I was a bundle of nerves on my train ride up to PS 279 Captain Manuel, Jr. this week. I was scheduled to teach my lesson to the 4th grade students, whose class I have been doing my internship with these last 8 weeks. My lesson had been put off for several weeks due to snow, testing, and winter break, so there was a lot of anticipation. I arrived to the classroom a few minutes early, so I could lay out all the materials I had carefully prepared, along with a timing cheat sheet so Mary Cinadr and T. Scott Lilly, my mentors, would be able to help keep me on track.
I started off the lesson with a meditation warm up. I had the children breathe into their bellies, imagining that their feet were roots in the ground and the top of their head was being pulled up by a string. I then took them on to sound and had them repeat the mantra, “I am a creative genius, the world needs what I have to give.” After the warm up, we reflected on the exercise. One student said, “I feel relaxed, but energized.” In all the voice and movement classes in my undergrad program and in my advanced study post college, I have been taught to begin my work as an actor from that exact state, word for word. In two minutes, this child had achieved what I spent years of acting training to master. It was so cool to see the kids really embrace the exercise. We continued on to what it meant to them to be a “creative genius." One student said that, to her, it meant “to share what is uniquely you." Some students expressed how it can be scary to share your creativity with the world, and this lead very seamlessly into my goal for the class, which was to discuss bravery. We talked about the little voice inside each of our heads that tells us we will be judged.
For the class's intro activity, I wanted to do an improvisation exercise that would get the kids thinking on their feet and creating without the time for judgement. The exercise is called, “I am a tree.” Students are prompted to create characters and tableaux on the spot. This really got the students creative juices going and they were so enthusiastic. I asked them to take inspiration from the characters they had just created into our main activity. The students were then asked to create Community Stories in groups. They filled out slips that had sentence prompts on them, individually, and then put them together with their group to create a story. Then I asked the students to put the stories on their feet, while one narrator read the story. As the students worked in groups, I began to feel self-conscious about my lesson. It seemed challenging for the students to accomplish all of these tasks in such a short amount of time, and I was second guessing whether it was successful. I had to step back and reflect on what my goal of the lesson was. It was to teach the students about embracing their creative impulses, and using their bravery to create work that reflects their own uniqueness. Scott made a really great point during our reflection with the kids, that what they presented today was a “rough draft” and that they should be really proud of all they accomplished in such a short amount of time. I’m so glad that we took time at the end of the lesson to reflect with the students. They were so expressive and open in their sharing. I asked them what was hard about the exercise. One student shared that it can be scary to perform in front of others because she is afraid of being judged. Mary, Scott, and Patti Chilsen all shared such beautiful insight about this fear that we all have, and how we can choose our creativity over our fear. This was my favorite part of the whole lesson, and really solidified for me the importance of making time for reflection. It was such an honor to lead a lesson for such brave creative geniuses, and I am so thankful to have had the support of my amazing mentors, Scott, Mary, and Patti.