Volunteer Reflection: Rosco Spears

Name: Rosco Spears

Age: 30

Where are you from, originally? Detroit, MI

How did you find out about ASTEP? A good friend of mine referred me to the program. She is a performing artist and she told me about the amazing things she heard about ASTEP.  After a bit of research, it didn’t take much to sell me on the organization.

Which programs have you been a part of? ASTEP on STAGE! at WIN and CHOICES Alternative to Detention as well as ASTEP Arts at Shanti Bhavan.

Did you have a background in teaching when you started? I did have a background in teaching when I started volunteering with ASTEP. I taught business technology for 2 years at a high school in Grand Rapids, MI and I also led an after school, art enrichment program in Newark, NJ for a year.

What is your arts background? I do not have any formal training in art. I began sketching as a kid, and I created a signature design at the age of 13. During college, I brought some of those drawings that I created during middle and high school to a local art gallery.  The owner, Reb Roberts, practically forced my hand into painting after I told him that I was not interested. He was able to convince me to create a piece with him and the rest is history. I fell in love with painting.

What did working with ASTEP teach you about yourself? Working with ASTEP taught me that there is so much that you can learn while working as a teaching artist. I’m pretty certain that I’ve learned more from the children than they’ve learned from me.  I’ve learned how to move through adversity. How to excel through rough circumstances. How to creatively work in a group with others. How to take risks and try new things. I’ve learned how to communicate without words. Working with ASTEP showed me what I should be doing for my life’s work. Nothing on this earth makes me happier than working with children as a teaching artist. Especially working with kids who are impoverished in any way.

What victories did you achieve, while on site? On occasion, I’ve worked with kids who were in a program as a form of punishment, and they did not want to do any of the activities that were placed in front of them. These are the kids that are most interesting and challenging to me (also my favorite to work with). At the end of both experiences, even if it was just getting a kid to take their hood off during class or to pick their head up off of the table, I felt accomplished. If they actually participated in an activity, I felt like I won a million dollars.

What program is next for you? As I have recently relocated to Los Angeles, I am unsure! I would love to get back to Shanti Bhavan in the near future. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life.






Save the Date: 9th Annual Benefit Concert

 

New York City Christmas: A Concert to Benefit ASTEP

Mon December 11 at 7PM at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater in New York City

 

All proceeds from tickets and album sales from this beloved annual tradition go towards ASTEP’s mission: guiding performing and visual artists as they build and deliver arts programming for vulnerable youth in the U.S. and around the world. Through the arts we give kids the understanding that their voice matters and that there is infinite possibility in that belief!

Conceived, produced and music directed by Drama Desk-nominated orchestrator Lynne Shankel (Cry-Baby, Altar Boyz​, Allegiance​), this annual celebration, now in it’s 9th year, will feature Broadway’s favorite faces. Together on one stage, they will sing interpretations of all of the holiday songs you know and love from ‘New York City Christmas’ (album available for purchase at the concert).

Tickets on sale soon!

Come ring in the holiday season with ASTEP!

 

 

Week 5: Successes Large + Small


By: Marcus Guy Crawford, 2017 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow

Success at RYSA comes in all forms: students standing quietly in a circle; hearing a student’s voice for the first time; or bringing a student back to neutral after an experience that has triggered something traumatic, and often yet to be articulated or grasped. Our students are brave in ways I will never be — their early childhood experiences have shaped them sturdily and as much as I hope I have impacted their young lives in America, I know that they have affected mine immeasurable. Today one of our assistant teachers (tactlessly, I might add), told the students that the end was nigh… and while I think the language barrier protected many of them from this truth, it got me thinking about their triumphs and there are a few I want to document because they were moments where I too was learning.
 
A student in our youngest group (we’ll call him Austin) has been engaged since day 1. Sometimes Austin wanders, sometimes he is a little despondent and at times he has acted out, but his intention has always been clear — he wants to learn, even when that process is challenging. Today Austin was full of beans – unable to stand still, incredibly verbal and just a little hyper. In spite of this, he was engaged more than he has ever been in the classroom. The excess energy and noise was not problematic because, though untamed, it was allowing him to engage in the work and demonstrate knowledge in a new way. Kelsey and I worked with it, acknowledging that though the behavior will eventually need corrected, it was better to celebrate the positive improvement in his work. The skills can’t coalesce all at once and that’s OK! It strikes me just writing this that this is a lesson I need to teach myself in my own professional and creative endeavors – thanks Austin!
 
Next up: Corey. Corey is incredibly sensitive. The slightest sense of negativity or disappointment from a teacher will send him spiraling – he huffs, he needs to leave the room, he cries and he shuts down. But I think it is born of a pressure that I have noticed in many of our students — a need to impress, to embrace this new opportunity and to succeed, with positive reinforcement, in every moment. I can relate to this. An over-achiever from a very young age, the most potent moments of my young life, even now, are the ones where it feels like I am on the brink of letting someone down that I respect. For me, it is important to just keep Corey involved, to take his answers even when they are incorrect, and to listen to him offering correction, redirection and opportunity where possible. Corey is an active learner, and so when he is left to sideline, or his behavior is treated as “bad” or “disruptive”, he recedes and regresses. The arts classes at RYSA allow us the time and space to celebrate these differently able learners and engage them in ways the traditional classroom may not.
 
