Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Creativity in the Classroom Part 1

This is a really long post, but its more for me so that I can remember what I learned.

As mentioned in my previous blog posts I am hoping to pursue teaching theatre here in LA. I have been looking into different organizations that would help me pursue that. One such organization that I found is called Inner City Arts. I was looking into volunteer opportunities with them. This facility that they have is just phenomenal. This is probably the best funded arts program I have ever visited. They have a wide range of arts that they teach from including animation, music, painting, drawing, sculpture, dance, theatre, video, photography, I mean the list just goes on. What they mainly do is have teachers come with their class to the facility to have art classes. Teachers will come for a 3 week series on a certain art disciple. The hope is that the teacher will continue what they learned in the series in the classroom. They also have a lot of teacher training about how to incorporate arts into the classroom. I was invited to attend this training as part of the orientation to become a volunteer. This training was incredibly amazing. I was sitting there just trying to soak in everything the leader was telling us. They had amazing teaching philosophies and principles about creativity that you could clearly see had been developed over time and with experience. The training is a series so we just learned how to introduce two disciples at this session, drawing and dance.

First we started the day by talking about what is creativity and what things hinder creativity. A few things that hinder creativity, especially with children are too much surveillance, reward systems, evaluation, competition, restricting, pressure, and over control. Although these things make sense when you talk about them, they are hard to implement in keeping control over a class. We also talked about how behavior “problems” are actually an invitation to learn about a child in how they function and what way they need to learn. We were led through several exercises that you could lead students through.

We started the drawing class by talking about lines. We drew straight lines, diagonal, vertical, curvy, continuous, etc. Next, we did this exercise where we crumpled up a piece of paper. We visualized an ant walking around the perimeter of that crumpled up paper. Without looking at our drawing paper, we drew the perimeter and followed the ant on his journey around the perimeter of the crumpled paper. This was to help keep a continuous line and focus on the detail of the curves. Our next exercise was drawing a portrait of the leader without looking at the paper and keeping a continuous line. This exercise was to help break our fixation that drawing should be about making it look exactly like what we are drawing. Then we were given an object in a paper bag and told just to feel the object without looking at it and draw what we felt. This exercise was really helpful for me in drawing 3 dimensional objects because I could feel the curve of the line that sometimes just looking at it I couldn’t see. Feeling the curves helped my brain connect visually to what the line was. We talked about how people learn differently and how some people are more kinesthetic learners and they have feel and experience things to learn. Really interesting. We then each took a toy dinosaur and were told to study it for about 2 minutes and notice all the details on it. Then we put the dinosaur under the table and were told to draw everything that we remembered about it. Once we were done with all of the exercises everyone was told to pick one drawing from the day. We put all the drawing on the wall and did what was called a non judgmental critique. This was a great experience too in learning the language to use with art. She asked us what things we noticed about the different drawing, what similarities and what difference they had. How did the drawing make us feel and why did they make us feel that way? Kids have a tendency to say, “I like that one”’ or “I don’t like that one.” She talked about how we can rephrase that language to, “I see that you are drawn to this drawing, why is that?” Rather than, “I like that drawing.” All of it is to affirm the creativity and not place judgment on it. So incredibly helpful.

In the afternoon we learned about dance. We first started by doing some physical stretches and warm ups. And then we named the moves that we did, such as stretching, reaching, jumping, and bending. We talked a lot about how to introduce art vocabulary. Name what you did instead of doing what you named. It’s easier for kids to grasp the vocabulary if they have already done it and can name what they have done. We then did a mirroring exercise where you mirror the movements that your partner does. (We do this a lot in theatre to create unity and trust with your partner). We then did an exercise where we moved around the room in different lines . So we walked in a straight line and changed directions. Then in curvy lines. After that, we did an exercise where the leader played some music and on a piece of paper we drew lines based of how we thought the music sounds. Did the music have long curvy lines or short straight lines? Did the lines change throughout the song? Then she played the music again and this time we drew the lines in the air with our finger. She then asked us to draw the lines with our whole hand, then with our shoulder and then with our whole bodies. So then we were able to move around and just draw lines with our bodies based on the rhythm of the music. I loved this exercise because it almost tricks you into dancing. We are not dancing, we are just drawing lines with our bodies. A lot of what we did in all the exercises was building up to a performance so that you don’t just throw kids into a scary performance setting. They call it emotional scaffolding. It really does help you build confidence in your movement and not feel like you are being judged as a “dancer.” Everyone is going to draw lines with their body that look different and that ok. We also discussed how in our culture communal dancing is so associated with sexuality. There isn’t really a space to dance communally in an affirming and celebratory way like there are in other cultures. Then we were put into groups and told to come up with a short “dance” but really it was more based on movements that we had done in earlier exercises. You had to include 3 of the movements we had talked about earlier. Then as one group performed the other groups were the musicians and poets. The first time the dancers performed it was silent. The musicians all had an instrument and thought of how they could use their instrument to help accompany the dance. The poets wrote down a word on how the dance made them feel or what they thought of in the dance. Then the dancers performed a second time and the musicians included their instruments as they performed. The poets all wrote a second word about how this time with the music the dance made them feel. Then all the poets brought their words together and arranged them in a way to tell a short poem. Then the dancers performed a third time, this time with music and poets reading their poem throughout. So it combined a lot of other art elements as well.

