i have a question...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XXV: the New Day edition

I'm learning all kinds of things about time at this job. You can do so very many things in 10 minutes; it's sort of shocking. Today, for instance, I was running to Walgreens because I'm nearly out of shampoo, conditioner, floss, and lotion, but had a meeting with DR at 4. I was SURE I'd be late, but I wanted to get back to my room to drop my stuff off, grab my water bottle, fill it up, and then head to the meeting. I texted him that I wanted to run back to my room and might be late...but I wasn't. It was weird. A lot can be done in no time.

Anyway, the point is, today was a good day. (A good day here meaning I got through my lesson plans without screaming at anyone, I got a nap, I had good meetings, and I used my free time well.)

I'm trying to take it moment by moment here. The weekend will be another nice break, and I'll be home in 9 days.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XXIV, the Disgruntled edition

I don't know how much of this is fatigue and how much of it is downright discouragement. Sometimes this feels like a crappy job. We have staff meetings every week, where, lately, we've just been scolded at how poorly we're doing, how we're not engaging with the kids, how our energy and focus are low, how we're not ending up where we're supposed to be.

It's frustrating since I'm the kind of worker that, when told something like this once, figures out a way to change what I'm doing and consciously tries to do better. Hearing that we're still, "as a group," not doing what our boss wants us to do doesn't help anyone's morale or motivation. At this point, I think the general consensus is if we had gotten a real break to recharge, mourn, regroup, we'd all be doing far better this session. We are not robots. We cannot connect significantly to anyone or anything 24/7. And, at an organization in which he wants us all to concentrate on connecting with the individual, it's a bit discouraging to be lumped into a group of 120 staff members, as if we're all doing something wrong.

In other frustrating news, my improv class is still a bit hopeless. I keep plugging away at my lesson plan, strategizing literally every day to try to stay ahead of the kids. Yesterday, they just weren't listening or paying attention so I sat silently for the last 1/2 hour of class, and they began to play Freeze, which is a game with no point and no lesson, aside from quick thinking. They played it for nearly 35 minutes and got nowhere and exhausted the game. I've stopped caring a little bit because there are too many kids in that class that admittedly and pointedly (like, they have actually put it into words for me) do. not. want. to. learn. anything.

What does a teacher do with a group like that? In a class that could very easily just be called "Drama Games"?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XXIII: the How Many Days Left? edition

I'm not sure how I got through the rest of the week, on fumes alone. Today is a glorious Sunday off. Glorious only in the fact that it's off not in the weather, which seems to be cloudy with imminent storms. I have laundry and eating to do today but I really, really don't want to move.

My improv class is improving, which is pretty much all I can hope for. I had a meeting with DR in which he pegged me so hard right between the eyes about how this is really the ultimate test for me because it's about giving up a little bit of control. We all know how hard that is for me to do in REAL LIFE, so a class of sixteen testing me to do it is certainly trying.

Yesterday, I led a trip to Chelsea Market. Mostly, it was exhausting, especially since the boys in my improv class that are so challenging were ALL THERE. I felt distracted and overwhelmed and it was hard for me to concentrate and enjoy the tour and the food we got to taste. Maybe one day I'll go back to the Chelsea Market and try to actually absorb and enjoy it.

Today, my body is screaming at me to lay low and be silent and alone. There is a small group dinner planned for later, but I just don't know if I can muster the energy needed to be social in even a small group. I also have some work for the week to do and desperately need to start my laundry.

I'll be home in two weeks. Which seems like no time at all and also like an eternity. Time is strange here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XXII: the Boys Drool edition

It's the middle of the first week of second session and I am finally feeling ready to be done here. There are many flaws in this system, the first of them being the fact that the only people who teach here are also the only people who live with students, the second being that when I am on-duty, I have 16-17 hour days. The combination herein means that I am only doing my job about half as well as I would if I only had one of those responsibilities as part of what I do here. We are all fatigued. We have not had a full day off in two weeks, and we are dealing with an entirely new and different crop of kids.

It is mildly satisfying to be able to "do over" my lesson plans from just a few weeks ago, and I'm feeling good about the changes that I have made in light of what went well then. My acting class this session is quiet, serious, enthusiastic, and charming. So far, it is already an easier and more manageable group than last session. I am working with the golden number of students--12--which is a huge improvement from last session's 17. Twelve is divisible by oh so many numbers, whereas seventeen was always impossible to divide in a way that made any sense or felt consistent. That alone is a great change from last session.

My new improv class is a battlefield. I am at full capacity with 16 kids. Eight of them are 16 year old boys who know each other from previous years here, are combative and disrespectful. I am managing them as if they are kindergarteners, which it always feels like they are. I know that they are in the class because they want to be, but it is my great task to try to make sure they actually learn something, rather than just let them destruct and distract.