Finally, there’s Bethany. Bethany started class today with a statement not dissimilar to, “This class is rubbish!” If an adult spoke to me with this apathy, I’d likely walk the other way, but in the classroom with young students, its an invitation to engage more carefully with that student’s experience. What is this a reaction to? And how can I, the teacher, or leader in this environment, guide this student towards success, achievement and growth that will alter that negative response? I let her know how that made me feel, and asked the entire class to engage in one particular value of the RYSA program — respect. As soon as Bethany sat down today, I verbally narrated all of her positive behaviors, making clear that her successes were not going unnoticed. I respected her adherence to the classroom code of conduct, and in turn, she respected the work we were doing. She participated thoughtfully, and though she might not admit it herself, she even cracked a smile and enjoyed herself! This small interaction reminded me that it is much easier to engage with students with positive attitudes, but that good behavior + work can be culled from any student and it is the teacher’s duty to find a way to activate this kind of positive teacher-student relationship, even when resistance is offered.
 
The RYSA experience is so much larger than the classroom spaces we occupy for 6-8 hours a week. For me, it has sparked a continual assessment of the way I engage in all of my professional and creative interactions. Am I present? Am I positive? Am I willing? And can I do more? The answer to all of these questions always has to be yes, especially when I am in the drivers seat and a young person’s education, development and growth is in my hands.

Volunteer Reflection: Courtney Liu

Name: Courtney Liu

Age: 26

Where are you from, originally? Cincinnati, OH

How did you find out about ASTEP? 

I found them online and reached out before having a wonderful first conversation with Lizzy on the phone. We immediately connected in a magical “this was meant to be” way.

Which programs have you been a part of? 

RYSA 2016

Do you have a background in teaching, when you started? 

Yes!  I actually started teaching dance in the 5th grade during one summer that I held a toddler dance camp in my parent’s basement… I’m pretty sure my Mom helped a LOT with that one.  Prior to joining ASTEP, the teaching experiences dear to my heart included assisting the Dance in Schools Program at the San Francisco Ballet School, teaching for an arts integration program in China, and founding a dance program for children seeking services at the domestic violence shelter in Durham, NC.

What is your arts background?

I trained and performed with the Cincinnati Ballet and San Francisco Ballet before leaving the professional dance track to pursue a degree in Psychology at Duke. During college I fell in love with jazz and salsa and one year post-graduation decided I was tired of sitting at a desk all day and it was time to dance!  I started auditioning and have been dancing professionally and teaching since then!

What challenges did you overcome while on site?

The work itself is honestly so exhausting… much harder than performing.  Some days when you start class the energy starts rolling and the hours fly by.  Some days drag and the students are tired or have decided they are too cool for dance class.  By the end of the day I was either completely exhilarated from a breakthrough of expression the students had made… or completely exhausted from trying to motivate thirty students.  On the worst days it helps to write down small victories… one student who tried something new or another student who smiled in dance class for the first time.  They are ALWAYS something there but hard to see as a teacher who is putting out one fire after the next on rough days.  If we shine a light on the small victories they energize us to get up, day after day, and try again.

What victories did you achieve, while on site?

One day I spotted a new kid in the middle school class who clearly wanted to do the Rihanna dance but was hanging in the back to figure out if it was cool and if he would be good at it.  He had missed the day we taught the combination so I can imagine it was scary.  When we did African dance day the following week he was doing an awesome job so we had him demonstrate for the class.  It built up his confidence and gave him the motivation to practice the Rihanna dance outside of class.  He soon caught up to the rest of the class and performed confidently in the final showcase.  What a special moment to see talent bloom out of insecurity and into a beautiful performance for all to see!

Speaking of… the final performance was such a special day. Each class chose their favorite dance style and created a piece using the material we gave them over the course of the program.  Class 1 performed a African dance and Ballet mashup, Class 2 performed Bachata with a class chant they created, and Class 3 performed a Jazz routine that ended in a breakdance circle.  Then they performed their individual spoken word and movement pieces about their dreams for their future in America and all three classes performed a hip-hop dance as the finale.  What a feat!  They performed ALL of this without their teachers!!!  We were so proud :):):)

What did working with ASTEP teach you about yourself?

I found the role of Assistant Teacher to be quite challenging!  As an Assistant I had trouble deciding the best way to provide support in the classroom.  Was it best to help teach? Was I supposed to lead the next combination… oh yes!  Was it most useful to demonstrate in the back?  Or to walk around and give individual corrections?  I realized that I was very comfortable making lesson plans and teaching in the front of the room… but other important pieces of teaching had been lost from constantly managing classrooms from the front.  I am thankful for the experience and to work with such a talented co-teacher (shoutout to Marissa) that summer!

What program is next for you?

Hopefully another year at RYSA and Choices!  One summer soon I hope to teach for the Teach for India program.

 

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