APPLIED IMPROVISATION AS A COACHING TOOL TO FIGHT VIOLENCE AND BULLYISM

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Photo by Kamyar ADL

As part of the Adolescienza project – powered by Onar Istanbul, the NGO that I am representing – I had the opportunity to work for 6 months with a middle school in Istanbul. Their urgency was to work on bullyism, then together we understood that everything was starting from the self confidence and self esteem of the students, not forgetting the delicate and difficult age they are going through, their way of communication and perception of others. It was crucial the promotion of empathy and emotional intelligence in every step of our work, combined with coaching and PNL techniques. Thanks to the playful approach that Applied Improv is offering, the students had the sensation of playing and having fun in every workshop we had, and this happened for an amount of 40 hours of work where at the end they had the opportunity to perform and present their work to their family and professors.

Do you want to learn more about my method of Applied Improvisation: “Let’s Improv to Improve”? 

The first step of my job was to establish a good mood, a good connection and trust with them in order to create a safe space where they could have open up, share their feelings and ideas and together improve themselves.

The entire group of students said out loud that they don’t want to be treated just according to their points and test results. They urge adults to listen to them, ask and respect their ideas as well as recognize their needs, not just imposing rules and limits. This is a key point to start to understand their behaviours and their actions.

Most of the students also said that they found themselves in a situation where they were bully or victims or witness of a violent and uncomfortable situation, it’s basically their daily life. And this is confirmed by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention who is stating that 75% of students declare to have been a victim of bullyism at school. This should be a focus of their educational journey by their parents and by their teachers. What do they need? Emotional safeness. Tragically, their curiosity, amazement and wonder are usurped by a state of increased vigilance and immediate need for protection and security. Yes, security, trust and protection. Just like this, the students will be in a safe space to discover and create their true and authentic self. So, we decided to base all our work on relations and love. Emotional Intelligence was our real supreme goal, a perfect peaceful weapon to deal with their problems becoming more self confident and aware teenagers.

 

What is Improvisation?

So few people know it, and most of them are in the US, Canada, Australia area, and now it’s time to get to know, exploit and promote the most powerful art of the world, available to everyone because of its simple approach and its wonderful impact.

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Photo from MiiM – Milano Impro Festival

a – The Art of Storytelling without a script or without a music sheet. Have you ever watched an Improv Show? I hope it was a good one! And if you never had it, you can contact me I can tell suggest you where to go to experience something very unique!

b – A model, an approach to life. What a power!

c – A neutral space We can all go back to the spontaneity we had as children, have fun and be our authentic self, free from any judgment and express ourselves. Isn’t this the dream of most people?

d – A tool for exploration and exploitation of yourself and your group. Yes you can even learn something new about yourself or of your team!

f – A process, a mindful responsiveness to relations that generates positive development. This process can be used as a tool to exploit Awareness and Prevention (for example, this is the biggest outcome we had with this training with teenagers).

 “The Art of Improv is a bridge between personal, educational and social change

Martina Pavone – TEDxIstanbul Moda Talk, 2014

In my TED Talk I stated this, but today in 2017 I don’t just endorse and confirm what I said few years ago, I prefer to define in this way: Improvisation is Resilience that will make us the authentic leaders of tomorrow. And this is my mission.

 

So what is this Applied Improvisation?

Applied improvisation uses the principles, tools, practices, skills and mind-sets developed in comedy, jazz and theatre and utilises them for non-theatrical or performance purposes.

Practitioners of applied improvisation facilitate workshops, for individuals or organisations, introducing them to these principles, tools etc. via solo, paired or group exercises, activities and games.

Participants of applied improvisation workshops are able to integrate these principles; tools etc. into their daily lives. Personal development, team building, creativity, innovation and wellbeing are some of their areas that benefit from learning applied improvisation methods. (Applied Improvisation Network)

 

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Photo by Mark Pilgrim

 

How did I implement it with a group of teenagers?

First of all we focused on being Here and Now thanks to Active Listening. It may sounds like a simple concept but at the beginning of our project it was very hard to achieve. The students realized that they were always falling in the pattern to prepare their answer while someone else was taliking, so they couldn’t really listen. But I told them that we all make this mistake, and with the awareness of it we can push ourselves not to do it or at least do it less! And what if someone is telling you something completely unexpected? Thanks to Improv games and debriefing sessions we were able to arrive at the end of the project with a very high level of attention of the 99% of the class.

Then we worked on acceptance and gratitude, starting from the Improv concept of Yes And.. we played a lot and had brainstorming sessions using the same tactic. We worked on creating original kind actions to do to each other, we build the gratitude vase. The most difficult part was when we worked on the acceptance of ourselves and our bodies.

Did you read my article about body shaming and body self confidence? 

We worked on being aware of our strenghts and our weaknesses as well as accepting and celebrating failure trying to avoid a blame culture that was just creating a very negative and judgmental environment. A positive attitude was at the base of all our meetings and thanks to that the energy was able to flow naturally in order to improve the dynamics in the classes.  They were so happy to have the permission to make mistakes or even fail in a safe place, so they felt free to try. If you want to learn, aren’t you going to try? Is this different for us as adults?

Thanks to Improvisation again, we were able to explore the concept of STATUS, where all the students were able to lead and to be lead experiencing different positions in the dynamic of their class. A kind of first step to work on leadership for their future. They really enjoyed it, because it was very challenging for them. And at the same time thanks to the deconstruction of patterns in roles, social and gender roles, we could work on diversity and inclusion.

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Peer to peer workshop with the diverse youth community of Istanbul & I

 

We had a deep focus on giving and receiving feedback and conflict resolution. Definitely the most difficult part of our job, but at the same time the part that gave us the biggest impact. It was particularly difficult for them explaining themselves without being aggressive because their emotions just naturally exploded from their words and they were naturally focusing everything just on themselves. But since they’ve started to apply some different patterns to their communication they were so happy to see a big difference in their discussions. At school, they basically discuss all the time and if the students just have the knowledge to deal with a discussion in a constructive way there is no way that that discussion will turn in a fight. The Impro rule about make your partner shine was very useful for us in here, not forgetting that at the end we are serving the good of the whole!

 

 

Do you want to learn more about the methodology? Or about the trainer or the activities?

Contact me at martina.pavone@gmail.com


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