by Patrick Torres, Middle School and High School Director
When I first arrived at Theatre Action Project, it was important me to work with a group of students as quickly as possible. I knew that no matter how many staff members I met with or how many grants, articles, or handbooks I read about the organization, I wouldn’t understand the heart of TAP until I got in a room with some of our participants. Luckily, that opportunity came in my second week as I accompanied Florinda Bryant to our after-school programming at Gus Garcia Middle School.
For those of us working in education, we know from a variety of experiences that middle school students in an after school environment present a variety of challenges. It is often difficult in these settings to keep the students focused and motivated. And while these challenges do exist at Garcia, I have never worked with a group of students who overcome those challenges so quickly.
It is astonishing to see how invested they can be when presented with a chance to let their creative juices flow.
These particular students dive into scripts like professional actors, studying their characters and dissecting the conflicts of their plays. It is similar to watching someone on a treasure hunt as they work to make sense of the language and the scenes they are given to act out. During rehearsals, they work to accurately convey the emotions of the characters and motivate one another to dig deeper and try harder. It has been fun to watch! And they have reminded me of some very important lessons:
- Students need to be challenged. Many times problems with focus come from students feeling uninspired by what you’ve given them.
- Students are way more perceptive than you think…if you believe they are going to be trouble…they will be trouble. But if you respect them as individuals and believe they are capable of success, they will be successful.
- Drama is fun! While working on a play takes hard work and they can be used to teach us serious lessons, it is called a “play” for a reason!
- Theatre as an art form brings us all together to have a common experience, so no matter who made us mad earlier in the day or what I might be frustrated with in my environment , telling stories allows me to connect to those around me.
I am thankful the students at Garcia were my first class at TAP. They have reminded me of the reasons I love what I do for a living and that middle school students are just as capable of being great artists as any of us.
They have their final sharing this afternoon and I cannot wait to see them in action!