Thursday, November 18, 2010

Riding the Bus

A friend from church needed someone to help drop her car off at the auto shop to be fixed. This meant I would drive her car there and take the bus home because the auto shop was only open when she was at work. I was excited about this opportunity to experience life without a car and how a lot of people travel. I not only wanted to experience what it was like to not have a car (for like an hour), but to talk to people who’s daily reality is waiting for the bus. I gave myself the challenge to have at least have one conversation with someone either while waiting for the bus or on the bus. Being the very organized person that I am, I looked up which buses to take and when they left. The website is actually makes it very easy to plan a bus route. My first busing adventure came and went uneventfully. I failed in my challenge to have a conversation with anyone. Fear, language barriers, and not knowing what to say prevented me from stepping outside my comfort zone. Luckily I had a chance to redeem myself because I had to take the bus back to pick up the car the next day. I was determined not to fail in my challenge this time. I even decided not to look up the buses or times to force myself to ask people. This wasn’t much a risk because I just reversed the buses I took before. But I did have a conversation with one woman who was waiting with her 1 year old son. I engaged her about babies and how my sister was pregnant. Even if I can’t relate to having a kid, at least I can relate a little through being an aunt. Thank you sister for being pregnant so I can have things to talk about with people! It wasn’t an amazing conversation, but I tried.

But what I learned more about the bus journey was the conversation with my friend I had afterwards. To take the bus in LA it cost $1.50. I had to take 2 buses to go less than 5 miles. So if I was taking the bus to my job every day, I would be spending $6.00 a day round trip. That’s $30 a week. I definitely do not spend that much on gas week. But then I thought, I’m sure the monthly bus pass is a lot cheaper. But I found out it’s not. My friend told me that her monthly bus pass cost more than gas! How are people supposed to afford this? And what about families that ride the bus, even more expensive. Here is a perfect example of structural injustice that keeps people in a cycle of poverty. The structures in society make it so difficult for people who are already in poverty to pull themselves out. I could go on but I told myself I would make this a shorter blog post.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Creativity in the Classroom Part 2

In this training day we did sculpting and THEATRE!

In the sculpting class, we took a slab of clay from a pug (which is a block of clay) and made a mask. In a later training day we will paint our masks. This session I didn’t feel like we learned new teaching techniques about sculpting but rather how to find materials you already have to sculpt clay with. For me it was a relaxing morning of being able to get lost in creating and expressing myself through my hands. I was coming into the day feeling a lot of heavy burdens. It felt freeing to have that space to make art. I am learning more and more how I am a very kinesthetic learner. I experience and learn a lot better when I am either doing something with my hands or physicalizing it with my body. This is probably why performing art is more appealing to me. More on that in a later blog.

Afterwards we did a debrief of the experience by putting in on a chart what materials we used, how we used them, what we learned, and how we felt. We talked about how it’s so important to practice reflecting with children on how they feel while doing art. Because I have trained so much to be a reflective person, I forget that kids don’t have that same framework and need to be taught how to identify their feelings and acknowledge them. Can you see why this gets me excited? Teaching skills for life, not just art!

The theatre lessons were amazing of course. I would expect nothing less. I would say about 2/3 of the exercises I had already played before. What was most helpful was learning the sequence in which to introduce these games. I learned the “emotional scaffolding” to build up to performance and story ideas. Since none of the games were fundamentally new to me, the rest of this blog will be my reflections on how I implemented them with my students. I combined what I learned in the workshop with games I have used in the past with kids.

In the training, our leader suggested that we start the class by laying out the behavior expectations for the students. I decided to try this out with my class because sometimes it can get bit chaotic, as theatre often leads to silliness. I had each student agree to three expectations for the theatre class: respect, focus and participation. Respect means you respect your own body and others’ bodies. You are not going to do anything to hurt anyone else or yourself. So I would ask the kids, is running into the wall respecting your body? No. Focus: that means we are going to listen to the directions and follow them. If someone else is performing we are going to focus on them and show them respect. Participation: this means you are going to be a part of the activities we are doing and participate. I knew my kids would have the hardest with respect because they are always touching and crashing into each other. Before we continued I had them all think about the 3 expectations and shake my hand that they were agreeing to these. I always start each class with warming up our bodies, faces and voices. Usually with bodies we just stretch in some way. In the training I learned a new exercise to warm up our facial muscles. I had them all hold out their hand and picture that they were holding an apple. Then instead of taking a nice polite nibble of the apple, we took a huge bite, chewing with our mouth open, using every muscle in our mouth to chew that apple. I think my kids liked making the loudest sound to bite the apple rather than using their face. Then we used our whole body to physicalize biting the apple, chewing, and swallowing it. In my class almost every activity ends with falling on the floor. I don’t know why but that is their response to everything, making it difficult to get back up and continue with the next exercise. Then we did Name and a Movement. In this exercise you have to say your name is a non normal speaking voice and then you do an action with it. The whole group repeats the name and action. My kids are great at speaking in a different voice; they do that without me prompting it. They got a little silly with the action but it’s ok. Its their time to express themselves and I am trying not to limit them to much. That was the end of our warm ups.

