Managing a (Improv or whatever else) Class! 10 #WonderFULLteachings

I dedicate this post to myself! Happy 15 years of teaching Martina! A special thanks to all the students who worked with me since 2003. Children from 2 years old to old people of 80 years old! I even tried to make a calculation, such a difficult one, I estimated around 1800 people that somehow worked with me. Thank you all!

Isn’t being an Improv Teacher very cool? Yes of course it is.

Isn’t being an Improv Teacher very easy? No, it is not.

Isn’t being a Teacher easy at all? No, it is not.

An Improv Teacher, or Instructor, or facilitator, it has everything to do with teaching and education, that we like it or not. I strongly believe, in general, that it really doesn’t matter what is your subject, if you are a teacher you need not just to survive in the classroom, but you have a mission to inspire and guide your students, no matter what age they are.

I started teaching as an assistant at 16 years old, after 15 years, I am a trainer of trainers and I feel like sharing some very simple and basic points from my experience that should open some questions to ourselves. Nobody has the truth in their hands, so I am completely open to some constructive discussion about what I am writing about if you feel like interacting with me!

In my past 15 years, I’ve been teaching music theory, piano for beginners, musical theatre, and theatre for children and teenagers, singing classes, choirs, Improv, Vocal Improv, Diction, Italian… On the other side coaching and training managers, executives, employers, leaders, teachers, professors, students about group behaviour, leadership, change, collaboration, communication, emotional management, empathy, resilience, integration, women’s empowerment, gender-based violence, Diversity & Inclusion, trainings for trainers, playful approach, etc etc.  In whatever class I’ve entered, whatever topic I was teaching or facilitating, no matter what age or kind of target those people were from, those rules, principles helped me to make a decent job in my teachings. I hope that this can help someone else in the same way.

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My 10 #WonderFULLteaching mantras: 

