Monday, March 28, 2016

Volunteering at TIOS 2016

 Volunteering at TIOS 2016  Anna Robinson
  I had a wonderful time attending this year's TIOS conference and am so glad I took the opportunity to go as an intern. 
 Having never attended a conference before I was a little nervous leading up to TIOS, I was unsure what would take place in the sessions and am always a little concerned about my networking skills. However attending as an intern I was allowed to engage in the sessions as a participant as well as having some jobs to perform throughout the day. Interacting with new people became easier as well because as a volunteer I could check in with session leaders to make sure they had what they needed as well as collaborate with fellow participants. Overall volunteering alleviated much of my pre-conference anxiety by giving me specific tasks while still allowing me the freedom to explore the conference and I got to attend for free! I would highly recommend interning to any first time conference goers. 
Having now experienced TIOS from the intern side of things I am now looking forward to attending again as a paid participant. Beginning with checking people in in the morning and throughout the whole day I was struck by the friendliness of everyone I met and everyone's excitement and willingness to share their work. There was no sense of competition nor was anyone keeping their methods to themselves. In one session “Songologues” led by a fellow CCNY student Naomi Avadani  we were even handed a full unit of lesson plans so we could easily facilitate the work she had shared with us in her session in our own classrooms. In the other two breakout sessions I was able to attend breakout facilitators worked hard to make sure everyone understood the strategies that were being discussed and we shared our ideas on how to use those strategies in our own work.
As an intern I never felt that my ideas or contributions were unwelcome or considered less than, instead I felt constant support and interest from everyone I met.

From talking to other participants during lunch, facilitators during clean ups, and other interns during coffee runs I learned the many different organizations, programs and career paths that exist within our field. 

Everyone I spoke to seemed enthusiastic about what they were doing and hopeful for the future of theatre in schools.  I left feeling even more excited to get out there and hopefully begin work with some of these people and proud to be part of a community that takes so seriously not only the work they do but they effect their work will have on future generations.
While listening to Elisa DeGregorio's key note speech  I was struck by the idea of using theater and other arts to introduce students to and encourage active engagement with current events and issues.
Using theater as a tool for social change is not a new idea but what Elisa DeGregorio really opened my eyes to is how using theater and activism together with young people can allow for choice in the curriculum and foster powerful sense of agency in their lives.
DeGregorio discussed her work at Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School and how her students created theater inspired by the theme of climate change. Many of her students were inspired by the work they created and chose to also participate in the Peoples Climate March thus taking their activism out of the classroom and to another level.
In my own work this semester doing a devising residency with middle schoolers I am working hard to allow room for the students to have choice in what we create. Students chose their own topics to create short theater pieces about what was affecting them currently. We went smaller and instead of focusing on global issues students are creating pieces about peer pressure, bullying and academic pressures. Although the issues are closer to home allowing the students to create based on their interests and explore what is troubling them through art feels close to DeGregorio's work. I have been contemplating and searching for a good final activity or reflection piece to wrap up the residency after the students share their work.  When DeGregorio spoke about beginning her work with students using the image of a spiral and having students write and draw ideas on directly on the printed image beginning in the center with the issue they are concerned about and spiraling out to see who else is effected by that issue. After creating spirals of our own in break-out groups I was inspired to include the spiral as a closing reflection for my Devising Residency. I believe that by having students create spirals based on their own work they will gain a greater idea of how large their topics can be and how they can affect change in those issues through theater.

Two interns after a long fun day!

Anna Robinson & Amanda Mendez

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