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Let’s Get Together Thursdays – Saying “Yes, And…” Using Improv in Education April 17, 2014

Posted by Brooke Ahrens in Check this out!.
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Guest post by Margo Butera, Instructional Resource Specialist at Temple City High School in Temple City, CA

How many times have you heard the word, “no,” in an educational setting? In any school environment, there are hierarchies, purchasing and usage rules, and people who don’t share your ideals, or simply like to do things their own way. How many times have you felt discouraged when your great idea received nothing but raised eyebrows and a short laugh by your closest colleagues? Wouldn’t it be great if we could slowly change this paradigm? I propose a bit of professional development I’d like to call, “Yes, And-ing.” It hails from the dramatic and comedic art known as improvisation. In improv, there is only one rule: you never say, “no.” You never stop in the middle of an exercise or performance, or shake your head and laugh at someone’s idea or attempt, no matter how silly or ineffective it may seem. The only way to succeed at working together is by making the choice to say “Yes, And…” and not only sticking with someone’s crazy idea, but improving upon it. In this way, “Yes, And-ing” can help people work together to further their goals rather than hamper ideas at the outset. Realistically, you can’t say “Yes” all the time. However, coming at problems with a “Yes, and” mentality will help us to better support our coworkers and the collaborative school culture as a whole.

Teaching inherently requires improvisation: whether it be trying something different when an individual student requires a different mode of communication, adjusting the schedule when the day doesn’t quite go as planned, or re-teaching when an entire class shows through informal assessment that they need more support. So why not apply the rules of improvisation to education? “Yes, And-ing” could help educators broaden the workplace culture to include more collaboration, especially at a time when Common Core standards are generating more cross-curricular planning between subject areas. This method is currently being employed in the business world during corporate professional development because creativity and collaboration are highly valued in the 21st century workplace. Collaboration and Creativity are both 21st Century Skills that could be served well by this method within the classroom itself for the benefit of students. Improvisation could be used to initiate group work, as a performance-based KWL activity, or as a relaxed summative assessment. At the heart of successful improvisation lies safety and support.

I can envision a future where, instead of saying no, administrators, teachers, librarians, and counselors, etc. just said, “Yes… I’ll work with you on that idea… AND, let me see what I can do to improve upon it!” Surely, we could overcome some of the difficult challenges facing education today if we put our heads together instead of apart, if we shared our meager resources to make things better for all of our students. All it takes is a slight attitude adjustment… just consider saying “Yes, And…” the next time someone asks for your help, opinion, or shares a crazy idea… that just might work.



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