I hope to be able to continue this series and learn more about other forms of art and how to teach it well. I think I have said it enough, but hey once more for kicks and giggles. This training was AMAZING!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

LA Critters

Crawling critters

Ants-I knew that ants would maybe be a problem. But since my roommates are pretty clean I thought maybe we would be ok. (I’m clean to when other people are clean. My cleanliness tends to match the people around me). But no, first week we got here a lovely line of ants appeared in the bathroom. I Raid attacked them, which seemed to work. But then I left a banana peel in the trash can in my room which was a mistake. So now as I am sitting at my desk, I see one crawl over my keyboard and smash it. While I am sitting on my couch watching TV one will crawl on my arm and I flick it away. So basically we just sit and pick ants off ourselves several times a day. It’s not like a line of them and we don’t know where they are coming from; it’s just one here and one there. It’s getting better though. Word on the street is that they go away with the heat.

Cockroaches- Yes, we have had some cockroach spottings. My roommates first spotted some babies in the kitchen when we turned on the lights at night and then they all tried to scurry away. It became very precarious to come into the kitchen at night because you never knew what kind of crutch you might find under your feet. Bare feet became a dangerous option for me. We found a couple in the bathroom as well which made me fear putting my clothes on the floor while showing. But we got some roach motels which they seem to be happily settling into. No longer nomads wandering the kitchen and bathroom, but settled down into a nice motel for a lifetime stay, hopefully.

Feathered critters

Rooster- Well who says you can’t have the best of the country in the city? Our neighbors have a lovely rooster that is our morning wake up call. Only this alarm clock is in need of some new batteries. Sometimes he crows at 5, sometimes 8, sometimes 10, and sometimes not at all. Maybe the lights in the city confuse him for the sun. Well I guess I better stick to the electronic alarm clock for now.

Bird/ Pigeons- Oh the birds are very lovely here. I hear them on my roof and telephone poles making very interesting noise. They are also very very generous bird. But truly they follow the teaching of Matthew 6 and do their generous deeds in secret. They particularly like to leave their gifts on my car. We have learned that parking your under certain trees are more prone to surprises than other places. The above picture is my car with the plethora of presents left by the birds. And I am too lazy to clean it so it just stays like this.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Here is a picture of the outside of my place. The way that a lot of places work in LA is that old houses are remodeled and split up into different apartment units. My place is split up into 4 units, hence the ½ in my address. Because of this converting, a lot of the layouts are pretty non conventional. In my apt when you go down the hallway you first hit my bedroom, then our kitchen, then another bedroom. This was actually one of the better layouts we looked at. One had no living room at all, and another you had to walk through the bedroom to get to the other bedroom.

I am living with two other women, both that I knew through InterVarsity. They are exceptional roommates (And I am not saying that just because they read this blog). More about them later. Our apt is a 3 bedroom and 1 bathroom. Because of the interesting set up as I mentioned above, one of the rooms is attached to the living room and does not have a closet. Because we didn’t want to make anyone stuck in that small room and walk across the apt to get to a closet, we decided that two of us would double up and we would turn the awkward room into a prayer/art/guest room. So far it has worked out really well. I really enjoy having that extra space to get away from my computer and just settle in with God. Our apartment is very old fashion looking with wood paneling. (See pictures below). We also have these great built in shelving units in the living room and one of the bedrooms. We have a little porch that we share with our neighbor.

