Category Archives: Engager Content

Walk-the-Walk, Self Talk-the-Talk

by Engager Jen Glantz

The truth is, none of us are ever fully prepared for anything that we do. We can spend hours, days, even months practicing for something and still feel as though we aren’t ready. One of the greatest lessons learned in improv is that all you need to do, sometimes, to succeed and have fun, is just simply show-up.

While I agree that is a daring and very bold first step, the real trick to making it through something we might be scared, at first, to do, starts way before we enter the room to give a presentation, to take an improv class, or to just have a sticky conversation with say our boss. It starts with the self-talk, or pep talk, we give ourselves beforehand.

I remember a few years ago, I was about to walk into a job interview and felt so nervous that I could feel my body tell me, through jitters and stress-sweat, that it wasn’t feeling confident about what was going to happen. So I let my mind listen to my body and all of a sudden I told myself that I wasn’t good enough for the job I was interviewing and the person interviewing me would notice that instantly. I practically stuck my resume in the trash and walked out at that point, but before I could make that motion, they called me to begin. I didn’t do well on that interview and I didn’t get the job. Looking back now, it wasn’t because I didn’t have enough work experience or knowledge, it was because I didn’t walk-the-walk, or talk-the-self talk beforehand.

This happens a lot. We show up to an Improv class, an interview, or just to a new experience that scares us more than anything else, and we talk ourselves out of it. Our body language adapts and before we know it, we are setting ourselves up for failure.

After that memorable (for not a good reason) job interview was over, I promised myself that before I did anything I wasn’t feeling confident about again, that I would trick myself into thinking that I was. That I would arrive early, find a quiet space where I could be alone, and positive pep-talk myself into believing, really and truly believing, that what I was about to experience was something I was worthy of and something I would enjoy.

I use this method every single time it’s my turn to start an Improv scene or even teach an Improv class. I hope you’ll try it too.

Meet Our Team: Magalie Yacinthe

magsWe are so grateful to our newest hire, Magalie Yacinthe, who is keeping the Admin side of EE afloat while Erin Moncada is on maternity leave! Magalie is a kickass business owner who is heavily involved in her community, and also working on her first novel!

What is your role at The Engaging Educator? Administrative Assistant.

Where are you from and how did you make it to WInston Salem? Born in Nassau, Bahamas; raised in Miami, FL. Work & family brought me to Winston. The arts & entrepreneurial spirit kept me in Winston.

When did you first start to love Improv? April 2016, which is when I met Jen and was fully exposed to the world of Improv.

What is something you want to Improv(e) on? I want to improv(e) on my love life!

Where is your favorite place in the city? Carolina’s Vineyards & Hops

What’s a not-so-secret skill you have? Event planning & execution

“AaahhhOOOgah” makes me feel free… like I just want to jump up and down and run around

“Yes, and” to Wine, Brunch, Lazy Days!

How to Survive 2017 as a Woman

by Engager Olive Persimmon

“I work in a male-dominant industry and sometimes in meetings they talk over me. I have to fight to get my ideas heard,” a vice-president at a large bank said to me.

“When I don’t say anything, they tell me I ‘need to be more assertive’ and when I’m assertive, they tell me I’m being too aggressive or bitchy.”

“Some of the other women I work with are catty, they try to put me down to make themselves look good.”

“My boss told me to smile more. Another colleague said I need to smile less because people might think I’m being flirtatious. Now I’m obsessively thinking about if I’m smiling at the right times.”

These are all comments I heard while teaching a women’s program for a client in the finance industry. Unfortunately, comments like this come up all the time. I wish I could say these were anomalies but I’ve taught women’s programs for three years and I keep hearing the same responses. Again and again. Women who are taught to play small. Women who feel uncomfortable voicing their opinions. Women worried about being too much of something (too assertive, too passive, too tall, too small, too whatever…)

One of my most memorable comments came from a younger professional named Chelsea, “I’m 6’1 and my boss is intimidated by my height. He always makes snide comments about it. Is it okay to try to make myself smaller in his presence so he’s not as threatened?” For me, it was a heartbreaking comment because it represented how women are taught to shrink to accommodate.

I thought about my answer for a second because I knew what I was about to say would be important to Chelsea. I looked at her and carefully said, “No, it’s not okay to shrink. His insecurity is not your problem.”

Mic drop.

