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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XIX: the Classroom edition

The session is ending, which is both shocking and welcome. The past couple days have been incredibly intense for me, feeling disconnected and navigating the complicated social culture that is this place. I have a hard time with keeping up with a social life that occursin large groups, especially when I don't feel particularly connected to anyone. Beyond that, the culture of traveling in groups and drinking is something I think I've outgrown and, therefore, sometimes results in me feeling isolated.

The honeymoon period is definitely over, and the end of the session has brought a LOT of work. Evaluations for everyone I work with, evaluations the kids filled out for me in both my classes and my dorm group. Final presentations to prepare for and facilitate tomorrow, final meetings with curriculum advisors, planning for next session, which begins on Sunday, preparing for the students' departure, which happens Saturday. It feels like three more weeks of this is just too many.

And I still miss my bed.

Having survived three weeks of teaching, as I actually have, I thought I'd take some time to write a bit about my classes.

Acting+Directing, which I teach first period during the week (9:10 to 10:20 AM) was a tough class to plan because I couldn't figure out how to get each kid to do be able to do both. The solution ended up being assigning them monologues and putting them in actor-director pairs to work on them. We spent our first week establishing a foundation of theater lingo, playing games and working with the text of a fairy tale to facilitate the understanding of certain words that I hoped would come up later in their processes. The second week was a week planned around exploring interesting texts (Angels in America, August: Osage County, and A Streetcar Named Desire, of all plays) to introduce rehearsal methods: exploring objectives, engaging physically, interpreting subtext, etc. This last week has been mostly focused on monologue rehearsal, in preparation for the performances that will happen tomorrow afternoon in front of a small audience.

The challenge in this class ended up being sure that their processes were not only working for them as both actors and directors but also that they were...good rehearsal processes. There was no feasible way for me to oversee 17 different processes, but I am hoping to do a better job of encouraging and fostering the skill of planning and creating rehearsals next session. It's always tricky to ensure that students of various skill levels are all engaged in positive ways, but I aim to try to engage individual students better next session as well. Luckily I have a great curriculum advisor in DR, and he has already worked very hard with me to make my teaching and classes better.

My improv comedy class (10:50 AM to 12 PM) was, obviously, a bit less structured, and I had a bit of challenging group. (I got several "she was too strict"s on my evaluations, which I don't necessarily take as an insult. The trick, though, is allowing the kids to have fun while also keeping them on track and not letting them steamroll me.) It's very easy to lose sight of actual concrete objectives and assessments in a class that can so quickly turn into "drama games," and I'm not sure I succeeded in avoiding that fate. Mostly, kids just wanted to play the games they know and love. They were often VERY resistant of what my plans were. Frankly, I'm not sure I satisfied or honored their great need to PLAY. I think I planned a good, structured, intelligent class, but I need to be sure to draw my carefully laid out plans back to the objectives of creating full scenes, telling stories, and analyzing why we think certain things are funny, at the same time as honoring what they already know and allowing them to contribute to the class in those ways.

There is currently a HUGE thunderstorm outside, and I am very excited to fall asleep to it. The next couple days are going to be exhausting, as the students move out early Saturday morning, we clean the campus as efficiently as we can and then get ready for move-in on Sunday. I need a nap just thinking about it.

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