My roommates and I all moved to the city with similar reasons, to be part of the neighborhood and care for the poor. So we are trying to make the place that we live welcoming to visitors and have community with each other. We have decided to do our groceries communally and cook for each other a few nights a week. Those of you who know me well know that Megan does not cook. My motto in cooking is: If it takes longer to cook it than it does to eat it; it’s not worth making. So my food tends to be pretty simple and from a box. So far my roommates have stomached the food I have made. Hopefully I will be able to learn how to cook more from them. I think they are going to force me to eat healthier which will make some members of my family very happy. They have tried converting me to whole grain bread, but I am holding out on my white bread for now. Funny thing though, when I was shopping, I accidentally bought wheat bread for myself instead of white, I think the Lord is slowing forcing me to the wheat world, no,…its gross! I’m just being real. But it’s really nice to have meals together and talk about our days. It’s weird to have time to make and eat dinner. Being in InterVarsity so long where everything happens in the evening, I am used to microwaving something and eating it on the way to an IV event.

The neighborhood is really nice. We have met a few of our neighbors but looking for more opportunities to have longer conversations with them. They all seem really friendly though. I have never felt unsafe. My roommates and I are being cautious though, we call each other when we come back late and watch each other walk in. So far everything is working out great. Here are a few pictures of the place.

Here is a picture of my room, notice the orange walls, (Came that way, I didn't paint them that color)
Here is one of the built in units I was talking about. This is the one in my room.

This is our living room. Fake fireplace and everything.

This is our prayer/art/guest room for all who come to visit.

And this is our teeny tiny kitchen.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Health Clinic

I felt like I got a real authentic LA experience when I went to the health clinic. I needed to get a TB test for a job working with kids. I looked up TB test sites and went to the one closest to my house, which was in downtown. I waited in line for about 20 minutes. When I got to the front, the receptionist took one look at me and said, “You don’t live in downtown do you?” (I love how just by looking at someone you can say, you don’t belong here.) I told her I lived by USC and this was the one closest to my house. She said you have to go to the one assigned to you and it’s not based off which one is closest. She helped me find the correct clinic to go to. So I go to the other health clinic around 12 in the afternoon and they tell me that it’s too late and I will need to come back the next day at 8am to get the TB test. I thought maybe I should get there a little before 8am since at 12pm, they already had enough people for the whole day. So I come back and get there around 7:35am and there is already about 15 people in line. By 8:00am there were about 40 people in line already. It seemed like this clinic was just to get shots, it didn’t look like people were even seeing a doctor. So they let us in at 8 and we get a number. (This experience reminded me of when I volunteered at People Assisting the Homeless. The homeless would have to get in line at about 5am in the morning in order to be one of the first 15 people to see a case manager to help them get into a transitional housing program). Once I got a number I waited about another hour to get the TB test. The scene of the health clinic reminded me a lot of a scene from the movie, Save the Last Dance. There is a scene where Sarah goes to a health clinic with Chenelle and her son. The waiting room is packed with people. There are people complaining, babies crying, and nothing seems to be moving along. That’s kind of what it felt like. While waiting, I started talking to this young guy who told me that he recently got evicted from his apt and he was living in a halfway house. He told me how they were pretty strict and didn’t let him leave the house very much. He said it was his birthday in a few days and he wasn’t sure what to do since he thought they wouldn’t let him leave the house.

What I learned about this experience was the bureaucracy of the health care system. Very inefficient, very time consuming. It was ok for me, because I am unemployed and have all the time in the world, but to people who have jobs, how do you have time for this? It also felt good in a way to be with the people and be experiencing it for myself, as opposed to usually being on the outside, helping the people who were experiencing the system. But this time I was with the people experiencing it myself. Although I was the only white person there, I was with them, and it was the first time I felt a part of the neighborhood. Even though it was a short and simple experience it was very significant to me in being here in the city.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why I moved to LA

Moving to LA was a big decision but something that has been in process for about 4 years now.

