Improvisational Theater

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A different path, a different lesson.

Occasionally, no, no... OFTEN, a student comes along who really feels confidant/cocky about their "background in improv". Occasionally, no, no... OFTEN, that background is high school drama class game based improv.  Sometimes that background has more weight, say someone who has performance experience, has been in a "professional Improv troupe"...etc. And sometimes this student believes they are a FULL CUP of improvisational theater knowledge, that they know far more than I can teach them, (sometimes they even try to "help" teach my class). And when that happens, I ache for them just a little bit knowing that arrogance often comes from insecurity and that it is likely this student has a narrow view of learning.  But, I am never wholly disheartened because I also know that this condition of disillusionment can be cured.  When I meet FULL CUP students, I aim to meet the challenge. I start by appreciating what they DO already know.  And then with luck I can instill them with an eagerness to grow.

  • Knowledge isn't a liquid, and our minds are not a fixed unit of measurement. That's the first thing to understand.  
  • Placing expectations on any educational experience will likely lead to disappointment. The most effective way to achieve knowledge is to aim to learn, not to aim for learning a certain thing a certain way. Keep your mind open.  There are lessons in everything, not just the things outlined in a syllabus, but in your teachers pedology, in the experience of your student peers, in your own reflections and comparisons...etc.
  • Allow yourself to learn things again.  Learn them with new eyes. Learn them with eagerness and appreciation. Every teacher is different, so the very same subject, game or exercise can be received as a wholly new experience if you're willing.
  • Even the worst teacher can feed you something if you are hungry enough.  Be hungry to learn
  • Be responsible for your own learning experience.  Be alive in the experience, be open to its unique gifts.
  • Negativity is a heavy door that blocks out all the light of opportunity. Focusing your energy on criticizing your teacher leaves no energy for seeking hidden gifts.
  • Take what you want from a learning experience and leave the rest.
  • "It is hard to fill a cup that is already full". Be an empty cup.  Better yet, see yourself not as a cup, but as an event horizon, endlessly capable of taking things in, comfortable not knowing where it all goes.

Regardless of how much I know, how long I've trained, who I've trained with, how long I've taught the work and how long I've been performing, I believe there is always room to grow.  Therefore I continue to grow. The only learning goal I will ever have is to keep on learning. I'm hungry for it and i will find a lesson in even the most mundane activity. Sometimes the lesson is patience, sometimes its critical thinking...etc.  With this outlook, occasionally, no, no ALWAYS, I find myself delighted by the treasures I find. 


Scott said...

I'm at a loss to explain how ANY student of yours could fail to recognize what a great teacher you are, Domeka. I know a lot of good teachers in many fields, and I consider myself a good teacher in my field. But you are one of the GREAT ones. Not only are you a master of your art, you're also capable of sensing precisely what your students need in order to take their next steps toward mastery, and you deliver it with great clarity, exquisite timing, appropriate dosage, and wholehearted love. I consider myself lucky to have been your student.

Domeka Parker said...

Teaching is a lot like dating. A lot like speed dating in fact. And no matter how charming you are, there is always the chance the chemistry isn't quite right. And if the chemistry isn't right, its far harder to convince that person you're awesome in a such a short time. With teaching you have to convince that person that what you have to say is awesome, and how you're saying it is awesome, and that they are awesome, can be awesome, will be awesome...etc.
Thank you for your generous words Scott. I very much enjoyed convincing you that you and Improv are awesome.