Category Archives: Education

Listening, Responding, Specificity, Commitment

April is Autism Awareness & Acceptance Month. We are thrilled to bring you this special reflection from Engager Jill Frutkin.

When I teach Improv, I say these four words over and over: Listening, Responding, Specificity, Commitment.

I tell my students not to worry about being funny, or being a great performer- as long as you are listening, responding, and being specific and committed in your communication, you’re doing it right.

Improvisation is by definition unscripted. No one knows what is going to happen next. In order to communicate, we need to listen. Full listening happens not only with our ears, but with our eyes, our hearts, and our entire bodies. When we are really listening, we’re taking in more than just words. We are listening to how someone feels. We look at their eyes, we read their body language, and we listen to their facial expressions.

As we listen, we respond. If we have honestly listened, we can respond honestly. In Improv, sometimes response makes us laugh. This laughter doesn’t come from a clever or calculated place, it comes instead from honesty. The best laughs I’ve had in an Improv class are from responses that in theory should not have been funny, but because they came from honest listening, they were joyfully hilarious in their humanity.

Sometimes a response doesn’t make us laugh: it makes us think. An honest response says a lot about a person and the way they think and feel about the world. When two people are honestly listening and responding, a productive conversation is happening.

In EE Improv classes for Professionals, we look at communication through the lens of how it can help us in our adult lives. How can honest listening and responding make a meeting more productive? How can it further a collaboration? How does full body listening improve the way you pitch to a client? We’re adults who have been communicating for years, but we all have ways we can improve.

For the past four years, I worked as a Special Education teacher. I taught 6:1:1 self- contained classrooms for young students diagnosed with autism. In addition to ABCs and 123s, I worked with students on improving crucial communication skills and emotional literacy.

The saying goes: You’ve met one person with autism means you’ve met one person with autism. My students were diverse learners: I had non verbal students who could read above grade level, verbal students with sensory processing needs, students who never spoke but would sing when music was played.

My students taught me a lot about communication.

You can let someone know what you’re feeling without saying a word.
You can listen without using your ears.

I learned to listen to my students’ body language. I listened to their words, and the individual ways they used their words. I listened to the sounds they used to communicate, and to their facial expressions. I listened to them as individual people communicating and responding in individual ways. The more I listened, the more I knew them. The more I knew them, the better I could design learning activities they could access and be successful in.

The more I teach students of all ages and learning styles, the more I realize that the truths of listening and responding are the same for all. As teachers and learners and people, we can all improve the ways we listen and respond, and in doing so we further communication and increase in productivity towards our goals.

– Jill Frutkin

FEBRUARY PHOTO UPDATE or “Improv in Action!”

#MUSEUMMASHUP at Nasher Museum
museummashup-2016_24998562551_o

museummashup-2016_24464992703_o

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THINK TANK
IMG_9948

IMG_9757

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SFMOMA
IMG_8150

IMG_8128

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LI MER
HUM 7-2

HUM 6

Museum Mashup Reflections


Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 10.19.20 AMA note from Jen:
The first Mashup was born in a car on the way to Whole Foods. And not a NYC car ride – this was a 10 minute conversation en route to picking up snacks for a reception at SECCA. Debbie Randolph was pushing, more than I was, to embody the spirit of improv in our next round of experimenting in museums at the 2015 NAEA conference. I remember having the conversation, getting excited about a great idea, then emailing the others to refining the car plan.

I’ve always had a level of tentativeness with truly incorporating improv into what I’m doing – blame it on years of hearing “improvisers are losers” from a theatre director who RAN an improv theatre. While others may have seen me as risky, I knew I was holding back some of the ‘crazier’ ideas. But over the last three and a half years, I’ve gotten bolder in taking the lead in improv integration within museum pedagogy Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 10.18.46 AMAND owning my experience and opinions. The Mashup doesn’t belong to that little group of renegades from NAEA. It’s not mine – it doesn’t belong to any one person. We don’t have to be there to train people how to do it or to run it. The idea of experimentation within museums is present within the museum field already. But this celebration of failure/positive risk-taking/off-the-cuff/Yes, And mentality? This is improv. This is what, through The Engaging Educator, we are teaching and embodying – and have been for three and a half years, and will for many, many more. And here’s my experiment, embracing it all and running with those ‘crazy’ ideas that don’t seem so crazy once they get rolling.

