Hooray for Monday is a weekly blog filled with questions, ideas, reflections, and actions we can all take to remodel the school experience for students. Prefer audio? Listen to the Hooray For Monday podcast! Available on your favorite platforms here.
October 2, 2023
By Jenna Fournel, Director of Teaching and Learning
We practice improv every day but often don’t notice that we’re doing so. Here are some examples:
You hit a traffic jam which necessitates rerouting your trip.
You are cooking dinner and discover you don’t have an ingredient so you have to make a substitution.
You make weekend plans with friends that involve fair weather and have to change them up thanks to rain.
In each of these instances, you have a goal: to get to your destination, to make dinner, to spend time with friends. And in each of these instances when plans go awry, you notice the problem and change course so you can still arrive at that goal.
Over the past two weeks, as we’ve explored the Rules of Inspired Teaching Improv, we’ve talked about how Respecting What Others Create raises the expectation that we are creating every day. And how a Yes! And… approach invites student input to shape our instruction.
Today’s rule, Know Your Goal, involves adapting to the unknown while still staying laser-focused on where you aim to go. The full rule is Know Your Goal: Stay laser-focused on where you want to go, but flexible in how you get there. Be present so you know what to do next.
As teachers, we get a lot of practice with this: the fire alarm in the middle of a test, the question from a student that makes you reconsider how you’re explaining the material, the conflict between two students that derails the lesson. You have to be on alert, using all your powers of observation to know what’s going on, and you have to be flexible in how you get to your goal as you navigate the detours.
We build our capacity to follow this rule of improv when we:
Recognize that process and product can both be goals; often the detours are an important part of the learning process. Taking time to better understand a student’s question might slow things down, but could it also help other students to understand the lesson better? Could it help you better understand how your students think?
Turn obstacles into opportunities. When you’re outside for that fire drill, could it be a chance for students to ask clarifying questions that might help them do better on the assessment?
Allow the space and time to work on multiple goals at once. A conflict between students may derail a lesson, but pausing for conflict resolution can build valuable social skills.
Convert students’ “off the wall” comments into fuel for learning. How might you meet “I got a new cat this weekend!” or “How long until we can play on the new blacktop outside school?” with curiosity and interest if these contributions occur in the middle of a math lesson? Consider responding with: “Amazing! How much food does your cat consume in a feeding; a day; a week? How much do you think your cat’s food will cost per month?” or “Who can find out the area of our blacktop? Who can find out how much gravel needs to go under the asphalt, how many inches of asphalt need to be laid, how long it takes to dry…?” (The list could go joyfully on and on…)
As you head into this first week of October, notice when you’re finding flexible ways to achieve your goals. If you encounter an obstacle hindering your path, get curious about how to use the obstacle or get around it. Chances are you’re using an improvisational mindset more often than you think!
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