipment, facilities and most importantly curriculum time. The staff of our Drama and Music departments are all experts in their fields and have professional experience within the performance industry.
What can your students look forward to as part of the program in 2019?
Our students are in for a blast! Our highlights this year in Drama include re-enacting Roman formations and battles, digital greenscreen technology, pitching ideas for the first interplanetary colonization effort, and making disaster documentaries. We also present two productions a year. This year's musical in December is the Broadway hit The Addams Family, and in April we will present an adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest. We have also incorporated dance into our curriculum. In music, all students are in an ensemble group, orchestra, choir or band, which perform in our regular art soirées, assemblies and jam sessions.
How do you believe the performing arts contribute to a students' holistic development?
The performing arts allow a student to have a voice and to express themselves in a way that is not strictly academic, but is as equally important to their development. Each time a student engages with any of the performing arts they improve their abilities and in turn their confidence. It teaches them the rewards of perseverance and prepares them with the skills to appreciate the world in far greater detail and depth. The Global Strategy Group stated that the most sought-after skills in new employees are problem-solving, collaboration, critical thinking and ease of communication; all skills that can be gained and developed through the performing arts.
How do you encourage students to wholeheartedly engage in the performing arts?
We have developed a culture where all students are engaged with the performing arts as part of their daily experience at our school, instead of isolated moments of nerve-wracking performance. It is used constantly as a form of communication, education and fun instead of the traditional recital. In their social time, students gather informally to make music in one of our many recording studios, while in lessons, teachers are encouraged to use drama to explore key concepts instead of traditional book work. As a result, our students relish the opportunity to perform when the times comes.
[All images via Shanghai United International School (Gubei)]
Timothy Booth is the Head of Drama at SUIS Gubei. Trained in England as a teacher specializing in the use of Drama within education, he advocates for its implementation in the classroom environment and has directed many Shakespearean plays adapted for a Chinese audience.