This past weekend marked the halfway point for my current teaching assignment. Time most definitely flies.
Teaching 24 adjudicated teen girls is NOT easy. I don't show up to a nice recreation center every week with kids who are happy to be there. My teaching dynamic is quite different.
I teach in a juvenile facility with young women who have been through some unimaginable things in their young lives. They are half my age and have had experiences that are foreign to me as an adult. Some of the things they have shared with me break my heart--absolutely, break my heart.
Despite their heartbreaking back stories and the unfortunate choices that led them to the juvenile facility, they radiate with potential. I see it in all of them. Some of them choose to work to their potential by participating in the activities and creative lessons I try to give them each week. There are some, as expected, that choose to complain and not put their best foot forward. But, I am still optimistic and hope that when I leave on November 10th, they still take something away from me showing up every Saturday morning.
After observing how some of them doubt themselves and put each other down, I thought it would be helpful for us to participate in a couple of team building exercises this past Saturday. For the first exercise, I had everyone take a turn and compliment someone in the room. And, for the second exercise, I had them compliment themselves, "I am beautiful because..." It was a way to start the class off on a positive note after our weekly warm-ups which include stretches, deep breathing (Vinyasa) and channeling good energy.
My class is broken up into two groups.
The first group didn't seem to take the exercise seriously. But, they LOVED the costume pieces I brought in for them to wear. I thought it would make the activity for the day more interesting and fun with Halloween around the corner. I told them to write their own one-page play-- about two fairies, a queen and a clown-- there was supposed to be a conflict that is resolved by the end. There has been a lot of apprehension in this group to participate in my class. I think it is a combination of things--an unwillingness to try something new and the fear of being vulnerable as acting often requires.
The second group of girls were definitely more participatory. I broke them up into two casts. The first cast of girls from the second group was absolutely amazing. They collaborated and everyone played a role in coming up with the storyline and characters. And, the ending was just as I asked, positive.
The second cast of girls from my second group/class didn't work together as well. By the end of the story someone walked into the forest and started shooting. I told them I wasn't sure how "Boyz in the Hood" made it into a story about fairies. I gave them credit for the energy they performed with, but re-emphasized that positivity is the goal with this class and the exercises that we do.
By the way, the first cast of girls from the second group were so good, I asked to keep their script, and they let me. I am very proud of them.
I know that I won't be able to make everyone happy. But, I hope they all learn something. And, for the girls that are engaged in the class and try their best, I hope they continue to hone their talents and once their time is served, never return to that facility. They are so much better than their surroundings and I hope they see that.
My fear is that an 8-week class is just not enough.