After three weeks of getting acquainted with a new organization and new place, we finally kicked off our first Building Community Through Drama residency this week! It felt so good to be back in the classroom working with young people, and this residency is already stretching me in new ways as a teaching artist. Teaching the same 50-minute lesson to 15 different classes in four days is a brand new challenge. The energy and rhythm of it is different from any of my other teaching experiences. As we wrap up the first of the five weeks we will be spending at the Steger 6th Grade Center in Webster Groves, I want to share some of the big lessons that this new experience is teaching me:
Keep it fresh. When you are teaching the same lesson as many times as we are in this residency, making sure to really re-start the lesson for each new class is a challenge. We are reflective artists, so we are inevitably going to be tweaking and assessing our teaching techniques as we go. But it’s easy to forget that even though it may be our fourth time leading a particular activity that day, it’s the FIRST time these students have gotten to try it. Remembering that it is new information for them helps us keep it fresh and make sure each group receives the full experience of the activity.
Have fun! “If you’re not having fun, then your students are not having fun.” This was the theme of my day today! When the Chatty McChattersons of a class are yet again pulling my focus (and the class’) in the third or fourth class of the day, I get real crabby real fast. I become fixated on the negative and distracting behavior instead of staying engaged and having fun within the lesson. I forget to have fun. But energy, enthusiasm and genuine excitement can be one of the most effective ways to draw someone into an activity.
Teach in the moment. I really had to check myself with this one today. More than once, I reminded myself to react to what THIS group is doing. At one point today during a non-verbal activity, I told the group, “You are going to be extra tempted to talk and use words during this next part, but resist that temptation. Try to solve the problem non-verbally.” A valid reminder, but the timing was wrong. I was way ahead of the lesson. The students had a more potent experience of the activity without that kind of preparation. It’s almost like spoiling it. Let them discover the victories and challenges that come up in each activity. Then, when it actually DOES happen (whether you predicted it or not), notice it and unpack each challenge together.