While teaching English at Southend High School for Girls, I volunteered to work with interested students on developing a theatre piece combining monologues discussing teenage life that had been written by some of my US students with their own views of growing up in the UK. The teaching schedule in an English secondary school restricted times when we could meet, so lunch-break seemed to be the only time. The writing began as “British-English” and “American-English” began to combine. There were not only experiential differences, but also ones involving the meanings of words. As simple a word as “chips,” for example, differs in meaning between the two countries.
I felt that the resulting script was successful and worthy of production, and it seemed to me that the ideal way of presenting it was to try to arrange a student exchange after I returned to the US. As a result, in the autumn of 1997, students and chaperones from Southend-on Sea arrived in Boston and were transported to Cohasset, Massachusetts, where they met the parents of some of my students who were going to provide housing for them during their visit. They visited classes at my high school and, together, the two groups presented the play. The resulting interaction was so successful that a trip for my students to Southend-on-Sea followed the next spring. The following year, my theatre group presented the play that resulted from this joint effort in the state drama festival to great success.
There has been one long-term result from my Fulbright Teacher Exchange. One of my Southend writers and actresses has gone on to theatrical success as a playwright. She has published three plays that have had productions throughout the UK, Europe, and the US. I was fortunate to see one of her plays in Washington DC, and my wife and I have met up with her in London.
Ronald Emmons – Fulbright to United Kingdom 1996-1997