Yes, And…Virtual Clubs!

(Peanut Butter Jelly Time from The Gilfords’ Kitchen circa 2020)

Have you found yourself singing to your students when you are teaching? I have. In those moments of pause as I transition thoughts or pages to a new assignment, I have found that I am singing. Improv is the key word for me as I teach this year. I figured if I am lost with the technology platforms, if at least I am entertaining then my students will (hopefully) stay online.

At our virtual school we have Widely Incredible Goals (WiGs). One of the school’s goals is to decrease student absenteeism. About ⅓ of students are absent from their classes everyday. For our teaching platform, we use Blackboard. At the end of each teaching session we need to look over the data analytics. Each student has their minutes online recorded. Teachers need to track that data and try and keep students to attend every class and participate. The best way to get students to participate is by building relationships and creating engaging lesson plans.

Sometimes we spend hours creating what we think our engaging lesson plans, and then have to adjust according to the interests and skill levels of our students. That is where the singing comes in. Also, this is where formative assessment comes in. As in F2F classes, we gage our students’ learning while we teach. Through these checks for understanding, we modify the way we teach moving forward.

Improv. Improv. Improv. I’ve been finding that I really need those skills. My husband is so quick-witted. Being from Chicago (the home of Second City) he can crack a joke in a second. Me, well, sometimes, the joke will fly in a cloud over my head for about 10 minutes and then I will get it. I am getting better though. I am getting more wits about me and trying to practice my quips back. 

I try not to be snarky though, because snarky, well, there’s too much snarkiness in the world. I am more a Lucy type of humor, big eyed and loopy. Early mornings, I have been watching The Lucy Show on The Film Detective. It is the one where she is a secretary for Mr. Mooney at the bank. She fumbles, but you know she has this wisdom about her. She did run a studio. Plus, through all her goofiness her heart shines through. That is how I hope that I will be when I teach online.

Today was a good day. I am thankful. The week has been good. I’ve seen my students’ growing in their abilities. I am proud of them. The one thing I miss the most about teaching brick and mortar, is the socialization and sense of joy in seeing my students shine when they are learning the arts. 

I volunteered to be a part of the Drama Club this year. We have 6th, 7th, and 8th graders in the club. Today was the first virtual meeting for our club. There are three of us teachers sponsoring the club. It isn’t extra pay, but it is definitely extra fun! About 70 students signed up for Drama Club. I am going to share with you a little about our first virtual meet-up. 

We started in Blackboard. The lead teacher did introductions. We did a virtual interest survey poll relating to drama. For example, was it a student’s first time learning about drama or have they acted in any community theater, etc. Then the lead teacher talked about expectations for when we have a guest speaker. She expressed to the class that when we have guest speakers that we want to be mindful to represent our best as we are representing the school. Also, she state that time was valuable and we want to be able to move through activities quickly by following the rules. Each student gave a simile face if they understood the rules. 

We moved to the Zoom platform. I was moderating in the Zoom admitting students who entered in the call late. With the wildfires out here, there have been many internet issues. The doorbell rang again and there’s another student. ‘Yay!’ I thought to myself. The lead teacher asks us to practice the skill of turning off our video on cue in Zoom so that we can all focus on the pre-selected volunteers. That was another thing I learned from my lead teacher. She asked for volunteers in an email prior to the meeting and had a list ready to go. She is awesome! What a streamlined way! 

Next, the doorbell rings and it is our guest speaker. She is an actress who has been on many T.V. shows. She is funny and dynamic with her expressions. She shares with us the first rule of Improv. The rule of Yes, And! Yes, And. Yes, what you said is true, and I’m going to add to it. Improv. 

She encouraged students to support each other with 100% love. She said she hated Covid, but loves teaching drama. The students did an improv activity called Emotional Symphony. Students learned how to use their voices as instruments. The actress/teacher was the conductor. Bravo!