I’m Managing… a Girl Group?

It’s rather funny to think of myself as a show biz impresario. I’m one of the un-funny–willing to laugh but can’t remember a joke or tell a compelling story to save the free world. Oddly, putting together a girl act and the ensuing opportunities that came as a result helped save one grisly year and gave me back the joy of teaching.

The Act: Ladies of Expression

There can be an invisible, unattractive wall between you and your students. Maybe you built it. You might be too busy with career classes or your own family to spend any spare moments after school. You might be unsure of yourself or simply stressed out. I was stressed out and not connecting well with my English language learners last year. My lessons were tense and flat and I was a bell-to-bell taskmaster, alert as a ferret for misdeeds and disorderly behavior.

When Johnson Lee approached me and asked if I would help his sister try out for the Multicultural Show I was amused. Shirley peeked at me from behind her brother. She looked terrified. I couldn’t imagine what talent or knowledge they thought I had about show business, or what this peewee girl might perform. Overweight, feeling humorless and grumpy. I stared down at them, flummoxed. “You want me to sponsor the Hmong girl dancers?” They bobbed their heads in unison. This was the shaky beginning.

Spending time with your students outside of the instructional day is a sure fire way to build your relationships with them. And at the risk of sounding trite: it’s all about the relationships. I agreed to help and the project reconnected me with my students and ended up both earning money for the group and creating an amazing form of community outreach.

Interaction

By the end of the year the group had performed at our Back to School, Open House, and Multicultural Show, neighboring schools and assisted living facilities in the community. And the kids got paid. Honorariums bought them yearbooks, tickets for the end of school trip and a multicultural party. Not to mention the huge ego boost of being paid performers. The girls maintained good grades and were positive role models for their peers. The success prompted me to apply for grants to expand the program to Mexican Folklorico, and Hip Hop.

Hmong quiz

The strength of the project was the students and what they brought to the table. They had to develop a narrative, choreograph and execute a dance routine, learn presentation skills and create presentation visuals. They learned more about their own culture and history and became budding public speakers.

Once I got organized and knew what I was doing, I really didn’t spend any more time at school than I usually do, and the group was self-supervising and didn’t require my direct instruction. I usually graded papers while they danced and worked out the routine. And yes ma’am, the student work was tied to the standards and as a surprise bonus I was able to reduce my adjunct duty.

Briefly, here’s how to do it. And remember, there’s no business like show business.

Telling a Hmong folktale

Identify: Scout students who have a cultural talent who want to develop performance skills.

Facilitate: Set up practice time in your room and keep them on task.

Teach: Introduce stage presence and reinforce manners.

Structure: Give the group a framework for practice time and provide constructive criticism.

Develop: Help the students create an audience quiz about the culture and anticipate and practice a Q&A session.

Pull it Together: Run through the whole act, check costumes, praise and bolster confidence.

Schedule: Set a schedule of school shows and community events.

On Stage

Assisted Living Facility Performance

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