It’s been a huge part of my life’s work to help women find their voices and stop playing small. I am incredibly lucky to work for a company that supports this mission. The Engaging Educator was not only founded by a badass woman, it hosts a whole staff of amazingly talented women. As a testimony of our commitment, I received an email from my boss on November 9th, the day after we didn’t elect the first female president. She told us that we were going to give away some free seats in our women’s workshops. This was our way of contributing to all the women who felt powerless and defeated post-election.

I was so excited! Another Engager, Minna Taylor and I had been designing women’s programs for years. I planned an amazing curriculum with improv-based exercises for this new class. We’d work on taking up space and using the full force of our voices. We had exercises for dealing with aggressive counterparts, exercises that addressed thoughts & behaviors that were holding us back. I carefully crafted and designed this program thinking about all of the comments I had heard over the past several years. Then I waited.

No one signed up. Not one single woman. Even though many of the seats were 100% ABSOLUTELY FREE. Finally, deep in my despair, ONE lone, brave woman registered for the workshop.
I was beyond disappointed. I teach storytelling, public speaking, presentation skills, and improv for professionals. They ALWAYS have students. This absolutely free and critically important class failed to draw students.

Perhaps it was a marketing failure on our part, I don’t know. Maybe, it’s just one more example of women not putting themselves first because it seemed selfish or unimportant to take the time to learn how to be comfortable being a woman. Maybe there were good specials at the bar. Maybe the ladies were too busy running their own companies. I have no idea. Despite this, we’re still offering free spots in ALL of our classes for women because we believe it’s THAT important.

I went to the Women’s March in January and was so excited to see so many men and women coming together, actively. It was incredible to see people fighting for their rights and the rights of other people. I know that the fighting isn’t going to stop. We’re going to have to keep fighting the next four years and maybe eight years beyond that. Maybe fifteen years beyond that.

Give yourself some tools to help you fight. Come to class. Invest in yourself.

Women’s Classes (Free spots available to students in need or who work with/for women-focused organizations. Drop us a line for more info!):
– February 21st
March 23rd
April 4th

Quick Thoughts: Failing in Education

By Engager Hillary Murrell

When do we learn that failing is not an option?

This is a question that has been plaguing me over the last few years as a museum educator. I teach all grade levels in museums from kindergarten to senior adults.

Yesterday I toured a group of 3rd graders through the museum. In groups they looked at fiber art in the gallery and were able to touch the same object from the artist to Teen Facilitator web headerdiscover textures and process. They wrote down what they saw, what they thought and what that made them wonder. I am always amazed by the number of hands that go up in the air the minute I ask to share as a large group.

“I saw lots of colors”

“I think it looks like mushrooms, and I have lots of mushrooms in my backyard that my mom tells me not to eat”

“I think it looks like pixels on a blurry TV screen”

Their answers are inquisitive and they are genuinely willing and interested in sharing their thoughts. They don’t feel restricted to have to say the “correct” answer.

Contrast that with a group of undergraduates I toured last week. My assumption was that because they were Latin American Studies majors and the exhibition was on a Cuban artist we would have deep stimulating conversations in the galleries.

I open the tour with a question.

…..crickets….

Not one student was willing to talk through their thoughts or attempt to critically look and discuss a piece of art. I always joke with them that if the 3rd graders can 22727165146_fa61d9050c_oanswer questions, they definitely can. But really, it isn’t a joke and it makes me sad.

Why do we teach kids as they get older to stop exploring through conversation? There really is no wrong answer if you are able to back up your postulations through critical analysis. But all students hear is “keep your mouth shut so you don’t sound stupid.”

I think this is where Improv training can make a deep impact in how we educate. Improv skills help us learn that we are going to fail and when that happens we try again. There is no wrong answer in “yes…and”. It is about discovery and confidence and exploration to eventually get to a “correct” answer. I think we do students a disservice when we teach to tests and only “correct” answers when really the process of discovery, curiosity and failure is the greatest way to learn.

My goal as an educator in 2017 is to incorporate “yes…and” and confidence building in all my classes. I truly believe that teaching students (and adults!) how to fail is crucial in removing fear and opening a path to deeper learning that remains hidden when we teach that success is the only option.

Teen Programs: 3 Improv Activities That Will Give Your Students Skills For The Job Hunt

By Engager Lawrese Brown

I recently had the opportunity to facilitate a workshop, “Improv For Job Seekers,” to a group of high school graduates. When preparing my curriculum, I thought carefully and critically about the skills that enable people to job hunt effectively, because those skills would direct the improv activities of the session.

arts-connection-teensMost students selected the session because “improv makes you quicker on your feet and that’s important when interviewing.” While communication skills are definitely a key piece of the job hunt, I also wanted students to enhance the less obvious, but no less important skills that would help them land a job. Skills like listening, creativity, attitude, collaboration and problem solving. This article highlights 3 key activities you can use to help your students hone these skills.

