We cannot design, create, produce and stage an original opera without collaboration, without teamwork. We must acquire these skills in order to apply them FOR REAL.
Working to accomplish a collective goal with twenty-four students is no easy feat, especially when the teacher steps away, leaving the kids to work through the trials and tribulations that accompany a group challenge.
A large plastic tarp lay on the floor, a magic carpet. The company has been flying for quite some time on this filthy, reeking, germ infested rug and can stand it no longer. The company challenge . . . to turn the carpet over, revealing its clean, fragrant side, without stepping off. If someone steps off or touches the floor in any way, the company must start the challenge again.
Imagine twenty-four kids at one time, talking over one another with ideas, suggestions and strategies to put into practice. No one is listening, everyone is moving, some take it seriously, others play around. Occasionally, there is a saboteur or two. Then, someone falls off. Most are frustrated, angry and want to blame someone for their mutual errors.
We stop, sit in a circle around the carpet and discuss what is happening. At this time, students share honest, heartfelt comments that make us all think about who we are, why we are here together and what we are doing. In this way, we build trust in one another and realize we must share our feelings in order to move forward. These circle conversations also produce concrete, viable strategies and observations that ultimately lead to accomplishing current and future challenges.
Creating a culture that encourages students to express and process their emotions in a healthy manner is essential to problem solving and building personal relationships. A critical component to processing emotions is recording our thoughts and feelings in writing immediately following a common experience. After an intense emotional session, students cannot contain what’s inside of them. It has to come out. As a result, an authentic purpose for writing emerges. Once students discover this outlet, that they can say and write whatever they think and feel without judgment, the floodgate opens.
Life lessons learned through group challenges:
It’s not about ME. It’s about WE.
Blame is counterproductive.
Getting frustrated and angry is okay.
Working together is not easy, but necessary.
Sometimes we must let go of our own ideas.
Making mistakes is part of the learning process.
There’s no giving up. Others are depending on us.
Our thoughts and feelings have value.
With two attempts to accomplish the challenge, the company has yet to be successful on The Magic Carpet. But we persevere.