"Beyond Verbal" Workshop

Wow.  I had such an amazing time coaching this afternoon's staff meeting workshop.  The faculty at Mary Collins School at Cherry Valley--a K-8 public charter school in Petaluma--is a dynamic and impressive group, and I feel honored to be able to work and play amongst such professionals.

Even with committed, creative teachers staff meetings can feel difficult.  At the end of a long day with students and parents, it can feel oppressive to deal with countless essential logistics and details.  It can feel nearly impossible to take on discussing curriculum or pedagogy in substantive ways.  And...having fun?  Heh.

As we began, I could see so many of the emotions experienced by my students during a workshop...and by me when I take classes myself.  Some seemed tired and/or disengaged.  Some seemed reticent or unsure about taking risks.  Some were enthusiastic and couldn't wait to begin.

Of course, I started by playing Ball.  We got to stumble upon "Woo hoo!" right away, and we quickly identified the importance of "Make your partner look good."  Rather than lecturing about the Principles of Improv, we discovered them through playing and being together.  And, man, once I set a numerical goal, the group energy focused and intensified: We quickly went beyond our goal.  And we clapped and laughed as the final "failed" attempt brought the game to a close.

The Tools of an Improv Coach: Ball, Notebook for Planning and Reflecting, Bell, Stuffy
Our focus for today's workshop was "Beyond Verbal".  Through warm-ups, partner scenes, discussions and performance games, we explored various means of communication.  We discussed the relevance of Principles of Improv to ourselves, and to teaching and learning.  Experimenting with gibberish and "dubbing", we discovered how folks can communicate meaning and emotional content without words.

In preparation for today's session, I played with the ideas for something like six different workshops.  From classroom community/collaboration, to movement, to narrative, we could have gone in wildly different directions together this afternoon.  I suppose we'll just have to explore those in follow-up sessions!

Thanks for an inspiring afternoon, Mary Collins teachers.

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