If you search around my website, or follow my blog you may know I teach acting at the community rec. center. I absolutely love doing this. I have come across a lot of super great actors over the ten years I have been teaching there. Some former students actually work professionally and many now get leads consistently in community theater. Is it because I am a fantastic instructor? Highly unlikely. My class is meant to be an introduction to theater. I don't teach a ton of techniques--in fact I would never try and teach adults or even high school age kids. But something I am good at is helping kids gain confidence in themselves.
I'm a little different than most acting instructors. I believe kids often learn best from doing rather than just hearing about it, so we always get ready and put on a show for parents. And every child always gets a pretty big part. If I have a main part and many kids I often divide the main part into 3 so more kids have a chance to perform. My own kids have participated in plenty of plays where someone had a huge part whereas my child may have one line but they still have to go to all the practices. This is the reality of being in a play. But since my acting class is meant to be a class...almost every child's part is almost as long as their fellow student.
Anyway what I love about this is there are many kids who haven't performed before who aren't always the 'shinging light' in the extracurricular thing they do-or anything really. But more often than not when we perform our skit they are awesome.. much to their own surprise.
A few weeks ago during practice the kids I worked with were told they couldn't use their scripts anymore. I would feed them their words if they needed it..and they could improvise the words--make it up-but no more scripts. Everyone did a good job with that. But one boy would say a word and then say "I can't do it. I don't know it." Then he would be encouraged to try but he said "I can't". I tried to encourage him, pursueded him, be strict with him etc. Nothing worked.
He continued to say "I can't" so finally I left him alone. We then took a break and played fun, silly acting games. We played many of the same games you can find on my website under the 'activity' tab, I actually use many in my acting classes but know they actually help kids overcome shyness, and other social problems as well. So we played some games and soon the 4 boys and one girl were laughing, being silly and having a great time.
After ten minutes of playing acting games we went back to practicing. It was a shock. That same child went back and not only did his lines but said them almost perfectly. What was it that changed so drastically with this boy? It was the games. He relaxed and got his mind off of the skit . After relaxing and having fun, his stress level was gone.
How many times when we feel we can't do something, is it tied into our own anxiety? I have had a child who came home with homework and spent 3 hours stressing about it and 20 minutes actually doing it once he settled down and did it. Anxiety kills confidence. Somehow if we can learn to deal with it, we can actually learn.
So many kids today have a hard time sitting in class and working. There are as many reasons for this as there are students. Here is a fun story you may want to tell your kids to help them realize they can make choices and change.
4 Possibilities to Consider When we have a Problem to Solve:
1. You can wait for a visit from your fairy Godmother
2. You can wait for the problem to go away by itself.
3. You can continue to act the way you are now.
4. You can change.
Tell the following Mexican Fable and ask your child which solution Pepe used to ultimately solve his problem.
Once there lived a boy named Pepe who spent all his time resting in the shade of a big tree. After breakfast one morning, he settled down in his favorite spot, pulled his sombrero over his face and prepared to sleep away the day. By and by his mother called to him, "Pepe, please bring a bucket of water from the well."
"Not right now," yawned Pepe. "I will do it later," and he went back to sleep.
By this time his father was out of patience. "Lazy boy!" he cried. You will not bring water from the well. You do not work in the fields and now you will not even help in the house. This minute I say to you either do your share of the work or find another place to live.
Pepe decided to leave home.
Down the dusty road he walked until he came to a little grove of fig trees. This is a good place to rest, he decided, but no sooner had he settled down under the shadiest tree of all than--plop! A fat yellow fig tree fell into his hand.
"What a piece of luck!" said Pepe. He promptly ate the yellow fig. At once his nose began to itch. Pepe put his hand up to rub it and hen he discovered that for some reason it had grown to twice its normal size. Moreover, it kept right on growing until at last it was so long it almost touched the ground.
Poor Pepe hadn't the faintest idea what to do about such a nose. He was in despair when --plop! A blue fig fell into his hand. With nothing better to do, he ate that one also, and to his surprise his long, long nose began to shrink. And it kept on shrinking till it was back to normal again.
Then and there Pepe thought of a way to use the two kinds of magic figs to make himself money. Quickly, he gathered a hatful of yellow figs and stuffed all his pockets with blue ones.. Then he hurried down the road to the village.
"Have a fig, amigo, a golden ripe fig," he said to everybody he met. And soon he had given away all his yellow figs but one. Of course when they had eaten the figs the villagers noses began to grow and kept on growing till every one of the noses reached the ground.
Then the people came running after Pepe, crying out in anger, "Look what has happened to our noses. We are ruined."
"Not so," Pepe answered calmly. "Just watch the thing I will show you." Then he ate the last yellow fig he saved and soon his own nose was touching the ground. Then he took a blue fig from his pocket and was about to eat that one also when an old woman standing near by snatched it from his hand. No sooner had she eaten it than everyone saw her nose return to its normal size. Then all the people began to clamor at once for the blue figs.
"I will sell them to you for a thousand dollar each," Pepe told them, smiling hard.
The people did not smile back. Angrily they muttered among themselves. They knew they had been tricked. So they fell upon him and took every blue fig from his pockets and ate them. They did not leave even one for Pepe.
Quickly, he hurried back to the grove but sad to say, every last fig had disappeared. Poor Pepe sat down and began to cry.
Now look back at the 4 choices he could possible make when deciding to solve his problem. Which choice would help him the most?
Just then along the road came his father, going toward the village. When he saw Pepe's long, long nose he was amazed.
"What has happened?" he wanted to know, and soon he had heard the whole unhappy story.
"Please let me go back home with you," Pepe begged. "I am sorry that I was lazy and brought all this trouble upon myself. From now on I promise to work harder than anyone has ever worked before."
So Pepe's father took him home, and Pepe kept his word. Then a very unusual thing happened. The harder he worked, the shorter grew his nose until before long it was back to normal. Happily, by the time Pepe had made such a good habit of working that he enjoyed it. He never was a lazy boy again.
I am a mother of 3. I have a passion for helping kids feel comfortable in their 'own skin'.