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Friday, February 6, 2009

Lessons Plans

I am eating lunch in the gym/theater and listening to a live recording of The Chieftains through the state of the art sound system in here. It's moments like this that I wonder if I could ever leave nursing and do this full time*. Any minute now the students will finish their own lunch and come down, ready for our invited dress rehearsal for the whole school.
The following thoughts will be familiar to anyone with Google Reader due to a publishing glitch last night, but I wanted to share them here.

It has been interesting having two vastly different groups of students working together. Yesterday before the Adolescent Program came back from skiing I met with the six Upper Elementary students to do my intro to stage directions, my safety talk, a review of the plot of AMSND and then costumes. I turned my back to speak to another teacher who entered the room and when I turned around I saw that the students had organized a game of Wah!. I couldn't believe it. When I even pause for a breath or a sip of chai the AP students begin to fight over space on the couch, or to write music on Garage Band, or else they find basketballs and begin throwing them around. (WHERE are they getting the basketballs?)

I realize this is due not only to differences in stages of development but to differences in group dynamics and in individuals within the groups. But that's expected. I have taught theater and directed shows now for eight years (not counting the time I spent as an apprentice) in various capacities for age groups from 3-5 year olds to college students . I meet the challenges gladly. Some of my standard lessons by now are "tried and true," and I hardly have to think about them, I just engage them. Many were originally created with an appreciation for various cognitive and social developmental stages. Most were just picked up along the way in my own education, and adapted as I saw fit. Because every show is different and each group is different, many of my lessons are made up and tailored on the spot. The secret to maintaining control, however, is to never let on when I'm improvising. The kids will yell, "Let's play Big Buddah!" "NO! I want to play Hey Baby!" And even as I am scanning my brain for the lesson I need to teach based on whatever their rehearsal was lacking and finding the appropriate exercise to demonstrate a point I am calmly smiling and saying, "Come on, now circle it up! You know I don't take suggestions for classtime."

Although the students are socially at various stages of development -- some of them still in Industry v Isolation and others struggling with Identity v Role Confusion (and some struggling more than others), cognitively they have all reached the formal operations stage of development. It is for this reason that I tend to treat them like small adults. This is a good thing and a bad thing. It's good because I tell them from the first day that we're all here to work and to put on the best show we can. I expect respect and professionalism and in return I will give the same. More often than not they exceed my expectations. Most of their Montessori experience is based on similar models of varying degrees of responsibility placed on them based on their development. We're honest. They tell me when they're bored. I tell them when I need them to step it up. They call me "Mischtical". I call them "ladies and gentlemen". I let them watch Monty Python in class as long as we can pause it and discuss why things are funny.

The flip side to not babying them is that sometimes they have to remind me that they need recess. But that's still a good thing, because without that reminder I wouldn't take recess either.
The Chieftains are singing North Amerikay. I love recess.

But now if you'll excuse me I need to go make sure all the fairies have wings and probably re-answer "can I have a sword in Act III?" (no) "Do I really have to hold his/her hand?" (yes) and the ever popular and unrelated "can you tell us how to make our own blood packs?" (later, definitely.)
* Sigh. Probably not. One of my biggest flaws is that I have too many passions and I pursue them all with equal zeal.

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