Monday, April 19, 2010

Gripping the Grass Roots - Finalities and Question Marks

In being unemployed, I've had a lot of time to think about next steps.  The problem is this:  It's hard for me to imagine not working with kids.

The bigger problem:  Funding is virtually non-existent for social services and non-profits programs.

I've been thinking a lot about combining my day job and my night job into something that makes sense.  I'm still working on it, believe me.

In the last week, my staff and I have produced a fabulous show for our middle school students.  Originally, we were calling it a showcase, which separates it from a "talent show," since it's more about the many strengths that our students exhibit.  The show, entitled "Leaders Rising," focused on positive creative outlets as tactics for stress management.

Yes, on the surface, it seems like a regular talent show.  But we've gone through hoops to document all the things they've done to make the show happen.  We'd also interviewed them about how they deal with stress.  Throughout the year, we tackled difficult issues like drugs and alcohol abuse, teen prostitution, and dating violence.  Though we had a limited amount of time to discuss these topics, we're hopeful that they'll walk away with something.

But, back to the show.

Oh my goodness.  I was exhausted for the 2 weeks leading up to the event.  There were practices, sign-in sheets, letting teachers know, letting administrators know, practices, letting city officials know, letting parents know, getting music, editing footage, getting supplies, organizing a timeline, and practices.

We managed to run into a whole slew of obstacles, from an administrator pretending that she didn't know anything about it to kids being in detention to kids fighting with each other because they're stressed about perfection.  But, I love the moment right when the show begins.

The lights go off, and our 8th grade MC takes the lead.  The roar of the audience at the first act, and the amazing things that the kids are able to do on stage (singing though they're SO freaked out, krumping, stepping, and signing the chorus to "Heal the World" after only learning the signs a week earlier), and even the slight technical difficulties we had.  It is so inspiring - and I can only hope the kids in the audience would feel just as inspired.

I will admit that I will push the students to do their best.  Even when they're giving up and pissed off at their groups members, I'm trying to encourage them to keep going and that it's going to be awesome at the end.

Then, there are the times when I put my foot down.  When they're all acting a fool, because that's what adolescents do, I have to redirect them to the task at hand.

And then, there's this:
Background information -Though the show was originally just for the 8th grade, we incorporated a couple of 7th grade acts because they were prominent in our program and have been involved in past Talent Shows we've produced.  The first act were two boys who were singing, "All I Do" by B5 (seriously, I've never heard this song before they sang this for practice).  Right up to the start of the show, they kept changing their minds about what they were singing.  Perhaps one of them felt less secure about the original song choice, perhaps they wanted to impress a certain group of girls more with the second song - whatever!  They finally settled after figuring out that we don't have the resources to just suddenly change the song that's on cue (i.e., there wasn't wireless internet access for us to download the instrumental of the song they changed their mind to).  Then this happened.

7th grade boy:  "Man, I don't open for no one!"
Me (turning my head so fast I could have given myself whiplash):  "...excuse me?  What did you just say??  You BETTER CHECK YOUR EGO!!!  If you think that this is some special show for you, you better get over it!  No one is opening for anyone in this show!  That's not even what this is about!  You are so lucky that we even thought to INVITE you to be part of this (referring to all the trouble he's been in)!  But if you want to go there, then FINE!  The 7th graders are OPENING for the 8th graders!  And when YOU'RE and 8th grader, then you can have people open for you!  But you better check your ego before this show begins!!!"
7th grade boy:  "mumble mumble something under his breath to his friends"
Me (to his singing partner, who was actually the LEAD singer):  "Is he always such a DIVA???"
7th grade boy singing partner:  *shrug*

Clearly, not one of my finest moments as a social worker.  But no one can ever say that I would make a good clinician, and in fact, I've stated that I'd make a horrible clinician.  The way I see it, if the kids want to dish it out, they better be ready to take it from an adult who knows better.  Of course, I'm all about empowerment - I have the MSW, don't I?  But seriously, there are times when you can be straight up with the kids.

My intern, who overheard my going off on him, said she would have shat her pants if I went off on her like that.  I also warned my boss that I had that conversation with him, as she's his counselor, and she laughed as well. 

The real funny bit about all this is that when that 7th grader was a 4th grader, and we held our first Talent Show, he virtually disappeared right before he went on stage!  He was so nervous, he didn't know what to do with himself.  My boss and his 4th grade teacher were the ones to help get him back on that stage, and stayed at the edge of the stage to keep encouraging him.

Now look where he is.  Though, really, I'm sure it was fine even after I went off on him.  When they started off the show, you could barely hear them over the screaming girls.

But now, here I am enjoying the week of April Vacation.  Our final event of the year is behind us, and it was a major success after so many obstacles.  It could also possibly be the final event of the life of the organization.  So much finality in one little event.

What's next for me in my journey?  Can I properly use my MSW towards sexual health education?  Should I move back home?  What's next?

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like you put together a really neat program! Congratulations!

    It also sounds like that little guy needs to calm down! I think I would have done the same thing you did, for sure. Sometimes you just have to let kids know the deal!


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