In less than an hour: Improv with Skagit Valley College Faculty

If there was a pill that would relieve worry, promote bonding, and catalyze you coming out of your shell would you take it? I’m writing as someone who has most of his life been more anxious than the average person.  I know that drugs can be a help to some folks. AND, there’s another way.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to lead an improv workshop with my friend Stella at Skagit Valley College for ten participants. These faculty work in the Basic Education department providing critical education for those who are attending college for the first time. Some are immigrant people learning English; some are coming out of an incarcerated life; some have faced other difficulties that have created educational gaps for them. For many of these students just coming on a campus is big step in an unfamiliar world. So it’s not just the content they are learning, but a new way of being in the world.

As I’ve been learning in my project, improv can provide a micro-environment where being vulnerable, connecting with others, discovering joy, making something together, coming out of one’s shell can occur.

And yet Stella and I determined that just as its important for the two of us to embody the posture of YES, supporting each other, reinterpreting failure, living out joy, so too its important for these faculty to do the same in parallel to their students. So instead of saying, “Here’s some improv games for your classroom”, we decided that it would be best at this point for the focus to be for the faculty themselves.

We started with going around the circle and asking ”What do you want to move toward, or say YES to in 2018?” After each person offered what they wanted we all pumped our fists and shouted YES! to affirm what they offered. The participant said, ”I want to say Yes to coming out of my shell more.”

For the next 45 minutes Stella and I facilitated a flow of improv games and we witnessed expression, movement, joy, connection, failure, staying present, laughing, creating…

In the last five minutes of our time we asked how that was for them. These three responses have stuck with me.

“My mind was free of all the things I’m normally worrying about all the time.”

“I really felt like I bonded with everyone here.”

“I came out of my shell!”

They gave these responses in a spirit of wonder and joy at how that happened in less than an hour.

Now what would happen, I think, if we made these experiences a regular part of our lives? We would adopt a new way of being in the world. And we come out of our shell and shed worry, we give other people permission to do so, and we will bond and connect, and discover a deeper joy.

I can speak from my own experience. It’s totally worth the risk.



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