Yesterday was the recital/performance of the Portland State Improv class that I’ve been co-teaching. It went pretty well, I’d say.
After it was over, a lot of the students were happy and milling about. Some of them came up to me to network and talk future improv stuff, but the really cool part for me was when our international student from Japan talked to me.
He told me in his best english that I was the reason he decided to stay and not drop the class when his other Japanese compatriot dropped. He said I made him feel welcome and listened to. This guy, Misa, has that ability to just turn on the magic and shine and charm the audience. I spent a lot of time encouraging him to stick it out because of this potential. I hate to see people daunted by the loud-mouth, jokester element that is often inherent in beginning improv settings (I won’t get into the incredibly sexist shit I put a cap on earlier in the course). If it wasn’t for my international experiences and doing “Translation” shows, I think I’d be less able to recognize abilities beyond the language barrier. I’m the luckiest man in the world some days.
That’s the greatest reward. I love when I get to see that I’ve made a difference to someone. Hey Amanda, how can I get him in touch with Yellow Man Group? Because he’s got a lot of talent, and I said I’d see if I could get him in touch with them.
3 thoughts on “The Rewards of Teaching”
Ah, what a great feeling. In the UBC workshop I teach there’s a Korean student who’s in a similar situation. His instincts are dead-on, but his English is a big barrier. Still, he had never heard of improv when we accosted him at club days, but everything he does is totally present and organic to the scene.
I’m new to the whole teaching thing, so it’s good to see that this effect doesn’t really go away. Not to suggest anything…
I know you’ve got Alistair and Dave to talk to, but if you’re ever looking for another teaching perspective, I’ve been at it for almost a decade…and my masters degree is focused on the anthropology of improv theatre….just saying.
there’s a whole host of culturally japanese things that go against the grain of the improv ‘upbringing’ and culture that you and I come from.
A Japanese saying: “The tallest nail is struck first” – in other words, don’t stand out from the crowd. While in some respects this can be productive RE:improv – valuing the whole over the individual, it can also make it tough (initiation, making strong choices).
A group of Japanese students were brought over by Yuri to study at UP in February. David blogged about it, and mentioned the other cultural diff, there being “no room for failure.” Here’s the blog, which includes links (in the comments) to YMG:
Yuri goes back and teaches in Tokyo a few times a year, but she lives in New Zealand now. One of my favorite scenes ever was Victoria 2004, Ramona (Die Gorillas) and Yuri (YMG) in a Harold, playing gossipy teenage girls, chattering nonstop with each other, Yuri speaking only Japanese and Ramona speaking only German. But I swear, all 150 people in the room completely understood them.