In case you missed all the fabulous stories at Low Income Housing’s, Meadowbrook View. You can read all my blogs on the Arts Corps website. This video is a continuation of my last post “And so, here we are“. Enjoy! It’s was a groovin’ time.Read More
Beefin, curve, sprung, and fly are just some of the many words I’ve learned this year during our teen time class at the Low Income Housing Institute’s Meadowbrook View Apartments. It’s pretty funny really. I didn’t have the slightest clue what these words meant until I started ‘hangin’ with the teens. And if you’re as clueless as I was, just check out urbandictionary.com.
Teen Time was a special request from the teenagers themselves. They wanted some time away from the younger kids to chill and talk about things that concerned them. Quite frankly, Lynn, Darnesha, and I also used this time as a way to keep an eye on them so as to steer them away from any trouble.
We encouraged them to speak their mind and ask questions. We honored freedom of speech and made a pact of confidentiality (unless it was something that could potentially harm them or someone else) and at their request, we spoke with frankness ourselves. To make it fun, we added a family style dinner twice a month where we would cook, set the table, give thanks, eat and converse without the distractions of facebook, texting, and TV.
It was a hit the first month or so as our group maintained about seven teenagers. It was awesome watching the youth take on responsibility and enjoy being together—but soon the interest started to dwindle. They had more important things to do and a series of unfortunate events rattling our community made things worse. In the end, only two teenagers remained. Two young ladies that stuck it out and really, really, REALLY wanted to be there.
I have to admit, it was discouraging to be in a near empty classroom. Once again, I felt like a failure, totally uncool, and wondering what the hell I’d been doing all this time—but these two girls demonstrated willingness, dedication, and a yearning to learn.
While it was sad that we’d lost some of the other teens, it worked out just dandy. We shared some interesting and in-depth conversations about life, relationships, music, family, friends, and more. Don’t worry, we had some good laughs too, sometimes we just played games and listened to music.
Every conversation was a teachable moment.
Heck, their chicken tacos were darn good too!
More importantly, they learned about positive communication, mastering their socialization skills and growing as young adults.
This was supposed to be a music class, but it transformed into something else. The girls felt cherished and understood and that’s a good thing.
And so, here we are–two years of an extraordinary adventure has come to end. I may never see these kids again, but all I can say is that they’ve taught me to listen with an open heart, temper my words, and meet them at their level. They’ve taken me on crazy roller coaster ride into a new world of teaching…just when I thought I was done with that world. For that I am grateful.
Thank you ArtsCorps.
Thank you Meadowbrook.
Thank you teens.Read More
Well, as we come to the close of another year, I’m posting a few photos from our recent performance at the Arts Corps Showcase. We are so honored to have participated in this event. It’s a lot of work teaching music to a wide age range (4-14) of kids, but it’s equally hard keeping their attention and focus during the start of summer fever! It’s been a long arduous journey over these past two years and the kids have come and gone; nevertheless, it’s been fun watching them learn and grow. Bidding my final farewell to these kids, a.k.a. “The Meadowbrook Crew” at the end of June is going to be difficult; but life goes on and this experience has taught me a lot about myself.
I know I’ll never be the same.
~ CarlaRead More
Little fingers. Tap, tap, tap.
Little hands. Clap, clap, clap
Little feet. Stomp, stomp, stomp.
To the beat. Boom, boom, boom!
Sing a song.
Groove and swing,
It’s our thing!
Sing, dance, and drum—that’s the occupation.
It’s what we call DRUMAGINATION!Read More
It’s always great to observe fellow Arts Corps colleagues. There’s so much to learn about their artistry, pedagogical practices, and personal relationship with their students. Just a few weeks ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to do just that–observe fellow teaching artist, Stephany Hazelrigg at Aki Kurose.
What an awesome experience for me!
Besides the usual teaching of concepts, in this case, hip-hop vocabulary and dance moves, I found that Stephany was teaching an old and familiar concept in a whole new way.
I know I’ve written on this subject before and while I thought I had “community” well defined in my head, I now enjoy a much deeper understanding of this word than ever before.
You see, what caught my attention was her use of words and phrases that nurtured the idea of community and therefore were reflected in her actions.
