21 Sep, 2016
10 : 00
With the commencement of the Yew Chung International School of Beijing’s 2016-17 academic year, the school has welcomed a number of new teaching professionals to further enhance the learning experience of students. We spoke with new Performing Arts teacher Annette Atkins about her love of and experience teaching the subject as well as the myriad of benefits the Performing Arts brings to students.
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Annette Atkins and I’m the new Performing Arts teacher at YCIS Beijing. I’m originally Scottish, although I lived in New Zealand for quite a number of years. I spent much of my teaching career there, teaching there for 26 years. I had the opportunity to come to Beijing in 2014 which I seized and haven’t looked back!
What are some of your interests outside of school?
I’m very involved in the Scottish society here in Beijing. I’ve been with the society for a couple of years, helping to organize the Scottish Ball and various events. The Scottish Ball happens at the end of November at the China World Hotel and features a wide variety of Scottish culture. They bring in a band from Scotland and invite everyone to participate in Scottish dance onstage. I organize workshops for free in advance of the ball so that attendees can practice in advance; that way they can dance on the night and not look too silly! The Scottish society is very intent on keeping people interested in the society in the lead-up to the Ball rather than it being a one-off event. Kids tend to love it, so be sure to bring your kids! I’ll be doing a bit of this Scottish dancing with my students this year as well.
In addition to the Scottish society, I love hiking and am very involved in the Urban Hikers here in Beijing. Of course, I also have two lovely boys based in New Zealand whom I love very much. While they don’t work in the Performing Arts as a full-time job, they’re both involved in bands which gives them an outlet for performance!
What inspired you to be a PA teacher?
I was originally trained in Physical Education in university in Scotland, but my focus was on the artistic aspects of movement. However, I have had a great love of dance for my whole life. When I was younger, I took all kinds of dance classes, from ballet to tap to ballroom, and so on. However, it wasn’t until college that I discovered I had a flair for the creative side of the art. I taught GCSE dance in my first teaching job, then was involved in a dance in education program, where we assisted in implementing dance curriculum at schools around the country.
What is the best part about your job?
I love teaching Primary School students! Working with younger kids is always challenging because you have to be very structured in what you’re doing; their attention span isn’t quite what the older students are like. You have to be patient. You have to give them more time to internalize and get ideas together. You also have to break all your instructions down into smaller parts for them to understand.
Despite these challenges, younger minds are more prepared to explore ideas with us. Secondary students already have blinkers on and are already worried about what everyone thinks. Primary students, however, are prepared to get down on the floor and turn their bodies into all sorts of interesting shapes. They’re more likely to be explorative in their learning.
What benefits does the Performing Arts programme offer students?
The Performing Arts opens students’ minds. It expands and enhances their creativity and allows them to play and learn through exploration. Students also get a real sense of what it means to work collaboratively with each other. There’s no barriers like desks or tables between students; they’re surrounded by each other. These skills of creativity, exploration, and collaboration are all skills that are essential for students to acquire.
What exciting productions can we look forward to this fall at YCIS Beijing?
The Secondary School musical this year is Legally Blonde. There’s a lot of choreography so I’ll be helping students out with that aspect of the preparation. It’s very much an all-around arts showcase and should be a fantastic performance. We will be releasing more details later in the fall!