In this lesson today I wanted to focus on movements and shapes we can make with our bodies. So I first talked to them about different types of lines. Luckily some of them had taken art classes before so they were able to identify straight, curvy, swirly, diagonal, and zigzag lines. I wanted to them to physicalize these lines with their body but I knew I had to remind them of safety. We talked about how everyone has an area around their body that they don’t want anyone to enter into. I called this our space bubble. So we showed each other with our hand where our space bubble was so that we would know to respect that space. We talked about not bumping into anyone else’s space bubble. (I hoped that this would alleviate bodies crashing into each other). Once we established our space bubbles, I told them to walk around the room normally. We practiced walking around the room in different lines. Straight, curvy, zigzag. Walking quickly turned into running so I turned those into slow motion lines to settle them down. Then I tried to have a discussion about them with different shapes we could make with our bodies. In the dance training workshop, we had somehow made different shapes and then were able to name the shapes we had made. I think I skipped some steps because as I was leading this discussion with my students, I realized I didn’t know what shapes we were making. This was a lesson for me to make sure that I review the shapes and know how to build up to teaching this. So that part didn’t go so well but live and learn. I ended the day with playing rain. I loved this game in high school and it’s a great cool down game for kids. Basically, using different hand motions like snapping, clapping, and stomping you can create this build of what sounds like rain. It’s kind of hard to understand until you play it. It sounds really cool when everyone is quite and follows the pattern. We had to practice this game several times for them to learn that they don’t change motions until I come by them. We also had to practice not talking because you can’t hear the rain until everyone is quite. They said they could hear the rain but the game would work better with more students. So that was all day 1.

Day 2.

I decided to start the day with going over the 3 expectations again because there were some kids who were not there the previous day, plus my kids could use the reminder. In our warm ups I did the new Big Black Bug tongue twister I learned from the training. It goes, “The big black bug, bit the big black bear, and big black bear bled blood.” The Koosh game is a good focusing game, similar to the game zip zap zop. In the koosh game you make eye contact with a person, say their name and then toss them the koosh ball. I didn’t have any balls so I used rolled up socks. Works just as well. Then that person throws to another person until everyone in the circle has been thrown the ball. Then you do this again but always throwing it to the same person. After they have some focus with this, you add more balls into the mix. I only added 2 socks since we were a small group. They were actually able to do it with multiple balls for a while. I was impressed. It got a little silly at the end, but to be expected. Then we played Food and Movement. I had them think of a food that they loved or hated. And then I asked them to think of an action to show us whether they loved or hated that food. The tone of how they said the food would also show us if they liked it. The group repeated the name of the food and the action. Then I went around and asked them based on how someone said the food and showed the action if that person loved or hated the food. Maybe this was too simple of a question because they thought it was funny to always say the opposite response. That was our warm up games and led into what I wanted to focus on for the day.

In this day I wanted to focus on showing emotions in our faces and bodies. I had them all remind each other of their space bubble again. Then I had them walk around the room and think how might you walk different if you found out your best friend was moving away, how might you face change, how might your body change. (Again end result for them is falling on the floor). Then how about if it’s your birthday and going to Disneyland, now if you came home at night and all the lights were off and no one was home, how about if you are trying really hard to do this one math problem and you keep getting it wrong. With all of these suggestions I asked them how their face and body would change as they walked around the room. Afterwards I had them name the emotion that they would have been feeling in those different situations. This method is naming what you have done vs doing what you have named. If I told them walk around as if you were happy, sad, angry, they would have had a more stereotypical responses. They were very good at naming the emotions that felt. Then I reviewed just the facial expressions we would use for those emotions. The next game is called the Gibberish. Basically two people talk in gibberish and you should be able to tell what they are talking about by their expressions. Instead of having the kids come up with gibberish, I told the first kid only to say 123 and the second kid could only say 456. So we practiced having a conversation just saying those three words. After their gibberish conversation I asked the class what they thought the conversation was about. Then I asked the actors what they were thinking about when they had the conversation. That ended Day 2.

