Last week our ASH students in grades 9 and 11 attended workshops conducted by the Theatre of Entanglement group. Specializing in theater education in schools, this group runs active participation workshops that apply theater to deal with difficult issues such as substance abuse, sexual consent, bullying, and mental health. This year at ASH, they looked at the issues of anxiety and dealing with the pressure of social media with our students.
The Theatre of Entanglement facilitators and actors create a safe and open environment, where students feel comfortable sharing and they are encouraged to speak their minds whilst also being respectful of the opinions around them. We spoke with one of the group’s members, Eli, and he shared his thoughts on the week and how, as parents, you can best support your children dealing with anxiety and the pressure of social media.*
What do these workshops involve?
The workshops involve two important modes of theater to facilitate open discussions about these themes of anxiety and the pressure of social media. One mode being the participatory games ‘Red Socks’ and ‘Opinion Line’ - the aim of these being to open up dialogue between students, encourage a safe space of sharing and to demonstrate and consider how others might be feeling about a certain issue. The second mode is forum theater, where the intention is to create a fictional scenario that closely mirrors reality. All students in the workshop, as audience members and participants, are responsible for making choices and developing the scene to work through the scenario.
How have our ASH students responded to these workshops and discussed these issues?
Through the work and theater in these workshops, the students have shared openly and trusted one another with their opinions. It is interesting to see in an activity such as ‘Opinion Line’ - where students have to respond to a statement such as “Is social media a force for good” - how students feel about this and how what they share, can change other student’s minds or reaffirm their own positions.
How can parents in our ASH community support their students following these workshops and with these issues of anxiety and pressure of social media?
We saw a recurring theme in the workshops, that parental pressure to succeed was weighing heavily on many students. It is important that an open dialogue is established with these students - which is of course far easier as an outsider coming in to establish, as there is no history or attachments and we’ll likely never meet again. For parents, a lot of trust and understanding is needed - this is a digital-first generation and they often feel misunderstood by adults as they did not grow up with social media. However, by having open and honest conversations (and identifying this), without judgments, this will encourage further sharing and building on the learnings from our workshops.
*We would like to note, that the group takes student privacy incredibly seriously and in our discussion with Eli, he only shared general themes and situations from the workshops. He did not identify individual students.