This post started with a straightforward mission: Thanks to an Innovation Grant from the Educational Foundation, I’m organizing an (optional) improv theater workshop during January in-service.
In order to help promote this virtual workshop, I wanted to share some research by UNC Chapel Hill professor Keith Sawyer, author of “The Creative Classroom: Innovative Teaching for 21st-Century Learners.”
Very intellectual stuff.
But then I read this recent Inside Higher Ed essay by an award-winning biology professor, who explained why attending improv classes made her a better teacher, a better listener, and a better partner.
In her essay, this professor credited a TEDx talk by artist Rebecca Northan, who inspired her to sign up improv classes.
And now I’m a little emotional after watching the video, so I will share the big takeaways:
Fear holds us back.
Fear makes us cranky, negative, terrified of failure, and disconnected.
Fear makes us say no, in an attempt to feel in control and safe.
Does any of this sound familiar?
If you find yourself in the fear zone, try these techniques of improv instead:
- Be positive
- Say yes, and see what kind of adventures you might go on.
- Embrace failure — it’s the fastest way to learn something.
- Inspire your partner — light them up! Focusing on the other person helps lift your own fear.
The title of her TEDx Talk is “A Useful Epiphany,” and Rebecca Northan’s big epiphany is this: We do all of those things naturally when we are in love.
Yes, she believes improv can help us be more creative and be better teammates … but mostly she thinks it can help us love human beings better.
The biology professor who wrote that Inside Higher Ed essay used improv to fall back in love with teaching.
How might learning the techniques of improv help you?
I’ll post more details about the workshop as we get closer to winter break.
In the meantime, here’s a summary from the in-service agenda:
Improv for Creative Teaching and Learning
This playful, improv theater workshop will help faculty and staff strengthen VWCC’s creative culture by experimenting with the research-backed techniques of “guided improvisation.” According to Keith Sawyer’s “The Creative Classroom: Innovative Teaching for 21st-Century Learners,” highly creative educators listen to students; are empathetic; welcome humor; and view failures as learning opportunities, all of which help create a more inclusive, joyful environment for students. The workshop will be facilitated by Ami Trowell, creative director of Big Lick Conspiracy, Roanoke’s professional improvisational comedy troupe. Ms. Trowell will lead participants through improv games and exercises, honing skills in creativity, spontaneity, risk-taking, collaboration, active listening, and play. This workshop is funded by a Virginia Western Educational Foundation Innovation Grant.
I hope you will join us!
— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, October 2020