So, moving forward we’re stewarding #MuseumMashup. This page is a place where we’ll promote, help organize, host resources, reflections, photos and information – it’s also where you can find organizers near you, and get involved in our next adventure this late summer/early fall – the Worldwide #MuseumMashup. That being said, welcome and do Yes, And the fun!

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 10.23.34 AMA note from Shaelyn: On the first Nationwide Museum Mashup Day, events were organized at 6 museums across the country. Museum educators, enthusiasts, and the public were invited to visit a site near them or follow along online with the hashtag #MuseumMashup. Between 10 am and 8 pm EST, there was only one half hour period when no group of museum enthusiasts was holding a Museum Mashup!

The hashtag generated nearly 800 tweets, with 300 original tweets and 400 retweets. Messages sent on twitter about the event appeared in timelines 800,000 times for as many as 3 million views. The hashtag reached #1 among trending hashtags in the United States in the evening. Whether participating online or in person, the first Nationwide Museum Mashup Day provided a wonderful opportunity for people to share the experience of looking at museums in new ways.

Visit our Storify summary of the day to see a recap of how it unfolded according to the tweets participants shared: https://storify.com/MuseumMashup/nationwide-museum-mashup-day

Meet Our Team: Britt Cannino

BrittanyWe’ve brought on a new team member to help facilitate our expanding programs in North Carolina: Meet new NC Engager Britt Cannino!

-What do is your role at The Engaging Educator? My role at The Engaging Educator is to help bring improv techniques and practices to the general public, businesses, and educators.

-Where are you from and how did you make it to NC? I am from Winston-Salem, North Carolina!

-When did you first start to love Improv? I first began my love of improv through my acting training in college and from there I began to teach and perform.

-What is something you want to Improv(e) on? I would love to improve on my self confidence as well as building others’ self confidence.

-Where is your favorite place in the city? My favorite place in the city is Tanglewood park with my dog or at the horse barn; or where I work my part time job which at is Camino Bakery, downtown.

-What’s a not-so-secret skill you have? Another skill of mine is visual arts, specifically comedic illustrations and drawings, as well as painting and design.

“AaahhhOOOgah” makes me feel like an ape blowing a trumpet to assemble the rest of the apes to war….basically planet of the apes.

“Yes, and” to theatre, comedy, pets, sushi, string lights!!

Reflections on Teaching from Jill Frutkin

I like to think of teaching as translation.
Yes, it’s also about sharing skills, and the giving of perhaps new information.
But the most important part of teaching to me is the translation: how can I take what I know, and translate it into a language you can understand?

To be successful at this, you have to be a good listener. Not just an ears listener, but an observer of the entirety of a person. What is this person responding to? What does their body language tell me? What kinds of words are they choosing to explain themself? What makes their eyes light up?

In my work with young students with autism, the translation element to teaching was highlighted in bold. I learned to intuitively understand how many words a student could process at a time. I changed the way I spoke and explained ideas so that knowledge was accessible. I was mindful of cadence and emotion attached to words, precise gesticulation and clear body language, and the changing of energies and activities within the classroom to keep all students engaged in learning.

Through teaching Improv, Presentation Skills and Storytelling with EE over the past 6 (!) months I’ve learned: it’s exactly the same with neuro-typical adults.

We all need a translation. Each group I’ve taught has been different, and I’ve tried my best to access and fulfill their needs. I love asking and listening to students explain why they signed up for the class, and what they expect to get out of it. It helps me tailor both the content of our time together, and the tone.

It’s been incredible to get to know and improv(e) with so many people through EE. One of my favorites moments in any class is the huge smile on everyone’s face as we pass the clap in a circle – adults! Clapping hands in a circle! The simplest thing you could think of, but beautifully difficult to make eye contact, establish non- verbal communication, and leave one’s self receptive to change at any moment. I love looking around the circle and seeing the playful grins and hands ready with anticipation. I try to offer pointers to make the exercise the most worthwhile based upon my translation of the group’s interpretation. Sometimes they need to speed up, and stop trying to be perfect and too nice; sometimes they need to slow down, loosen their bodies and enjoy the failures.

