Friday, November 9, 2012

Residency Part V: Visit to the 2nd US Sistema-Inspired site

It is true unless someone can prove me wrong. Soundscapes has been going since fall 2009! (And I couldn't think of a creative title)

I just finished a 3.5 hr project of researching the other N Minneapolis afterschool programs and to my surprise, there were many more than I imagined, especially focusing on mentoring and youth development. It made me really excited for the potential of ACME having so many new partnerships and me being the one creating steps though. I glanced at the calendar upon return to Boston and it is chalk-full!

Soundscapes has been a lot of new experiences including teaching my first strings sectional, being the teacher who gets everyone quiet (!!!), woofing a child (praising incessantly), helping instruments I don't know how to play, relating cells in Excel, putting together media kits, and learning how to work a Brothers' copy machine (ha!). It has been really interesting to compare the behaviors and environment of a pre-dominantly African-American school rather than Latinos as it was in CA. They are unique in that they have hired a behavior specialist to help rein in the children due to the racial difference in discipline/attitude. Much tougher kids, but watching their 4.5 hour rehearsal yesterday and seeing the kids pushed to their absolute maximum, some breaking, but overcoming it, was amazing and incredibly rewarding. They're also unique in that much of their teaching staff is on the older end of the spectrum so it has been interesting to watch the different personalities/backgrounds, teaching styles, and Southern accents (note: comments are always funnier with a southern drawl. Ex: "My ol' Chihuahua woke me out of beyd at 1:20 in the morning.") if I may comment ;p.

I have noticed that "Lorrie Heagy" repertoire and techniques that have been incredibly universal are praising children who are doing good behavior in hopes of correcting those who aren't, acknowledging quiet hands, and making it relevant to them. Two that I think could be more prevalent are movement and the idea of levels/bowing or some type of achievement mechanism.

Soundscapes has been so transparent and honest with me and I've had a lot of wonderful discussions, and organically too. I'm not a constant scribe (for once!). I met with a Kiwanis member (If you are a Sistema leader, look up this in your local community, they're a volunteer organization all about helping children) who is conducting and creating the assessment for the Soundscapes kids. Really excited to have the final report of that! The only program I have seen that has even calculated standard deviation!

On a non-El Sistema note, I'm incredibly grateful I know how to drive stick because it's allowed me access to a car. Public transport here is worse than LA (granted it's not a metropolis..)! I went to Williamsburg on Election Day afternoon and loved it! I want to go back and spend the whole day listening to the old English, reading signs like poft office, and seeing all the colonial architecture and costumed colonial townspeople. I owned the American Girl Felicity growing up and always wished I could live during this era if I were to time travel (though the Victorian era is a toss-up). Aside from the cold, it was so beautiful with the leaves a bright red foliage, and the crisp, cool air (if only I had had warm cider). The Colonial Parkway, the drive to get there, was just as beautiful with meandering turns, lakes surrounded by the fall foliage, and just a very picturesque traverse. I briefly saw Jamestown, but didn't have the desire to stand outside for another 2.5 hrs so I'll have to see the original settlement next time (and bring my National Parks Passport as I was unaware this was one. Note: If there is ANY possibility, I need my passport, from now I am traveling with it. I had quite a lot of hassle with this, but found out yesterday that my passport after arriving at an incorrect address had been safely returned whew.

It was also an eventful week because of the election. The program coordinator here has been incredibly gracious in letting me invade on his social life so I got to hang with his friends and drink and be merry with grapes, brownies, crackers and cheese. We made it through Obama's acceptance speech at 2 am. And I am very proud of my home state and being the only one to reject the voter ID law and gay marriage amendment, but I promise not to go all political on you.

One last day of a fundraising, ED/founder, and board meeting followed by a Virginia Symphony concert of Beethoven 7 (the second one this week!) and hopefully one last night on the town. Now that it's finally beautiful weather outside (it reached almost 60˚) I'm about to return to snow, but I am excited to return! I miss my fellow fellows and being in my own space and the constant going-ons that is Boston. Though people have been nothing but incredibly hospitable and generous and I could not have asked for better hosts. Thank you to all!!!

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