Activity #1: Last Word Response (Job Hunting Skill: Listening)

Instructions: “Who would say they are a good listener?” Most students did, and many nodded their heads in agreement. “This game Last Word Response, how well you listen from start to finish. In order to succeed at this game, you have to remain fully present because your sentence or phrase must start with the last word the person before you used.

For example, one student may start by saying a general phrase or sentence such as “I love cats,” the next person then starts their sentence with the last word of the previous person’s sentence and could say something like “Cats are cool pets,” the next person could say, “pets are named after people,” etc. Uh oh. For most of us – professionals young and mature – we’d make a case that listening is paying attention when someone else is speaking, but we’d also readily admit that while someone is speaking we are also thinking of what we want to say.

Takeaway: Sometimes we can get away with not listening until the very last word, yet other times (like when the hiring manager asks a two-part question in an interview – “What’s your greatest weakness? How have you been improving in that area?”) – it can cost you. The students – when they weren’t caught not listening – said it best, “when you actively listening its easier to make connections with the speaker,” and that’s critical when interviewing, networking and communicating.

Activity #2: Blind Line-Up (Job Hunting Skills: Creativity, Problem Solving)

These days’ companies want all their professionals to demonstrate creativity, because that quality is at the root of innovation. Companies want professionals who are going to push them to do things differently than they’ve done them before and that’s the
exact purpose of the game, Blind Line-Up.

In this game, students are given three team tasks, such as lining-up in alphabetical order by first names, lining up by the #of minutes in their commute this a.m., or lining up in height order. Sounds easy right? The students are them prompted to complete the task in one of the three ways: with their eyes closed, no talking, or my favorite – with their eyes closed and no talking.

Takeaways: Many students incredulously inquired “how can we do this with our eyes closed?” All professionals can relate to feeling both confusion and resignation when faced with a new challenge or trying something for the first time. Yet, somehow – despite the uncertainty, lack of resources, stipulations, and roadblocks- we get it done, just as the students did. How? Because we tried, adjusted, and tried again. The students didn’t succeed at every task the first time, and that’s good because immediate success wasn’t the point. As students noted, “it was about finding new strategies,” “being resourceful” and ensuring “everyone was on the same page or using the same method to communicate.” The latter is what enables us to approach and solve problems in new ways.

Activity #3: Pass The Gesture (Job Skills: Collaboration, Attitude, Initiative)

Ask any high school student or professional about group projects and teamwork and there’s a collective sigh. Because of rough experiences, “some people are lazy and don’t do work,” “its easier by myself because I have high standards,” and “there can be a lot of miscommunication,” – many of us have decided that’s it better to execute any new project alone.

The only problem with that is everything about succeeding in a job has to do with how well you work with others. And that’s why being able to work in a team and being a good team player is important.

In the game, Pass The Gesture, each student says a word/phrase (ex. Yes, excellent, BAM, woo, etc.) and does an accompanying gesture (stomp your foot, snap your hands, spin, etc.). If student #1 starts by saying wow and throwing their hands up then each student in the circle has to do exactly that, say wow and throw their hands up, until we’re back at student #1. Student #2 then initiates a new, different gesture and word that everyone must repeat around the circle.

Takeaway: What inevitably happens is someone does a gesture that is too big, too much, too new and maybe even too complex (ex. Dougie, headstand, etc.) that other individuals shy away from fully attempting it. For example, instead of saying wow with the bright, confident tone of the student who started it, we let out an unenthusiastic, low “wow” or if we’re led to lift our hands way above our heads it’s tempting to lift them just above our shoulders.

hudson-river-museum-teens-1When these moments happen, I ask, “How much more confident do you feel as a leader when you know your team supports you?” Or “how much better is it working on a team when we know others are as fully committed to doing the tasks as well as we are?” Its those things – being able to rely on others and being fully committed to a common result that build trust. Also, how we approach something demonstrates our attitude and our attitude is critical to our success. Would you hire someone who complained whenever the company had to adjust or pivot on a project or would you hire the person who was enthusiastic and demonstrated a “can-do” attitude? As one student noted during their final reflection, “attitude is everything.”

The Balance Between Initiative & Flexibility When Working In Teams

By Engager Lawrese Brown

The Blind Leading The Blind. That is literally what happened when I was facilitating a Blind Trust activity for a group of teens. During the activity, each person guides their partner around the room by their fingertips while their partner’s eyes are closed.

