File puptcrit/puptcrit.0810, message 395

Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2008 11:36:18 -0500
To: <>
Subject: Re: [Puptcrit] dealing with tragedy

This is my first post on PuppetCrit, but I wanted to share some recent
experiences I've had teaching in a 4th grade classroom in Saint Paul.  I'm
working with the Children's Theater Company in their Neighborhood Bridges
program, which was started 10 years ago by Jack Zipes (who someone mentioned
earlier in this thread) and who continues to lead the program.

The way the program works, an artist goes into the same classroom 2 hours a
week for the entire school year, and tells stories with the goal of having
children become the tellers of their own stories.

My school is in one of the roughest neighborhoods - the population is so
transient that the school has no phone numbers for a lot of the kids & no
way to contact their parents if something were to happen.  Prostitutes and
drug pushers work the streets surrounding the school.  Six times in the last
year the school has gone on red alert lock down, three of those times were
due to pit bulls running loose on school grounds.

Three weeks ago, two boys in my class were mauled by a pit bull on the
playground.  Another boy lives in a homeless shelter.  Another lost his
father to suicide a couple months ago.  When I asked how many kids had
someone close to them die, nearly all the hands shot into the air.  Most of
the kids in my class are hungry and under nourished.

In other words, they are no strangers to the darker side of life.  The
program we teach focuses on stories, and one of the tenants is to tell them
in all their gory detail in order to discuss what lessons can be gleaned
from them.  

There was a fascinating discussion among the 4th graders after telling
"Hansel and Gretel" about safety - what is and is not safe, particulary from
the two boys who were attacked by the dog.

We've talked about child abuse, suicide, death, parents who don't love their
children, racism, sexism, addiction, you-name-it.  These kids not only keep
up with the conversation, they are 100% engaged in it because it is what
they see and experience daily.  And they are teaching me, also, to not shy
away from these issues.

I used to be concerned by presenting such topics, but these 4th graders are
teaching me otherwise.

This is a fascinating thread, and very relevant to the show that we are
currently working on as well.  Thanks for listening to my $0.02.
Chris Griffith
Circus Minimus Puppetry
(612) 724-1435

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