School Name: North Grand High School
Teacher Name: Mrs. Turbov
Teaching Artist Name: Mitsu Salmon
Big Idea: Community and Comedy. Connecting what is happening in the student’s lives and in Chicago through humor.
Inquiry: How do we engage the students about their lives as connected to what is happening in Chicago and the world?
1. Planning: What interests and curiosities were brought to the planning by each of you?
Teacher response: I am interested in satire and having students develop their own work. My students seem to have a natural affinity for humor I wanted to use push this humor into satire and involvement with current events and our school community
Teaching Artist response: We always start by asking the student’s what they are interested in and giving suggestions. Both Ms. Turbov and I wanted to create something relevant to the student and our lives. They responded that they really enjoyed doing comedy. So we have been collaborating with student’s to create original work about their lives through satire.
2. The Project: Tell the story of your project. What happened in the classroom?
Holiday Show – last year, wanted to have a slow start and not really having the resources to do a major show, we started slow with Holiday Show for administration and counselors. We made this a tradition and decided to do another Holiday Show. Last year’s theme for the show was a parody of A Christmas Carol set in our school. We were kicking around ideas for a Holiday Show and one of our students suggested The Nutcracker . We went to work on this and used the Nutcracker for parody. The venue for the piece became our school neighborhood and the main character ,instead of going to the Land of Sugar Plum Fairies, took a magical trip to her future high school, North Grand. Students ago suggested visits to Santa to bring in send ups of teacher and counselors. We did this too, showing an overworked Santa in an Amazon style workshop. In the end, Ms. Santa had to take over in a nod to the women’s movement.
Moving on to our next project we are again looking to Saturday Night for our inspiration. Last year, we did North Grand Jeopardy a satire on our school with an appearance by Donald Trump with a satire on immigration. Since several of our students from last year who were the drivers of this satire returned to the program, we have returned to a similiar format. We are developing The Windy City Awards just in time for awards season.
We worked on two projects this semester.
The first one was where the students was created short original performances based on Ofrendas (shrines for those that have passed away). For the day of the dead, the hallway was lined with Ofrenda that students from all the school created. Our students were also given the opportunity to travel to Mexican American Art Museum around that same time. We proposed that the students create performative Ofrendas honoring those that passed away. They could choose anyone they wanted from someone they know or did not know. They then performed it for each other and the comic book club.
The second project we had with students was the Nutcraker and Santa Claus. Last year we presented original holiday skits inspired by North Grand to the staff and teachers. It went so well we decided to that again this year. The students suggested that we use the Nutcracker and Santa Workshop as a reference. We then had the Nutcracker take place in North Grand and for Santa’s Workshop we had the students ask for gifts for their favorite teacher.
Currently, we are working on an Award show that deals with current politics in the USA and specifically Chicago. We will have students perform it at Hairpin as well as the talent show.
3. How did you check in throughout the project to plan and adjust plans as the project unfolded?
We are constantly checking in with the students about what they are interested in doing. It is an after school program and the students choose to be here, so we want to make sure the projects come from them.
Since we rely on improv for the basis of a lot of what we do, so many of our ideas just evolve from the kids just playing around. We are always aware of their thoughts and progress as we work together through building a performance. I drive Mitsu home, so we are able to react and adjust to what is happening with our group immediately after a session.
4. What are the conflicts, contradictions or challenges of your teacher/artist collaboration?
Neither Mitsu nor I have a strong personal agenda, so we are both flexible about the direction in which our group is going. Mitsu is very good about listening to the students and encouraging their ideas. This helps me when I get to “teacherish” and push start pushing too far.
Teaching Artist response: Not really! We have been working many years together and I feel like share a similar vision of wanting to create work driven by students and for the community. But I know we have to put something sooo I think it was challenging for me in terms how my own practice and interests such as familial histories and experimental performance could intersect with the work we are doing with students.
5. What are you learning as a result of collaborating with one another in terms of teaching and art making?
Teacher response: Mitsu and I are balanced. Her speciality is movement and dance,and so she help the students in ways that I am unable to. . As an English teacher, I am more involved in the writing or cerebral aspect of what we do. I have an idea about where a scene should go, but often I turn to Mitsu make it happen it physically. Often at the start of the session when I am exhausted and still finishing up the day, Mitsu is able to do warm-ups with kids, giving me a chance to get wind. The students are very comfortable with Mitsu. She never pushes them in directions they don’t want go in.
Teaching Artist response: Mrs. Turbov is amazing in so many ways. She has a strong relationship with the students and knows the community well. She has enabled the students and me to develop work involving and for the school community. I am interested in how this work is also relevant to the artist communities I am involved in. She has also taught me a lot about directing and the balance of letting students lead but also how to teach and lead as well.
6. How has the community-focused component of the project contributed to or challenged your teacher/artist collaboration?
Our work which is mostly focused on sketch comedy/satire integrates aspects of community; school, neighbor, and city.
Teaching Artist response: I come from a performance art background and am interested in creating more experimental work with the students. However, I also believe in student-directed learning and want to make sure the students enjoy the work they are creating and that it is relevant to themselves and community. The have been interested in creating satire which is part of my practice but I am also challenged how to bring in my training and ideas as well.