At the end of the activity, I asked the pairs “How did it feel to be led? How did it feel to have your eyes closed?” That’s when one of the pairs said, “We both had our eyes closed as we moved around the room.”

de298b_55847c546b2247039f8ca70e92f4db12mv2I was intrigued. I’d facilitated this activity frequently and never had that happen before. I then had the remaining teens do another round where both people in the pair tried to navigate around the room with their eyes closed. The final round was absolutely comical, but also a critical “aha” moment for us. As one teen said, “You need someone to lead so that you have direction.”

We know that you need leaders and followers, but we don’t often talk about the skill it takes to lead (initiative) and the skill involved in following (flexibility). As an instructor, it was the perfect demonstration of improvisations reliance on both. The final round showed us the importance of being both enterprising and easygoing when focused on achieving a result.

There is a tendency on teams to think in extremes – either you are easy going and go with it or you are being assertive and taking charge. But what would happen if we celebrated teammates that demonstrated both qualities equally?

If you’re too easygoing, you’ll never take action. And if you’re too assertive, you’ll leave no room to adapt. As the activity fundamentally showed us, progress (movement) and success (not bumping into anyone or anything) relies on a balance of both.
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Imagine how we would shift our behavior on teams if we knew that every time there was a department project, the team’s ability to reach the desired result was the only metric we were judged on. There wasn’t an opportunity for you to say, “Well I did my part…” or conversely, “Well I did what everyone else was doing…”

de298b_3037f3252cdf40639a372277971b37c4mv2Accepting that teamwork requires a balance of initiative and flexibility (or leading and following from all members of the team) is the best way to hold everyone accountable for the times final result. Both improv and teamwork are like having a great conversation, it’s not just what you say that’s great, but it’s also what others said to you. That balance is where the magic happens.

November #YesAndTube Recap!

What a month November was… We are looking forward to a chill December and a rocking New Year! If you missed our November videos, here’s a recap. And don’t forget, you can subscribe to our Youtube channel and watch them as they roll out every Monday!

November 7:

November 14:

November 21:

November 28:

Election Response

Dear Friends of The Engaging Educator:

The last week was difficult for many of us here at EE. I can say without hesitation, as a 100% woman-owned and operated business, we’ve had a rough week. Personally, I’ve found myself in a myriad of emotions – from sad, to rage, to charged, to distracted, then back to sad. And you know what? It’s all ok.

This isn’t a plea to move on. This isn’t an ask to cheer up, or to protest, or to rage, or to make beautiful things. It IS an ask to start listening better. We at EE maintain that listening and communication are essential skills that we all need to be better at.

The two most powerful things I’ve seen this past week – the first, a post on Twitter from a friend: “Request: stop dictating how others are handling their grief/confusion/fear. It only divides us. Just be a good human, please.”

It is ok to be whatever you are feeling right now. People have been giving flack for posting happy photos, or ‘normal’ posts, or Harry Potter quotes – and if you’re just ignoring what happened, that’s on you – but do not criticize how people are handling this. We’re all different. Let everyone deal with grief in their own way.

The second was a friend’s photo from the protests in NYC. She had captured a sign that said “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.” We will all grow from this – I refuse to believe this is the downfall of all that is good in the world. After we grieve, we take action.

More on our post-election thoughts here, in our weekly video. I’ll let you decide to watch it or not:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iB6CL-AXHxY

Finally, just take care of one another. I’ve hugged more people in the past week than every, and while a hug can’t save us from the hate in the world, the fact we are all in this together can. Elevate each other, look out for one another, and again, listen better.

Yes, Anding and Elevating Ya’ll Forever-
Jen Brown, Founder
The Engaging Educator

On Flexibility As An Instructor

By Engager Jill Frutkin

I love it when educators come to class. There is a knowing look when I tell them I was an elementary classroom teacher for years.

You can plan the world’s greatest lesson – complete with the most appropriate standards, the most engaging materials, the most thoughtful grouping – and then there’s a fire drill. Or half the class is absent. Or what you thought was engaging is actually totally boring to them.

copy-of-img_4469To be a great teacher means you think (and eat lunch, and do most things at work) on your feet. You need to be taking the temperature of your students needs constantly, and re adjusting accordingly. Something you did not expect is always going to happen – and this is actually a very good thing.

By being in the moment and paying attention to how students react, you can seize the real teachable moments. The combination of planned activity, uncontrollable circumstance and a listening teacher ready to respond creates an ideal environment for real learning.