Monday, every single activity I attempted to have them do failed. I was so frustrated and pissed that I let them go 10 minutes early. I went into class yesterday with a plan to get a better idea of what they wanted from the class and determined to implement a 3 strikes system: one strike is a warning, two means they sit out of the exercise and three means they sit out of the entire day's lesson and I speak with their RAs. Yesterday was an improvement to Monday, and today was an improvement to yesterday. They seem to be a group that really wants to DO, which I totally understand and even appreciate. Still, my challenge will be to make sure these boys do not hinder the learning of anyone else in the class.

They really don't have any idea who they're messing with.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XXI: the Second Session Begins edition

I will be home in 21 days.

Our intersession was partly magical and partly disappointing. For one, I spent dinner with two other staff members, drinking wine and eating good food. Then, we headed to the park nearby where Sister Hazel (remember them?) were playing. As we arrived, All for You, their most famous single, began playing and we ran to catch up with other staff members who were all singing and dancing, in a large glorious and joyous group. We stayed outside, as the sun set and the air cooled for another 45 minutes or so, and it was just lovely.

The rest of the night was spent bar hopping and traveling in a crowd, and I headed back early, in anticipation of another very long day and frustration at the social dynamics of a too-large group.

Today, I got to sleep ALL THE WAY TIL 8(!) and then helped prep the campus for registration and move-in. I was placed at the very first check-in point, which happened to be the health screening station. I haven't even heard how much swine flu has shut down camps around New England, but we have been very strict about health standards here and the first thing the kids did when they arrived was answer questions about symptoms and get their temperatures taken! Move-in lasted from noon until about 5 and then we met our new girls and ate dinner with them on the quad, gave them a tour of the campus and their boundaries, played some get-to-know-you games and laid down the rules.

So far, it's been a pretty chill night. We have a couple French girls, a girl from China, and a girl from Israel, which is fewer international students than last session. The girls, for the most part, seem eager and quiet and respectful, which is also a switch from last session. It will be VERY interesting to see how this group dynamic unfolds.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XX: the Bittersweet edition

The first session kids departed today, and it's been an excruciating day. Woke up at 6 am to eat and pack a lunch before my 7 am-12 pm shift of shuffling students to and from the train station. My girls had not slept at all; I had only managed to rest about 5 hours and everyone on campus seemed dazed by the impending activities.

I spent the girls' last night here gabbing about first impressions, staff gossip, boys, and how quickly everyone bonded. They were a remarkably tight knit group and my job was made very easy by the lack of drama and abundance of generosity and warmth. I am sure those 22 young women spoiled me, and I have a feeling next session can never be as easy. We laughed and cried last night, amazed and shocked at how quickly it had all gone.

Yesterday, my two classes also performed in the Drama Cafe, to great success. My acting and directing classes' monologues held the large audience's attention and didn't even go over their time limit as much as I anticipated. The kids really stepped up to the challenge of performing hard and emotional material, and I was so, so pleased. My improv comedy class was a HUGE hit and the audience had a blast participating in their pieces. It was a wonderful and hilarious afternoon.

Today, after morning tears, long duties, and exhaustion, the staff cleaned up the campus in about an hour. I was part of a team that moved a refrigerator (yes, you read that right) and furniture from one side of campus to another. I was sweaty and miserable, running on so little sleep. Once the "repugnant tasks" were done, we formed a line and crossed the campus, picking up trash as we went. FINALLY, we were freed for the afternoon and gathered at a nearby restaurant for pizza and beer, and I just woke up from a 2 1/2 hour nap.

Going out now for snacks and wine, and hoping to go to bed very soon because the NEXT session's kids come TOMORROW. (If this job doesn't kill me, I will feel like a superhero.)

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.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XVIII: the Sometimes Kids Make Me Cry edition

Dear Annie,
1st [sic] thanks for being this wonderful teacher and friend that I like so much. Secondly, for teaching me more about the art of comedy and laughing a lot with me.
Finally, thanks for everything. Yes, everything that contributed for these 21 days, the best days of my entire life. I think I've never grown so much in a short period of time like I've grown here...
I'm going to miss you a lot!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XVII: the Slightly Magical edition

The beginning of our third week (the last week of first session) was looooooong. This is virtually the first time I'm getting online and it's tomorrow. :)

There are moments during any summer, I think, that you realize will prove to be unforgettable. A song or sunset, a conversation or joke. These moments that make you feel a physical shift, a chord being struck within yourself.

I can tell that this summer will be full of them.

A brief list of the magical moments I've already experienced:
Acoustic music magic at the staff talent show
Learning the Jai Ho dance from two students at gate duty
Playing improv games at activity hour and gathering a crowd
Dancing to a drum circle for nearly an hour
Singing acoustic versions of 90's and Disney songs while letting kids back on to campus
Demanding both staff and students to spontaneously play "Vegetable-Off," in which two people stand back to back, take three steps forward (away from each other) and then make the body shape and sound of the vegetable that someone else has called out
And this list doesn't even include the realizations I've had in the classroom and my own dorm!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XVI: the Sunday Morning in Bed edition

I'm starting to miss my apartment. My bed. Wrapping my head around the fact that this session is nearly over, which makes it seem like the entire summer is close to ending too. I saw a video of friends from home and was shocked to remember that life is going on without me there. I still have culture shock every couple days here; I can't imagine what readjusting to real life is going to be like.

