"I don't think I've ever laughed that hard, mom!"
Being stalked by a fifth-grader.
No, no...not the creepy kind of stalked. Just the, "When is improv class starting again, Carrie?" sort of stalking. Every. Single. Day.
I loved it. He would find a reason to show up in my classroom, to see me on the yard, to point at me as we were driving next to each other on the freeway. He COULDN'T WAIT for our little improv family to start meeting after school again. And, really, neither could I.
My passion is being a classroom teacher...and coaching other teachers on how to integrate improvisational theatre activities and the principles of improv into their classrooms. I consider myself an improvisational teacher in that my pedagogical decisions are guided by these principles every day. However, last quarter, I began being a "teacher of improv" in addition to being an improvisational teacher. What's the difference, Carrie? Oh, yeah...an after-school elective.
This is the kind of teaching that dreams are made of. It's like the chocolate souffle of performing arts and education. Sure, there's an occasional overly drippy, sort-of flat moment; but it's still gooey, delectable chocolate. Heaven.
Last week, I met with my sold-out class of 5th-8th graders for our first after-school adventure together. It began a bit uncertain and awkward--as every class does, really. But I had them 15 minutes into Ball. It was hard to find time for a break because we were all laughing so hard, but I crammed a 2-minute water break in so we could have time for the games for which they were literally begging.
Perhaps my favorite moment was the collective enthusiasm about starting an improv flash mob... an idea that came entirely from the students... four or five of them... at the same exact moment. This occurred right after I taught them a game I learned from Rebecca Stockley at BATS Improv in San Francisco (and I think she may have learned it up in Seattle): Hoo Hah, Bunny Bunny. The ideal size group for this game is 10-20 players, but you can definitely vary that number. It's an exercise in commitment and groupmind, of letting go and going for it.
Hoo Hah, Bunny Bunny
Level one: The person who is "it" makes bunny ears with her fingers, points them at her own eyes, and says, "Bunny bunny" in a very low voice and serious tone. She then points her bunny fingers at someone else and says, "Bunny bunny." And so on.
Level two: Level one PLUS Everyone chants "Hoo hah, hoo hah..." while bouncing up and town with their arms straight down and palms facing the middle of the circle. It feels very tribal, kind of exciting, and perhaps a bit wrong.
Level three: Levels one and two PLUS When someone is saying "Bunny bunny" the two people on either side of him face him, put their arms straight out to either side and say, "Toki toki..."
It all happens very fast, is quite intense, and is ridiculously hilarious. Perhaps you have to be there. You never know...you may just end up in the middle of a tweens' flash mob. If you do, I have one piece of advice: Just go with it. Hoo hah.