When we talk about “Yes, And”, I like to open up the discussion to the many translations of the phrase. Sure, we can take it literally, but what other words can we use to better understand the concept? What does it look like? What does it sound like? How can it benefit us? I offer up my ideas of the way the concept makes the most sense to me, but encourage students to find their own personal translation. In addition to practice, I recommend reading articles, discussion, and taking classes with more than one instructor to take in the material and re-appropriate it in the way that best suits your own self.

Translation can often be verbal, but effective teaching is done through modeling; the embodiment of the idea. Instead of simply explaining, the best teachers are.
In EE classes, this means making myself open to failure and publically embracing it, pointing out my own habits, and sharing examples of how I’ve reflected on the practices in my own life. In doing this I hope both to serve as an example of how to move through the class but also how to apply the practice to everyday life and share with others.

Translation is the space between: the communication connection of people sharing experiences and learning from them. Improv helps us to be active listeners and honest responders, and improves both teaching and learning.

– Jill Frutkin

December Photo Recap

Check out some great snaps from a handful of December workshops!

DARIEN LIBRARY:
DARIEN
GOODWILL INDUSTRIES – TRIAD AREA:
IMG_7859

IMG_7860
HUDSON RIVER MUSEUM:
HUD

HUD2
JEWISH MUSEUM:
FullSizeRender-2 FullSizeRender
JFK HIGH SCHOOL:
IMG_7796 IMG_7848

EE Turns 3! What’s next?

Three years ago, I started EE thinking it would be a nice nod to my solo career – and that’s it. Nothing more than a name that would be a way to sum up the scope of my freelance work. I remember my first public workshop – it sold out, but I didn’t charge people until they got there and half of them didn’t show up. I had a pieced together website that I made myself (shudder) and I was asking friends and coworkers to be in photos so I had some appearance of stability. Literally anything to look bigger than the imposter-syndrome ridden ex-actor that was trying to figure out how she fit in to museums and education.

EE-Nasher-PurpleThe three years following were great, good, ok, tearful, rough, rewarding and stressful. Up until this past June, I was also working as a museum educator, building EE on the side. I jumped on every travel engagement and job, worked for free and for photos and reviews. When I had more jobs than hours in the day, I started to hire my friends. Fired some of them. Learned a lot and got taken advantage of a lot, but didn’t sleep a lot – I was answering emails past midnight and trying to figure out how to do a business. Some people thought what I was doing was ridiculous – I distinctly remember overhearing a conversation at a museum I was working at as an educator, and two managers were making fun of EE and me. I’ve lost friends, business relationships, and personal relationships. The business side of business is hard enough – I actually think the personal side is much harder. Few people understand that you ALWAYS have to be working to some degree. I completely get why 75% of businesses close in the first three years, and it isn’t all financial. This is not and has not been easy, and won’t ever be easy. I was just telling my partner last night that I sometimes envy his working for someone else. Being a boss is hard, being an effective and good boss is harder and being your own boss on top of that is insanity.

Teen-Facilitator-WebThat being said, it HAS been so very worth it. I’ve built this amazing company, and I’m finally getting over my imposter syndrome and owning the fact that EE is pretty badass. We help a lot of people in a lot of ways, and we’ve done some cool stuff – and I just keep thinking about what next. I don’t like to dwell in successes – I see them much like I did when I was an actor. Get job, tell everyone I got job, leverage job for next job. Same thing with EE – get a job, speaking arrangement, press – take it, share it and use it to get something bigger. Build a program and then think, what next.
My favorite part in the last three years? I not only get to find and collaborate with like-minded folks, I also get to surround myself with people who are incredible at things I struggle with. I really think this is where people make mistakes in business – you should always surround yourself with people that do things better than you. It not only makes you better, but it allows you to focus on your skills – and they can focus on the skills they’ve mastered. And then next thing you know, you have a community of people that are invested and have ownership in your baby. And it’s not just a nod to a solo career – it’s a mission.

