Friday, February 3, 2012

Arna's children

I stumbled across this on the Ramallah Rugby Club's facebook page - al Am'ari exiles. It's a feature length documentary Arna's children. I am pretty amazed, and disturbed, by the homevideo footage of these boys growing up in Jenin, a town I led a workshop at two weeks ago. It was the only place I heard the sound of Israeli artillery / bombs going off, down the valley (training exercises I am told). The teachers were completely unphased and called it normal.

In the video below the tale begins by focusing on the Arna, a Jewish, cancer victim, zionist fighter, communist theatre / community leader mother, who marries a Palestinian. In this gradually unfurling story we see how she tries to channel refugee children's suffering through theatre and art. Many of the children in the film are innocent 8-10year olds who go on to die fighting the Israeli occupation, or as suicide bombers as part of the al-Aqsa Intifada (see 21.30-22.30mins).

What initially just struck me from an education perspective was (at around 16mins) the boys in their psycho-drama session act out a scene from their school English class. In this scene 'the teacher' beats the kids for not standing when he enters the classroom. The kids lack of discipline continues as they get struck again for not knowing the alphabet... Have a watch and see what you think...

It made me wonder about the role of discipline in schools, and particularly in the language classroom. A lot of the teachers who I work with are concerned about this aspect, particularly pre-service teachers. This week we were focusing on the benefits of positive reinforcement and praise, at Hebron University,among other things, but I wonder to what extent this has been individuals experiences. What upset me (from a 'teaching and learning'perspective)in the above clip is that the teacher didn't teach anything, just started off by testing and then punished the kids for not knowing. Okay, these kids aren't pedagosists, but they understood their was an issue with their treatment. It's also noteworthy that it was English class, but the only English spoken is: "good morning".

The complexities of this film are massive, you have a female Jewish matriarch and her Jewish, Israeli sons working with young Palestinian boys. The boys find an outlet through the freedom theatre project, but were initially very suspicious of Arna and her family. I wonder to what extent this is the case for teachers I work with: how trusting are they of me? The relationships I have with most of the teachers I work with is usually too brief, and there's not alot of time for 'getting to know each other' building trust, or socialising. I think this social element, rapport, all takes time.

It's a tragedy, in which everyone dies. Jules, the narrator in much of the movie and theatre director was also killed last year Despite the tragic deaths of many involved the symbolic theatre lives on.

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