First Week Teaching the Kiddos!
I’m still kind of basking in the afterglow of my first week teaching acting to our kiddos through my arts mentoring program. I was a bit nervous about how well the kids would respond to a no-holds-barred acting class. Last week we did a seated art activity and the reaction was iffy. The kids got bored pretty quickly and some of them obviously had energy to burn after sitting down for most of the day. Last week we had one boy who didn’t speak directly to anyone the entire class and seemed really withdrawn. The kids are mostly 11-12 years old which can be an iffy in-between age. Anyway, all of my experience taught me to be nervous about the ice-breaking acting class… needless to say, these strong resilient kiddos exceeded my expectations.
We were able to bring the kids to an area of the residential facility that is teachers only, so they were already excited and felt special. I met with my co-mentors ahead of time to emphasize how very important it is that they not be self-conscious in front of the kids. They were all great and even though none had ever taken acting classes they were all eager to get on board. So, to start we are playing this goofy game (called “the shakes”) and all of the mentors were just being totally weird and goofy and the kids were really giggly at first, but as we picked up speed they all just committed and started having fun! Relief flooded me as I saw the spark alight in their eyes. Here were adults getting on their level and having fun with them. Good, clean, safe, fun. They relaxed and made fun of us and made fun of themselves.
We moved on to other games, and in a huge triumphant moment the boy who had not spoken at all last week came out of his shell and really dominated the games. He kept looking me in the eyes, for reassurance, or to giggle over another child’s actions, or just to smile. I am telling you, he did not look me in the eyes ONCE last week,and I sat next to him the entire activity. He even won the only elimination game we played yesterday! He thanked me sincerely with a big grin when I told him that he has natural instincts for an actor.
The kids were attentive and responsive when I explained how each “game” relates to being an actor, but they really just loved having permission to be physical and goofy and not be told to, “be quiet! sit down! no running!” It felt like a special gift to give them permission to just be goofy kids.
Towards the end of the class one of our students asked me if I could stay, so I would be there when they woke up in the morning. I told them, that while I could not stay that I would come back every Thursday because hanging out with them was the highlight of my week. The child looked downtrodden and said, “Why does everyone have to leave?”
When I heard this sweet child ask that question, I felt God moving in my life. Big time. I took a deep breath, swallowed some tears and did my best, saying, “Just because people have left before doesn’t mean they’ll always leave. We are here because we want to be. Every week. Sometimes people only get to be in your life for a little bit, but that doesn’t make you any less important.”
I prayed for all the kids in my class last night, and for all of the kids in the facility. They have a tough life to be such little guys, but I am so privileged to get to be a small spot of happiness/fun/silliness in an otherwise far too stressful environment. This has to be so much of why God put me here on earth. I know this in my heart.
Can’t wait for next week!
So yesterday evening my team of mentors and I met the children we’ll be mentoring for the next few months. We had a small, lively group yesterday. Their ages ranged from 10-12, but in the future we may have children as young as 7. I can’t go into too much detail about the position or placement, but suffice it to say these kids haven’t had the easiest go of it. They were wary of us at first, but we did a fun ice-breaker and everyone seemed more comfortable after that.
The conversation that stuck out the most to me, though, was with a little girl. She was so inquisitive and curious, full of questions and deep stares. Finally, after chatting over her art project for awhile, she leaned close to me, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Why are you here?” I smiled back at her and said, “Because I like art, and I like kids. I’m here because I just want to be around you guys and make art.” Her eyes got wider, and she asked quietly, “So you’re not paid to be here?” I laughed, and said, “Nope, I just want to be.” And she said, “But you’re an adult, don’t you have more important things to do?”
I looked at her and could honestly and easily say, “Nothing in the world is more important to me than making time for people. This is as important as anything else in my adult life.”
She smiled, shook her head, and said, “You’re super weird.” But I think she liked me. What a gift to show these children that they are worthy of adult time and interaction.