I found this to be true in an EE improv workshop this fall. I was leading a session in an office with a team of employees, focusing on team building, agility, and communication. I started the session with my favorite warm up, “Rubber Chicken”. The exercise aims to connect our bodies with our voices with our heads and our hearts. We shake out our limbs (body), while loudly counting down from 8 (voices, heads) and making eye contact with someone in the circle for each limb (hearts). It’s a great exercise to bring a group together, warm up, and create a safe, unison space.

copy-of-img_4484Before we started, I modeled how the exercise looks and sounds, shaking my arm and loudly counting to 8, projecting my voice and connecting it to my movement. I noticed a few alarmed faces, and told them not to worry, we’d be doing the exercise in unison, so that nobody would be listening to any one individual voice. The alarmed faces told me that volume level was a definite no-no. We couldn’t be that loud – people were working down the hall.

For a split second, I froze. I didn’t want to offend or upset anyone, and this was not a great start. Then I turned the moment into a lesson. I was there to teach flexibility, and this was an opportunity to model agility in the moment.

I thanked the participants for letting me know the parameters of the room. Then I pointed out that the objective wasn’t to be loud – it was to warm up, and to connect our voices to our bodies. We could easily keep the same intention and intensity with a quiet volume. I made my agility transparent – thinking aloud with participants. When a situation you didn’t expect copy-of-img_4461comes up, one way to imagine a solution is to look at what is most important. In this case, the warming up and connection was most important, not the volume. We could easily make the adjustment and continue with the exercise.

It was a fantastic workshop, and the participants were engaged, joyful, and reflective. The moment of flexibility was a great lesson to me – it deepened how I see an exercise I use daily – and I hope that by making my agility transparent, I modeled flexible thinking and problem solving. I truly believe that using the principles of improv help us find valuable teachable moments in every situation.

Happy Birthday, EE!

OMG, we are FOUR YEARS OLD TODAY!!! Thanks to the Engagers and Staff who took a little time to share something they’ve improved upon during their time with EE, or something they love about their job!

IMG_9948As a new member of the EE team, I’m excited to Inspire others to feel confident in front of a room, whether it’s for work, their hobby, or even just a gathering of old friends and new. Feeling comfortable in your skin is something that I’ve learned is so important when being your most genuine and authentic self! All my love, Jen – Jen Glantz, Engager

Being an engager is a dream job: I get to meet new people and learn, laugh and improv(e)! It is endlessly satisfying to see how improv – and the EE ethos – helps us listen, communicate and make progress on our goals. I feel so lucky to work with such an inspiring, smart and caring staff of women as we grow and expand. Happy Birthday, EE! Let’s all eat cake! – Jill Frutkin, Engager

museummashup-2016_24464992703_oAs an engager, I have learned the enormous potential held in every single person. I have witnessed what is possible when we come together to explore how to share our voice with the world. – Minna Taylor, Engager

I love working with people who are so enthusiastic and passionate about the work they’re doing. I love feeling like it’s okay — encouraged, even! — to be excited about the work we’re doing and the folks we’re doing it with. – Shaelyn Amaio, Social Media and Graphics

I’ve definitely improved on initiative taking and thinking outside the box for creative admin solutions! Working with a team of people who are all creatives, not to mention just awesome people, makes admin work a joy! Plus, I love that our team is all women! – Erin Moncada, Admin Director

image5What I LOVE most about being an Engager is being a part of a group of bad-ass (can I say that?!) women who bring a varied set of skills, strengths, and accomplishments to the table. I’m inspired every time I co-teach, observe, and speak to the fellow engagers. The Engagers and the professionals that take EE’s classes always challenge me to bring my A-game – and no two classes are ever the same. I’m undoubtedly a better facilitator and educator because of my time with EE, and I’m looking forward to another amazing year. – Lawrese Brown, Engager

I LOVE my job. How many people get to say that? I get to help people get out of their heads and feel good about their communication. Not to mention, it’s fun! Seriously, huge love for EE, the other engagers, and all the wonderful people we’ve had the privilege to teach. – Olive Persimmon, Engager

improv. jpgWhat I love most about being an Engager is what I learn from students. A lot of people think that teachers are the ones with the answers, but I’m constantly being taught by the people who take my classes. It’s so inspiring to see how bravely people embrace something so foreign to them and it makes me more courageous in my life and work. – Molly Anne Coogan, Engager

Engaging Educator has made me more fearless! I love being part of a team of fearless woman who take risks and ‘yes…and” to success. – Hillary Murrell, Engager