NC Calls

When I’m traveling for The Engaging Educator, I call my mom while I’m driving (on speaker phone!) a lot. The calls are pretty much the same at the beginning:

Mom:  How’s (insert city name here)?

Me: Lovely, but I don’t know if I could live here.

Mom: (Something about not staying in NYC forever)

Me: (Agreeing I can’t stay in NYC forever)

All the states and cities for EE (24 states now!), each one always the same. A beautiful place with wonderful people, but lacking that pull and unmistakeable feeling of “home.” Heck, I don’t even feel that in Wisconsin anymore, and while New York felt like home I knew it was rapidly draining me. I don’t know if I realized that through my travels I was trying on cities for size, but in retrospect, I totally was.

I remember driving to back to Winston-Salem last November. I had just finished a morning with The Nasher Museum at Duke University. This was my last day in North Carolina, as I had already been with the staff at Reynolda House Museum of American Art and the educators, docents, and teens at North Carolina Museum of Art, and was headed to SECCA for Teacher Night. I got in my car to head to my last NC adventure, and was actually bummed I scheduled this trip so tightly because I had been meeting some spectacular people and wanted to hang out. Not in a networking way, but in a friendly way.

Here I am, in my rental car, embarking on the 1.5 hour drive back to Winston-Salem and calling my mom, as usual. The expected question arises, “How’s North Carolina?”

For the first time, not my usual response: “I think I could live here.”

I meant it. Something felt very comfortable–and not just because I had been there for almost a week. Something was just right because the place felt like home.

My mom, probably shocked I answered something differently and always hoping for the moment her little girl would finally call it quits with “The City that Never Sleeps,” encouraged me to listen to the universe–a usual statement exchanged between the two of us.

At SECCA, the universe threw me an incredible night of connection; only confirming and enforcing what I was feeling on the car ride there. I got back to NYC the next morning, exhausted and thoughtful–could I really move there? A few weeks and more life went by and I kept feeling the nagging ‘”what if’s”: What if this was right? What if this was it?

I booked another trip back to North Carolina. The second trip was incredible, so I booked another one. And another. After three trips, I fell in love with a place–and a person. The “Could I really move?” question turned into “When can I move?”

There is never a convenient time to change your whole life around. During this back-and-forth, New York was just hard. This winter wasn’t the best (READ: THE WORST) since I was feeling stuck working other jobs while running EE and not having enough time for either. I felt disconnected from much of the city. Blame seasonal affect, stress, or whatever. I am self-aware enough to know when something is up. It was late March, it had just snowed (again), I was miserable–and couldn’t–and didn’t want to keep up. And I realized, with a little help from my dear, beautiful friends, failure is truly so much harder than regret. I would regret not following my instincts to NC. I made a choice–I was moving in the fall.

With that said–I’m happily headed south! I’ll be back once a month to continue our amazing work with Columbia University, The Brooklyn Brainery, The Children’s Museum of Art, and Mather Building Arts and Craftsmanship High School, as well as continuing to develop and nurture new collaborations.

The Engaging Educator will continue in NYC and begin to grow in Winston-Salem, NC. Just 4.5 months shy of our third birthday, we have a lot to celebrate. We’re on track to double our students this year, welcoming new teachers and staff, getting comfortable in our mission of giving back through sponsorships and scholarships for our teen and special needs programs, and expanding our collaborations, bringing on new friends with BeSocial Change and NY Media Center. AND we’re about to be multi-locational!

Thank you, immensely, to all of you reading this for supporting us on this ride over the last two and a half years. Special thanks to Andrea, Don, and David for being incredible teachers; Shosh for dealing with the growing pains; Angelina, Rachel, and Nick for assuring me I wasn’t crazy; mom and dad for honing my crazy; and Alex, for coming into my life at the exact right and crazy time.

“Yes, And…” to new adventures and roads less traveled! AaahhhOOOgah!

–Jen

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.