NC-Nasher-MuseumIt’s been a heck of a ride, and I and we would NOT be here without some very key people. Starting from a seed of an idea from a friend to lead a presentation skills workshop at the Brooklyn Museum – thanks Adelia Gregory – to people believing in me, EE and the good of improv above all things – thanks Sharon Vatsky, Hannah Jack, and Michelle Lopez. It’s all about a team incredibly skilled educators who I trust with the mission, that see it out and take ownership – thanks David Armstrong, Andrea Kamins, Don Waisanen, Jill Frutkin, Lawrese Brown, Kayla Rivera, Minna Taylor. It’s the newest of the new in the “stuff I don’t do well and need help with” – thanks Shaelyn Amaio – and the lady behind all of the organizational aspects of EE – thank you SO MUCH Erin Badenhop Moncada.

It’s all about the unwavering support from my absolutely incredible group of friends and family – so THANK YOU, David Armstrong, Angelina Salgado, Nick Pavlik, Shoshana Torn, Rachel Ropeik, and Mike Murawski for constantly saying “HEY YOU CAN DO THIS.” And it’s very much about the strength I’ve recently found to do this as my career, and the support and love from my partner Alex Brown.

And it’s all about every last one of our students, corporate clients, museums, schools, and organizations. Thank you so much for all of your support and business in the last three years.

So stay tuned, because we are far from done here. To all the Yes, And, all the AaahhhOOOgah and all of the What Next.

Xo
Jen

Classes begin in Winston-Salem this September!

As you may have read recently, our fearless leader is moving to Winston-Salem! While things will continue as normal (and continue to grow!), here in NYC, we are delighted to begin offering a full calendar of classes through our North Carolina branch. Classes start in September!

You can find our brand, spanking new North Carolina class page HERE, with event details and registration links!

And don’t forget, we would love to come to your city! Contact Us for information on bringing our workshops to your company/institution/school.

Thanks for going on this improv journey with us! “Yes, and…” to new endeavors and new friends! AaahhhOOOgah!!

– Erin

Our Teens’ Off-Broadway Debut: Support #Improv & #ArtsEd

Mather2015-Edit

We’ve been with Mather Building Arts and Craftsmanship High School for almost two years–and we’ve officially gone from novice improvisers to off-Broadway!

On May 7th, these students are putting on a show for fellow students, teachers, and family at The Playroom Theatre in Manhattan. Since we started working with them, we’ve seen huge improvements in respect, listening, teamwork. Above all, our students have turned into talented and hilarious improvisers.

Because of some incredible supporters, we got our space and pizza that night fully funded within 24 hour–but we aren’t stopping there! If you’d like to give to the Mather performance, all proceeds above $500 will go towards scripts, props and costumes for next year for their very first play!

Visit our GoFundMe page to donate.

To further prove our point: the above photo was taken after we told the students how 30 amazing individuals believed in them–enough to fund their very own performance. Let’s give them even more and help them realize how brave they are performing improv Off-Broadway. Every little bit helps, so skip a coffee today and “Yes, And!” their arts education.

SXSWedu 2015 – Takeaway Edition

EE-EdImprov

Our founder Jen headed down South to Austin, Texas for SXSWedu 2015– the premiere conference for the future of education. After many sessions and workshops, below are three main takeaways that any educator can utilize. In addition to these thoughts, make sure to check out each session’s hashtag for more thoughts on teaching today.

1) Design Thinking is Improv Thinking

This was my first dive into design thinking! Coming from an improv-background, I was surprised to see similarities with an improv-based module of thinking. One key similarity has to do with truthful listening: to be successful in improv you need to be a good listener.

2) EdCamps for the Win

In a decidedly nontraditional route, I went to an EdCamp for an alternative approach to conferencing. The professional development went down in sessions crowdsourced and implemented that same day by participants. (Showing that improvisation can occur when you are willing to be flexible and take risks!)

#edcampATX

3) Visual Thinking Rules

Know your audience. Improvisers are particularly attuned to their environment–making sure each joke or skit is tailored to the audience and not the performer. In this session, we connected that idea with the principles of visual thinking. Many students need a visual element in order to learn effectively. By knowing their audience, educators can develop an accessible for their visually-oriented students: creating sketch notes, using photography, and showing video. This way, students can learn how to synthesize information in their own way and connect with it meaningfully.

BONUS

The Engaging Educator was assigned a special hashtag for our individual SXSWedu workshop. Thanks to individual success of the program, we’ve decided to keep on using the #EdImprov tag to showcase exemplary examples of improv and education!

Take a look at the links for ongoing conversations with the session’s hashtag or website, because all great ideas can continue to “yes, and…” into the future.