Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Theatre camp

Sophie had been doing occasional dance classes at school all year with the high schoolers. It was an experience Fiona was really pining for, but she was too young. So when the same teacher was offering two weeks of intensive dance camp, one for teens and one for her age group, Fiona was the first to sign up. Sophie was interested in the teen camp, so when her work schedule turned out to fit fine with dance she signed up as well.

Because Fiona was all signed up for dance, she opted not to do theatre camp. Instead, she spent that week, while Sophie was immersed in Dance, helping out at Music Explorers. The following week would be dance camp for Fiona.

Except that there wasn't enough enrolment, and it got cancelled at the last minute.

So. Sigh. She'd already given theatre camp a miss because she was planning to do dance camp. It didn't seem fair.

Then the drama instructors, who were running drama camp in a nearby community the following week, offered to drive her there and back every day. The program there was small; Fiona would be a very welcome addition.

So at the last minute we signed her up. Every morning we'd meet Mat and Jess at the café in town and they'd scoop Fiona up and take her for the day. She ended up with a fabulous group of kids and the chemistry and work ethic were really positive, somewhat in contrast with how they had panned out the previous week in our town. So it was a blessing in disguise.

Along with a variety of theatre exercises and games, they spent the week creating a play from scratch. The instructors had the kids create their own characters, contribute to creating the plot and write one or two of the scenes.

Part 1 


 Part 2 


Ghost town docent

This is a plum area for a teen to find summer employment. With such a small population, and a large summer influx of vacationers, there are plenty of jobs for students. For many teens all it takes is a bit of word-of-mouth expression of interest, and some employer will call them up and offer work.

Noah tends to be a bit of a content homebody, introverted and with few material ambitions, so it took until this summer for him to really want a job. He eventually decided (with a bit of nudging, I confess) that he was interested in The Sandon Job. Sandon is a ghost town near here; it experienced a huge silver mining boom in the 1890s, and is what really opened our whole area up to European exploration and settlement. The town was mostly destroyed by fires and then by a massive flood in the 1950s but a couple of tumbledown buildings have seem some restoration and a few survived the various disasters and been kept up by private interests. There's a Historical Society that runs a small museum and keeps archives and artifacts. The museum is open during the summer, and typically receives a grant to assist with hiring a student. The job is about 30 hours a week and pays fairly generously. The student is expected to help the adult employees with whatever work is necessary, from cleaning the outhouse (not the pit! just the outhouse!) to greeting visitors and various other types of clerical and cleaning work.

Unlike most of the word-of-mouth service industry hiring around here, this position, being filled by a non-profit society and funded by a grant, has considerably more administrative procedure behind it. They advertised for applicants. Noah submitted a cover letter and a CV. He followed up personally to make it clear that his interest was genuine. He corresponded with the Society president, and then spoke on the phone with the person in charge of hiring. There was then a proper interview (albeit held in the casual circumstances of a local café), and a waiting period while other candidates were interviewed. Finally he got the phone call offering him the job, and there was another meeting to discuss the details. All of which was really terrific for Noah, I think. He has the people skills necessary to present himself well, but he's always uncomfortable with new situations and unfamiliar expectations. Now he's done the whole job-search thing once, and successfully. That will give him confidence with the process if and when he has to cope with a more typical job market in another location.

So he puts in four or five full days at the museum every week. He works with one or another of the two main adult employees. They are as different as night and day in some respects, and they don't like each other much. They never work together; Noah is the primary interface between them -- a potentially awkward position to be in. His diplomacy and adaptability has amazed me. I've seen it in his peer relationships, but to see him confidently navigating the social demands of these adult-co-worker relationships is really awesome. I won't share details for reasons of privacy, but there are some considerable interpersonal challenges involved in all this. But ... well, some of Noah's comments about those challenges have made it clear to me what a charitable, empathic and honourable person he is. It's enough to make me a bit weepy-proud just thinking about it.

I know that Noah has a tendency to be quiet and self-conscious. I wondered how awkward and avoidant he would be with museum visitors. I wasn't sure how he was coping. When he was exploring the possibility of applying for the job I admit I underplayed the public relations aspect of it, knowing it would make him anxious and possibly turn him off applying altogether. He does not really want me visiting the museum while he's working, and I've respected that, but it's left me curious about his work persona. Was he very reserved? Was he busying himself with cleaning and administrative work to avoid having to talk to strangers? I knew his adult coworkers were enjoying working with him and had nothing but good to say, but still, I wondered.

Then I met some visitors to the area at Sophie's Dance Camp. They had been out to Sandon the day before, they said, and had met my son. "What an amazing tour guide he is!" they gushed. "Really?" I said. "That's great to hear, because you know, well, he can be a bit shy." "Shy?!" they said, incredulously. "Not at the museum! No way. Not at all! He's so knowledgeable and personable." I'd love to be a fly on the wall. And yeah, when I ask Noah about it, it's clear he's amiably greeting visitors and doing a ton of the actual guiding and talking -- and is pleased that he's doing well at this. It's been the perfect summer experience for him.

Plus he's making lots of money, which he tends to forget about; he periodically remembers the paycheque thing with surprise and delight. He's thinking of buying an iPhone (outright: no cell plan, at least for now), and a gaming console, and funding a trip to Edmonton to visit friends and attend a music festival.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Music Explorers

Fiona has that gene, the one that instinctively attracts her to young children. How tragic that she's the one of my children with no younger siblings. However, she makes up for it when she's out and about: she gravitates to young kids, and they gravitate to her. She's done a little bit of mother's helpful type babysitting (supervising kids while their mother is busy doing something else in the vicinity), and she's been asking for opportunities to volunteer with the preschool set for a while.

This week in our community there is an introductory music program called Music Explorers for children 3-6. It's like a music-focused kindergarten, in the true kinder garten sense: a warm, developmentally appropriate place for play and exploration and creativity with time outdoors in the garden and beyond. Fiona offered to come in for a show and tell with her violin, and the instructors were thrilled. They also suggested that she might be interested in coming earlier in the week to enjoy a walk led by a bird call expert, and to provide an extra pair of eyes and hands to help with supervision of the children on the walk. She thought that sounded lovely.

One of the instructors hasn't been well, so Fiona's small contribution to the week has ended up being much larger. Along with an older teen friend she's now attending the whole program as a helper, and the presence of these two older girls is enabling the secondary teacher to manage as the sole teacher for a portion of the morning. They move furniture, prepare snacks, put away equipment, interact with the children, help with the group singing and rhythm activities and help with supervision.

Today was the day for show & tell on the violin. Fiona talked a bit about her violin learning, and about how the violin works, and then played "Sing a Song of Sixpence," which the kids had been singing each day, for them to sing along. She played a duet with a cellist friend. And then she managed a long line of eager kids as they each took a turn of their own with a tenth-sized violin she had brought along for the purpose.

She and I had talked in advance about how to manage this. We knew she would only have a minute or so with each child to avoid the others getting frustrated with waiting their turn, so I suggested not worrying about bow-holds at all and simply allowing them to grab the frog of the bow any which-way. Instead she should focus on good violin position, keeping the instrument safe, and then let them make a few open string sounds.

And she did brilliantly! She set up their posture nicely, and they co-operated so well with her. She also managed the line well, keeping each child's turn to just the right length and reminding those waiting that their turns were coming very soon. They were thrilled to be able to hold and scrub a bit on a real violin, and they loved that it was another kid who was showing them. I don't think an experienced Suzuki teacher could have done any better with one-minute mini-lessons for a pile of young children.