For example, when two younger students began arguing, an older student jumped in and defended her friend. Instead of allowing the older student to take control of the situation, Stephany said- “will you be the older sister and mentor and step back?” This provided an opportunity for the two younger students to problem solve on their own and learn to communicate. As for the older girl, it allowed her to reflect and respond appropriately and maturely rather than to react defensively.
In another instance, as a young boy struggled teaching several dance moves to the class, Stephany reminded him, “remember, the goal as a leader is to not trick your community. Show them moves they can all follow.” As a result, the young boy chose simpler steps and taught them slowly so that all the students felt successful.
“Reset, Rewind, Recommit!”
“Celebrate and Elevate!”
Words and actions embracing and nurturing the true meaning of community.
It may seem basic and remedial, but in today’s world and with today’s generation, community is a hard concept to grasp. It’s not just about neighbors and neighborhoods. It’s about interacting with the people around us each and every day. Much of our youth today doesn’t know how to get along and communicate positively and effectively. We as teachers have to tackle this problem and so much more in our classes. We’re not just teaching our artistry anymore, we’re teaching life long skills necessary to co-exist in our world. The fact is that we can’t really make an impact in our work until we’ve built a safe environment around us. We must all feel loved, accepted, and a significant part of a functioning community.
I left the class renewed, reinvigorated and eager to apply these ideas to my own students. I’ve always felt that even as a seasoned educator there is always room to learn new and old things.
After all, the key to perfecting our craft is to always remain life long students!
Thanks Stephany!Read More
Well, another year has come and gone here at Meadowbrook View. A lot has changed since I last blogged—new families, new faces, new activities, new obstacles.
We’ve been pretty busy this holiday season with a return visit to Bart Harvey Senior Center for a holiday sing-a-long and cookie decorating with our elder friends. It’s always nice to be invited back to this community and see some familiar faces. It’s always nice to see the kids actively involved in positive things.
A new site we visited this year was Greenwood House. I really can’t get into too much detail with this particular site, but I will say the ladies at Greenwood really needed our company. Eagerly anticipating our arrival they had even prepared cookies and hot cocoa for the kids! Beside our usual routine, we were also delighted to have the vocal talents of one of our moms and our very own, Darnesha Weary! And I invited my friend, musician Nathan Olsen, to accompany our singing.
Seeing the radiant smiles from the women at Greenwood made it all the more worthwhile and it re-confirmed the importance of goodwill towards all and being of service in our community. Afterwards, I visited with some of the women as they gave me a tour of the house and talked about some of their life challenges. Their stories brought tears to my eyes.
The thing is, while it sounds nice that my students went around singing holiday songs and spending time with those less fortunate, we’ve been having some serious problems. You see, just moments before each of these visits, we had issues with bullying.
Yes, that’s right. Bullying.
Here they are pretending to be nice to one another when in fact, that’s not the case at all. One of my girls was in tears because her own brother had been teasing the crap out of her and he even managed to get a few others to join the bandwagon. To make matters worse he along with another one of his buddies, sat laughing at my choir during our performance.
Both Darnesha and I (appalled and embarrassed) stopped the performance, reprimanded the boys, apologized to the elders and the choir, and started again.
Unfortunately, the damage was already done and it was impossible to get my kids out of the slump. They sang happy songs with long faces—what an oxymoron. It’s infuriating to see such disrespect and disregard.
More often than not this job wears me down. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do and I care deeply for the kids, but these battles are constant and sometimes they never seem to let up. It’s tiresome and you begin to wonder if you’re making any impact at all. It seems that the good things last for a really short while and the bad stuff seems to linger.
I remember getting teased when I was a kid “Carla has a boyfriend! Na na na boo-boo.” But that was it.
Today, kids are brutal.
Bullying is a serious issue in our world and in the lives of our children. There’s a fine line with a harmless tease and seriously hurting someone’s feelings–to the point of something more drastic.
Kids today, don’t seem to get that. I mean seriously, my students and I have had heart to heart talks about this in the past, but it seems to be going in one ear and out the other.
I have to wonder if my students have any idea what they are truly doing to each other.
Once again, we spoke to them about it. If the look on their faces was any indication, all they heard was “blah, blah, blah kids…blah, blah, blah, blah.”
Where do we go from here?
When will this madness stop?Read More