Yesterday, a few of us manned a very chill trip to Providence. We scooted the kids through part of Brown University, let them run around Thayer Street, shuffled them through the RISD Museum and were home in time for dinner. The other RA's and I, spent most of the afternoon napping, either on the bus ride or in the grass at Brown. I can't really complain.

My list of things to do today, my last full day off in two weeks:
Devise a runthrough schedule for my last week of class
Write a "good directing practices" worksheet for class
Review my lesson plans and perhaps amend them for next session
Request materials for dorm time
Submit a reimbursement form
Concoct a chart by which my students will be able to map their progress in their last week of class
Make copies for the first few days of next session

I plan on parking it somewhere cool and quiet and pounding this work out, being silent most of the day, and alone, which feels like a rare luxury these days.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XV: the Karaoke edition

Wednesday night, I sang Something to Talk About by Bonnie Raitt solo. It was a good night.

This afternoon, I sang Lose Yourself by Eminem with a 17-year-old student. And back-up on many a song, since karaoke was the activity of the day. It was a good day.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XIIII: the This Week is Flying edition

I can't believe it's already Thursday! It will be fall before we know it.

Some good things that have happened this week:
Doing exercises in tableaux in my class on Tuesday, one of my students exited the room saying, "I love this class...it's just so fun!"
During my seminar on dialects yesterday, one of my residents who attended it said, "Annie, I've learned more in this hour than I have the entire time I've been here."
Yesterday was a short day because my seminar was over before lunch and I had the night off, during which I sang some mean karaoke.
I've been taking some amazing naps lately.

Some strange things that have happened this week:
During an activity I ran, taking a group of students to Walgreens, the fire alarm in the store went off and we were stuck in a downpour. It was one of those moments where I question what on earth I'm doing here.
I came up after dorm activity today to take a nap and remembered 30 minutes later that I had left my water bottle and backpack outside. I never do things like that.

My trip this weekend is to Brown University, which I don't believe I've ever seen. I absolutely cannot believe another week is nearly over.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XIII: the July 4th Weekend edition

Goodness, it seems like years since I've posted. It was a packed weekend. Saturday, I had my first entire day off. I was so proud of myself for sleeping over 8 hours! Had brunch with some peeps, then took a nap, then a group of us headed to a fairly lame amusement park by a lake, where we proceeded to loll about in the grass for about 7 hours. We sat and drank and ate and played games and snuggled under blankets when it started getting cold. By 10, we were all pretty antsy, but the upside was the 4th of July fireworks seemed like they were RIGHT ABOVE us.

The kids here spend the weekends on trips, so Sunday, I was part of a team that took a bunch to see South Pacific in NYC. We left campus around 9:30, with the hope of parking it in Central Park for lunch before heading to the theater for the 3:00 show. Everything really went off without a hitch, except for the fact that the bus driver seemed to not understand the city at all, and I ended up navigating us from Soho to 65th and Central Park West. I was actually pretty impressed with myself.

S dropped by for part of the afternoon in the park, and I was reminded of my real life for a brief moment, which was great.

The show was...ok. The lighting and scenery were wonderful; the music and singing were obviously lovely, but the acting left a lot to be desired. I was slightly underwhelmed by the entire day, and it's a hard show to see when exhausted, which we all were.

I have no plans tonight, another night off, beyond catching up on some work and getting prepared for the week. This session is nearly half over!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XII: the Day Off edition

I am freshly showered, feet up, breezy window open after another long day. Tonight even felt a little bit like a night off because the evening event was a dance in the quad, and I spent part of my rounds jamming on the dance floor with other RA's.

I have lofty goals of exploring the local bookstores and getting some work done on my lessons tomorrow, my first day off in two weeks. But the priority is sleeping. I miss it so.

Tomorrow night, a bunch of us are going to an amusement park and lake to chill out and picnic and watch the fireworks. Then, Sunday, I've been assigned to accompany the students on a trip to see South Pacific in NYC! So exciting.

....Zzzzzzz......Where are blackout curtains when you need them?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Summer Job, vol. XI: the Must Sleep edition

Things that went badly today:
I woke up at 4:30 AM and was unable to go back to sleep;
I tried to sleep late because the night had been so long, so I missed breakfast;
I sat on a wet railing and had wet butt through my first class;
I wasted 10 minutes figuring out what the hell to do with 17 kids during an exercise that required a very different equation;
I read the vibe of my second class wrong and had to totally wing the last 1/2 of class;
I got indigestion after dinner.

Things that went well today:
DR told me that observing my improv class was the highlight of his week;
I heard from another staff member that two of my improv students were saying the class was their favorite time of day;
I found out I'm seeing South Pacific this weekend on a trip for the kids;
I went out with a group of staff members off-duty, had a lovely time, and was home at 11 PM.