It was the first day of class. This is the second year that Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School is including improv in their curriculum, and I couldn’t be happier. Why? You may ask. Well, I’ll tell you.
Improvisation, as I’ve learned mostly through the masters of ComedySportz, is so much more that just silly shtick comedy; actually, it’s learning Attitude, Commitment, Trust and Teamwork. Comedy and the laughter generated through comedy performers is, and this is one lady’s opinion, the bi-product of ACTT-ing. Improvisation also teaches communication and creativity, while also increasing self esteem and confidence. It teaches quick response, thinking, staying present, reacting and connecting in the moment. It teaches that we make mistakes and how to laugh them off and learn from them. All of these lessons are infused with laughter. It’s, as Mary Poppins would say, kind of like using sugar to help the medicine go down. Yup, no question about it, I love me some improvisation.
This year AJCSE has an entire arts program, art, music, and improv and the children got to choose which class they desired. My class has 20 students this year, many returning from last year, and a few new students.
The first lesson of each class is for each student to shake my hand as they enter the room, look me in the eye and say their name. Last year this proved to be a challenging task. Funny how a simple thing like looking each other in the eye while saying our name can be a challenge for some. The returning kids had tons of fun with this exercise as they seemed to want to test me. As Delmont reached for my hand he said “Hello, my name is Christine Walters”, and I knew my response would be to answer with saying his name. I figured out their game and played it with each child that wanted to test me.
Each week, my time in class flies by so fast that I can’t even believe that a full 90 minutes have passed. We meditate on being here and now, on being cool as we are, we play all sorts of warm up games, and talk about the importance of attitude and eye contact.
The favorite moments always come when you see a child you didn’t expect, connecting and being there for you, or as we say in the improv world “having your back”. Jamaica did just this today. When everyone was talking during instructions, Jamaica while sitting the farthest from the group, alone in the corner, observing the scene play out, yelled out “Y’all SHUT UP”!
It might not have been the most congenial way to get everyone’s attention, but it was her style. She wanted to hear, to follow along, and for every one else to follow along. Happiness lies in the little things, and that little demonstration of hers made my heart jump crazy high!