Day 3

We did our regular warm ups. I did a warm up with them that is good for kids to get their sillies out. I call it Shake Out. You start by shaking your hand 5 times while counting to five. Then you do the same with your other hand and each foot. Then you shake and count to 4 with each hand and foot. You keep going this until you get to one, each time getting faster. It’s pretty fun because there is an exciting build to the 1,1,1,1.

What I wanted to focus on today was characters and pantomime. We started with a mirroring activity. I was very hesitant to try this game because I anticipated it would turn silly really fast and they would go at lightning speed. So I told at the beginning that everything had to be in slow motion. They actually surprisingly did pretty well. They liked to mime punching each other but because they remained in slow motion it was ok. To them it felt like a fight scene in slow motion so they were happy. Even when I had them move in their feet and hold the mirroring they were able to keep it pretty well. Then we played pantomime tug of war. I tried to model and explain this well because I anticipated that every kid would just pull the rope to their side to win. They did better than I expected on this too. I have one kid who really got into it. I did the tug of war with him and his face was into it and he got the leaning down pretty well. I wanted to move them from thinking about emotions to characters so we were again reminded of space bubbles. I started them walking normally and then asked them to walk around like their grandparents move. Somehow this meant to one kid hurling himself on a table. So I had to stop and ask him, “Luke, do your grandparents hurl themselves on tables when they walk?” “No.” “Ok then lets respect our bodies and move how they would.” Then we I asked them to walk as it they were two years old. Natural response: you guessed it, on the floor. So I told them two year olds can walk, so show me walking two year olds. Then we walked like ninjas. They were very loud ninjas so I reminded them that ninjas were quite so that they didn’t get caught. Then we moved like aliens. I had them come up with alien voices. They all had pretty different movements and voices with this so that was cool to see. After this we debriefed and talked about what a character is and how we can move our body like different characters. I ended the day with their favorite games. It’s called Killer. I know I shouldn’t promote killing but it’s a secret death not an assault death. They already play mafia at the program so I figured its ok. In the game, they all put their heads down and I secretly choose someone to be the killer. Then everyone opens their eyes and are at a dinner party. They are supposed to meet everyone at this dinner party by shaking their hands. The killer slyly will scratch the hand of the person they want to kill while shaking their hand. The victim will then shakes 2 other peoples hand at the party and then dies a dramatic death. It just occurred to me right now but there is a lot of falling on the floor as people die a dramatic death. No wonder this is their favorite game! Everyone at the party has to figure out who the killer is. I challenged them this time to be one of the characters that we talked about when they were at the party. They didn’t really take that suggestion. They get all giggly and try not to shake each other’s hand. But they love it so I can never go wrong with Killer. Hurling yourself on the floor, always good times.

So I know, super long blog post again. I don’t know how this happens. I just get going and this is what comes out. But especially these art ones are more for me to remember and learn from.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Job Searching and the Oregon Trail

I was going to use the analogy that job searching is like a rollercoaster. It has its ups and its down, and it can be all over the place. But now that I have been job searching for about 2 months (which I realize is a very short time compared to most people) it’s more like playing that computer game Oregon Trail as kid. It’s a long tiring journey. There are a lot of disappointments along the way, but there are those moments of hope and accomplishment as well. I am already making this sound depressing, but I’m actually feeling pretty good about it right now.

Oregon Trail vs. the Israelites in the Desert

If job searching now in LA is like the Oregon Trail, job searching 2 years ago in Irvine was like the Israelites wondering in the desert with Moses. I have noticed a significant difference in my approach to job searching from when I just graduated 2 years ago to now. After I graduated I felt very anxious about it and after 2 weeks I was majorly depressed and convinced I would never find a job. I was moping and complaining like the Israelites, “Lord why did you bring us out here to die?” This time around it has been a lot more enjoyable. Another difference is that it seems there are a lot more opportunities available in LA than there were in Orange County, especially working with children. Although I’m not finding a ton of full time work there is a plethora of part time jobs at afterschool centers working with kids.

Killing the Buffalo- having enough food for now

If you have played the Oregon Trail game, you remember that you often stop to hunt animals to get food. Killing a buffalo was the best because it gave you the most food that would last you a while. So in job searching I have found a buffalo and have some food source, for a while at least. I have part time job, yay! I am working at an afterschool Korean program. I help them complete their homework and correct additional academic work they have as well. The last 45 minutes they have a fun activity if they have completed all their work. Thankfully I have been able to do theatre with a few students during that time. The job was painfully stressful at first, but by the grace of God it has gotten significantly better and I can now say that I am enjoying it. It’s very easy for me to fall in love with any child so I quickly latched on to loving these kids. I am working 20 hours a week so it’s some money flowing in which is good, but not enough to sustain me in the long run so I continue in my hunt.

