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.
September 18, 2023
By Jenna Fournel, Director of Teaching and Learning
The first rule of Inspired Teaching Improv is: “Respect what others create.” In improvisational theater, this means treating our scene partners as equals, enthusiastically accepting what they bring to the scene, and then building upon it.
While the word “respect” is present in most classroom or school rules, it’s the other three words that make this rule of improv something special. When we respect what others create, that means we also expect others to create. And when we set that expectation, it has implications for every facet of how we do our work as teachers.
Here’s what it looks like and sounds like in a classroom where students and teachers Respect what others create:
Student work is prominent throughout the space.
Students share works in progress, as well as completed work.
Conversations abound in which students put forth original ideas.
Meaningful feedback is offered rather than generic praise or critique.
Students are highly aware of the personal contributions they make to the classroom community.
All members of the community learn how to support one another, recognizing that in this environment that support is mutual.
I recently marveled at a painting my 6-year-old nephew made, noting as we looked at it together how he’d used shading to create a round body on a horse, and chosen unique colors, purple and green, for the horse’s neck and legs. He shrugged and walked away. His mom later told me his teacher had been heavy-handed in “showing” her students how to paint. It wasn’t clear how much of the piece my nephew had actually done himself. It struck me that his teacher’s actions, however well-intentioned, did not follow the first rule of Inspired Teaching Improv. With this newfound knowledge, I understood my nephew’s reticence, and I wondered what masterpiece might have resulted if he’d always been the one holding the brush.
Respecting what others create requires trusting the process and knowing that while, as teachers, we can apply our considerable skills to offer guidance and support – the real learning, the real creating, comes from the students themselves. Our job is not to hold the paintbrush, but to engage in the dialog that deepens understanding and takes their burgeoning creations to the next level.