Enter the extra-curricular "Theatre in Our Community" program - a class they didn't choose, don't know much about, and have to sit in unless they want to go play basketball which was accidentally scheduled at the same time. It's my first time teaching in this kind of environment. I'm used to a class that, for example, signed up for Shakespeare on purpose. It takes a certain kind of kid to do willingly commit hours of their lives to theatre. These kids, however, walked in the first day with the attitude "What are YOU going to make us do? Are you going to ASK us, or are you going to DEMAND we do stupid activities? Are you nice, or are you going to yell all the time? How much can we talk? How much do we have to do? Are you going to let us relax?"
I followed the curriculum handed to me as best as I could, but I've been deviating more and more (which is encouraged by my employer - yes, please tailor the lessons to your classroom.) I've been given the vague idea to talk about "what freedom means" and tie it in to the community. Our two field trips are over: a play about the civil war, and a walking tour of the Soldier's Home.
I've been getting a little frustrated with my lesson plans. I have Big Ideas about creating characters, talking about objectives and tactics, and coming up with something we can show at the end of our time together. I still don't know what that "something" is, and the students get bored fast - what does all of this really have to do with them, anyway?
The coolest thing that's happened so far was when one of my students created the character of a girl she knows at school - a loud-mouthed, always-in-trouble, can't-make-friends girl, an outcast for plenty of good reasons. I asked her to play her with honesty and my student new EXACTLY how to do that. The scene became that her objective was to gain a friend. Her scene partner - the obstacle - was having none of it. The scene was short - I kept asking "What does this girl have to do to gain friendship?" ... no one had the answers. But if I made one person think about it for an instant... that's called empathy, and what theatre is all about.
I've been trying to bring theatre to the students rather than bringing students to the theatre. (Quite literally, the latter works the best of course - the most focus and attention happened while they sat in theatre seats and watched a play.) Today I'll be asking them to run their own "talent show", do anything that's performative, show me what you can do... dance? play an instrument? sing? poetry? tell jokes? anything. We'll see how it goes. I want this class to be theirs more than it is mine and I haven't been doing enough of that yet.