  1. Self-Awareness/Motivation: Remind yourself, every day, why you decided to teach. Is it your mission? What is your goal? What is your style? What would you like to communicate? How would you like to inspire these people? Why did you even start doing it? Who inspired you? Was it a teacher? Why did you love her/him? How would you like your students to picture you? Never stop asking questions to yourself to remind yourself why you are there and then motivate yourself day by day, more and more!
  2. Non-stop Learning process: Becoming a teacher doesn’t mean that we are perfect and finished learning. We constantly should follow other teachers, having training, reading books, following communities, conferences, inspiring people, blogs, etc. This can sound so corny, but it refresh your energy, it puts us out of our comfort zone, makes us feel in the loop, vulnerable, constantly growing. Alive!
  3. Feedback: asking for feedback it makes everything grow faster. I find it refreshing, and it so efficient. It is true that not everybody is prepared to give or receive feedback so you should filter and try to understand what people mean to tell you. Also, it is important to have positive and negative feedback both on the plate. It can be about you, about the program, about the organization, the materials or about the method. Then, of course, it is up to you to ask yourself how and if you want to take that into consideration and work on it. I personally try my best to take whatever kind of feedback into consideration, because I think that every feedback has in itself a good opportunity to question my self. You can use digital tools to do so, leave a paper-survey to students, ask for live feedback, have feedback session one by one, let them leave it anonymously, however you want it done. Don’t forget that a negative feedback it is not a failure, it is just an opportunity to make yourself stronger!
  4. Planning: Yes, yes and yes! Even when you are teaching Improv you have to plan your classes. And I don’t mean just the night before the class. You need the yearly plan, or 3 years plan, depending on what you are teaching, how long will it take etc. You need to have in mind the highest goals and how you will achieve them. You can plan this before the course will start, and if it is enough long, it is better to double check it again in the middle of the year, because every class, every group has a different rhythm and learning path, and then check it and evaluating it again at the end of the class. I always enter in the class with my activities planned in every detail, then I allow myself to improvise. Now I have enough experience to do so. If I see the class, or sometimes they directly ask for it, in need of some deepening on something, or more exercises about something else, I follow their flow and then I adjust my big plan to it.
  5. Time management: Sometimes it is so hard to keep it under control, I know. I found very useful to share it with the students at the beginning of the class together with the plan for the day. It becomes a kind of a common deal between us so if during the class we feel like changing it (it works perfectly with both adults and children don’t worry) we decide it all together because maybe we will lose something in favor of something else that, so it has to feel as a shared decision, fair and consistent.
  6. Care: It is part of the job, it our responsibility to be a good example about it! With care I mean putting love in every action we do in the class (or in life more in general), listening our students as a group and as individuals, be empathic with them and extremely inclusive. We need to accept that we all have a different rhythm in our learning process, we have some topics that we understand easier and some harder, we have some king of activities that makes us feel very uncomfortable and other very natural, we have different sensibilities, we have different IQ and EQ, we have different cultural backgrounds, personal issues, moods and personalities (I can go on even more if I didn’t convince you enough).. So how can we pretend that all our students will learn and improve in the same way? If they don’t keep up with the general class rhythm, first of all question your method. It is very hard to believe that it is the student’s fault. Before arriving to that very ugly step make sure that you did your best. Were you enough inclusive? Did you put everybody in an equal position to follow all the steps? What can you improve? Did you show also to the rest of the students that they are also part of the process and they need to support each other?
  7. Free & Positive Context, No blame culture: If your students see that you give value to the feedback sessions, it is already a very big step. If you give a very good example being consistent and never talking bad about some other students it is again another great step forward a more positive, free and no-blame culture. This is such an important issue. It also has everything to do with how you deal with mistakes, how you deal with awards and punishments. It has everything to do with how you deal with conflicts (not neglecting them in order to show a fake-harmony to avoid the problems and actually making them bigger), how you inspire them to not be judgmental, how fair you are with all of them, making no preferences among students and for sure not becoming personal with any of them if they are students of yours. You may use a code of conduct at the beginning of the year where you share your values with them, the policy of behavior that should be discussed and shared with them, the rules of the class, the tools to use in case of need, etc. All of these should be shared with your colleagues in order to be more efficient, but I know and I understand that this is not always possible, so we will all do our best.
  8. Creative routines: I love to create different kind of routines with every class I work with. It can be a song, it can be preparation of the class and of materials, you can use some yoga exercises it can be a gratitude exercise, it can be an energetic game to warm-up etc. Get creative, find different version according to the profile of the class in order to make it special. Because it is special just for that group of people, it helps us to feel part of something but at the same time to tune in the focus on the here and now as part of the warm up for the activities. And don’t forget that, even just for a little while, knowing what is expected of them, makes students feel comfortable!
  9. Energy: energy is everything for this job/mission! Since the first second where you will enter the classroom, your students will read and absorb your energy and then behave according to it. If you are low energy and incredibly tired, how do you pretend them to be fast and energetic? A teacher of mine told me years ago to go in with three times the energy that I expect from them. In general, the energy it’s all about exchange, sharing and connecting. Becoming aware of your energy, learning how to control it and how to read the class’ one are very important things to start with. Then you can be strategic and decide what you want to obtain, how assertive you want to be with your class and what you expect from them.
  10. Rhythm & Variety: rhythm is the key. staying on an exercise too long it is definitely counterproductive. Having two exercises in one hour that both make students just sitting and observing it is not useful. We need to take good care of it. We need to use a good variety in our planning according to the way of working (brainstorming? group work? individual work? Observation? Physical exercise? etc), the use of the space (sitting randomly, sitting around a table, sitting in a circle, doing physical work spread in the room), different use of materials, media support, guest visits, evaluating activities, feedback sessions, shared planning etc. Variety makes the learning process more alive, inclusive of different people, more complete, lighter, efficient, creative, fun etc. There are just positive collateral effect and the only risk is if you were not planning it, then it can become chaotic, be careful! I consider part of this section also the Intersections. They are so important and so undervalued. It is not enough to stop an activity saying that you are changing to a new one. You need to give roles for the organization of the room for the new activity, share with them the new plan giving the time for it, give a couple of minutes for a little break if necessary, etc. It is very easy to lose the focus, the energy, the mood, the mindset during transitions just because as teachers we forget to take good care of them.

 

 

 

We are very lucky, our job it’s just one the most beautiful jobs in the world! Enjoy it!

I hope that this can be useful for someone else. If you have specific questions don’t hesitate to contact me at martina.pavone@gmail.com or leave a message here in order to open a constructive discussion! If you want to learn more about my services stay tuned on my social media pages!


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