Casting the seed wide

I can’t think of a good Oregon Trail analogy for this part. My philosophy is job searching is cast the seed wide. I apply for as many jobs as I can. I apply for jobs I am not qualified for, don’t pay enough, maybe are too far away. I’m just trying to throw my resume out as much as possible and see what bites. I have about 10 different templates of my resume that I have for various jobs that I modify a little with each job. The job categories that I grouped my resumes into are teaching assistant, theatre teacher, after school teacher, nanny, events coordinator, volunteer coordinator, and office assistant. So I basically almost all the jobs I apply for fit into one of those categories and I tweak my resume accordingly. I am also very organized about how I track the jobs I have applied for. I have a whole spreadsheet which includes, name of the company, position, email, phone number, contact name, salary, location, when I applied, when I followed up, which resume I used, and where I found the job. So far I have sent my resume to over 100 different jobs. I use a variety of search engines including Craig’s list, Monster, Career Builder, Idealist, Nonprofit jobs coop, Jobing, Indeed, Opportunityknocks, Arts for LA, facebook marketplace. You get the point.

Disease on the Oregon Trail

So you know you’re going along the Oregon Trail and then some member of your party gets struck with some strange disease. Well in job searching you have to beware of job scams that can slow you down. (I know the analogies are becoming a bit of a stretch). I have gotten a ton of job scam responses, most of them are administrative assistant ads on Craig’s list. I even had one send me personal check for $3000 that I was supposed to deposit into my account. Cost me $7.84 to send in certified mail back so I made sure they didn’t think I still had the check. I also applied to a lot of secretarial jobs that turned out to be a secret shopper job. Now secret shoppers are not a scam but it is certainly not a secretary job. Completely misleading add. I had a father respond to me about tutoring his kids but he worked from London. He was going to hire me without ever having met me and send me checks from London for tutoring his kids, way sketch.

Almost crossing the river

In the Oregon Trail you occasionally come to a river and lake that you have to cross. I forgot what factors play into whether you can cross it or not but I think it has to do with how many animals you have and weight. A lot of times you see your little wagon come so close to crossing it but right before it reaches the end, it sinks. I have had those moments in job searching. I came so close to getting this one job and then just didn’t get it. I found this really great job that I was perfect for and was pretty much my dream job for where I am at in my life right now. The job was teaching theatre in public schools. The program was a nonprofit that would go around to different school and work with a class for 3 weeks to put on a one act play based off inspirational biographies. The program was really cool because in teaching theatre they also fostered literacy and wisdom through learning about inspirational people from history. I had done something similar to college where I would create a play with a class based off what the students were already learning. I felt really qualified; I went into the interview really prepared. I read all 5 plays that they produce. The whole process of applying, interviewing, and hearing back from them was about a month. And then in the end they hired someone who had been volunteering with them and spoke Spanish. Nothing I can do about that. So close to crossing the river, and then just drowned at the tail end. Oh Lord please let there be more jobs like that.

Randomness of the Game

So the job searching on the Oregon Trail is chugging along. Some weeks there is a lot of response. One week I had an interview almost every day. And other weeks there is silence and nothing to apply for. I am learning how to trust God to be my provider. I am also seeing that as much as I would like job searching to be a formula, it is not. In the Oregon Trail, even if you are an expert at playing the game, know how to budget your food, and kill the animals, you might still get struck with some strange disease or get hit with some bad weather that will end the game. It’s a bit of a game of luck in some sense. Job searching does require work and preparation, but ultimately it is God who provides and there is nothing I can really do to make someone hire me. I have applied to over 100 jobs now since I started in late August. I have researched and prepared for every interview I have had. But even in the midst of all that it does not guarantee me a job. This has been hard for me because I like to feel like my hard work should produce something. I like to see the results of my labor. But unfortunately God does not always work like that. Yes, he does call us to be diligent and faithful but it does not guarantee the results we want. I am trying to be thankful for this extra time I have right now and see it as a blessing from God. I know I will miss it when I go back to working full time. But the workaholic in me is getting very antsy and wanting to fill up my time. I am always desiring to be productive in some way, it’s always hard for me to just “be.”