First, caring for the poor: In 2006 I participated in a 6 week internship in South LA called the Los Angeles Urban Project. This experience taught me a lot about poverty in the city and systems of injustice that are present in schools, health care, government, housing, etc that make it almost impossible for people to pull themselves out of poverty, especially minorities. I also learned that are dark spiritual forces and powers in the city that have a very deep hold on people. “For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12 Because of this experience, I felt called my God to be in the city and care for the poor and combat the spiritual forces that trap and enslave people. I am not sure how God want to use me to care for the poor. I do not know how to combat the spiritual forces. I know I am not here to fix the city or come in and be the solution to these problems. Right now I am here to build relationships with my neighbors and care for them the best I can. I expect more to learn from them and care for people as God leads me.

Second, children: I have always loved children. I think growing up around my 15 younger cousins I have always loved caring for and being with small children. As I worked with different types and groups of children throughout college I have found that my heart just melts for every child I have a relationship with. In the preschool that I worked at, I loved singing songs and reading books to the 2 and 3 year olds. I even loved the ones that threw tantrums and would never take a nap. When I taught theatre in a second grade class I saw these kids just be hams onstage, still young enough to not be too self conscious. When I was in Ghana teaching a 3rd grade class I loved the children’s energy and desire to absorb everything. I have worked with all age levels, many ethnicities, many socio economic backgrounds. My heart easily melts for all of them. During the two years after college that I worked at an insurance company, I went through withdrawals without children in my life. I really missed them so deeply. I would go into bookstores and read children’s books to myself. I would sing Raffi songs to myself in the car. When I would see children I would almost want to cry because I missed having them apart of my life. So I have felt for a while that in some capacity I need to be working with children.

Thirdly, theatre: Many of you know that I was a drama major in college. Although I love the performing aspect, right now I feel like pursing acting for myself is not something that is beneficial for myself or the kingdom of God. That could change later in life, but right now I don’t feel like I want to audition in LA or anything like that. However, I do love to teach theatre to children. In college I was a part of an organization called Artsbridge America. In this program we would be assigned an elementary school classroom for few months and we would take theatre and bridge that to a subject in school they were already learning about. I really loved this program. Love how theatre and art gives kids a voice and the freedom to express themselves in a creative and unique way. I also spent a summer working with a program called When Justice and Peace Kiss in which we helped youth write their own poetry, spoken word, monologues, music and dance that we incorporated into a performance. There was one girl in the program who was really hesitant to be there because she was a bit older than a lot of the other students. She had an amazing voice. On the day of the performance she really didn’t want to be there and didn’t want to perform. We encouraged her that she was going to do great. After the performance, she was GLOWING. She absolutely loved it and wanted to perform again. I can’t fully capture the moment in few short sentences but it was an amazing experience to see this girl really be given a voice and be excited to share a part of herself through music.

S o to sum that all up, I am in LA to pursue those three things: social justice, loving children, teaching theatre (hopefully they all overlap). Why LA? It was the least scary city to move to in my mind because it was the closest, I have lived here for 2 summers, and I had people I could live with. It’s also a city full of art and a lot of opportunities for me to learn. That was a really long explanation to why I moved here but I feel like God has a lot more to teach me about why I am here. I am hoping that this blog will be a way for me to reflect and share more of why I am here.

Starting a blog

I have thought for a while about starting a blog. I had one back in college, in the days of xanga, which I guess is not cool anymore, I’m not really sure. I rarely wrote in it and when I did write, most of it seemed meaningless. I don’t know if anyone really read it. So with that experience, I have always thought it’s not worth it to start another. I will run out of things to talk about. It won’t be interesting or funny. No one will read it. But since I have moved to LA I felt that there is a lot to reflect about in my transition and much that I want to record about my experiences here. Although nothing crazy has happened, I want to record the lessons I have learned in moving here. But first I have to let go of what this blog will not be about. This blog will not be about getting virtual attention from others through people’s comments. I must admit I am prone to that on facebook. This blog is not about trying to be funny or super insightful. It’s more about my own reflections for myself as I think about what I am learning here. So then I thought, if it’s just for me, then why don’t I just write it in a journal, why put it online in a blog? However, I think a lot of my family and friends are still unclear why I moved to LA and what I am really trying to do in living here. I thought people might be interested in what I am learning. I also thought putting it online would force to reflect often and really be able to articulate what I am learning in the city. I think when I journal I kind of just ramble and don’t fully formulate my thoughts. It’s my little accountability for myself. So this is why I have decided to start a blog.