Rachel Kara Perez’s blog: An Ode to Lesson Planning


Rachel Kara Perez, a 2018 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow, will be sharing monthly blog posts about her experiences teaching the arts through ASTEP on STAGE! This program gives over 1,500 NYC youth access to the transforming power of the arts by bringing performing and visual artists from the Broadway and NYC community to after-school and in-school programs. ASTEP on STAGE! partners with schools and community organizations serving youth affected by the justice system, incarceration, gun violence, homelessness, immigration status, systemic poverty, and HIV/AIDS. Through the arts, these young people learn they have what it takes to succeed no matter the obstacles, which is key to breaking cycles of poverty.


 

Blog Post #4:

August 3, 2018

An Ode To Lesson Planning

Much of being an Arts Educator is about doing your best to prepare in advance, have a plan of action, and also be open to throwing that away and having multiple backup plans in case the lesson takes an unexpected turn. With flexibility and room for creativity, one can navigate a class and shape it based on the children directly in front of them. Preparation, abandon, improvisation, systematic approaches, being open to surprises. It’s a constant balancing game between having plenty of tools and plenty of flexibility in the event of cut time, extra time, changed time, interruptions, latenesses, etc. Depending on the setting, depending on the partnership, no class looks exactly the same.

In addition to continuing my work at Lutheran Social Services with our Unaccompanied Minors Program, this month I have also joined the ASTEP staff at The International Rescue Committee’s Refugee Youth Summer Academy (RYSA). There I am the Lead Teacher in Storytelling. At this particular site we are preparing the children for public school in the fall, while incorporating English Language comprehension into our lessons. It’s been an incredible experience and I can’t believe we’ve already hit the halfway mark!

RYSA differs from the Lutheran Social Services site in that I am not working with the children in their native languages (at Lutheran Social Services all classes are taught in Spanish). That is a different set of challenges and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to experience both.

Lesson planning plays a crucial role at both sites. RYSA is a framework where we work to establish a more traditional school culture in an effort to prepare students for public school. At Lutheran Social Services, the volunteer Teaching Artists are afforded more freedom within their lesson plans, and each lesson is built to stand alone as opposed to at RYSA, where we plan for 6 weeks all while keeping in mind that it will culminate in a brief final performance.

It’s a different set of stressors and expectations but the ultimate goal remains the same: to use the arts as a means to uplift, educate, and inspire the youth. In all of our classes we work to share a joy, to provide tools for critical thinking, self reflection, imagination, and exploration.

Lesson plans are never anyone’s favorite part of teaching I don’t think, but they are helpful in organizing one’s thoughts and approaches to a particular class or project. They serve as a roadmap and a guide and even a script at times. Being an educator is not easy; it takes a lot of energy, focus, and social awareness to do it successfully and meaningfully. The different approaches to lesson planning have taught me a lot, and while there has definitely been a learning curve with adapting to different sets of expectations, I have more skills to include in my tool belt. While seemingly small, the concept translates into a larger one: having access to and the ability to offer different approaches each time I walk into a classroom is a kind of agency I hope to implement and pass on.

 

Marcus Crawford Guy’s blog: IF I’M NOT TEACHING AM I REALLY A TEACHER?


Marcus Crawford Guy, a 2018 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow, will be sharing monthly blog posts about his experiences teaching the arts through ASTEP on STAGE! This program gives over 1,500 NYC youth access to the transforming power of the arts by bringing performing and visual artists from the Broadway and NYC community to after-school and in-school programs. ASTEP on STAGE! partners with schools and community organizations serving youth affected by the justice system, incarceration, gun violence, homelessness, immigration status, systemic poverty, and HIV/AIDS. Through the arts, these young people learn they have what it takes to succeed no matter the obstacles, which is key to breaking cycles of poverty.


 

Blog Post #4:

IF I’M NOT TEACHING AM I REALLY A TEACHER?

 

Whenever I take a few weeks to myself (in this case to galavant in Los Angeles) I’m anxious returning to the classroom. I’m not a teacher by training but by instinct and I so often get the fear of – DID I EVER KNOW WHAT I WAS DOING?

So last week as I geared up for 3 days of arts classes at housing shelters throughout the city, reviewing volunteer lesson plans, I really took the time to check in with myself. What is my role in this? How do I make a space where artists can thrive? And if I were the volunteer, or the student, or the partner receiving ASTEP workshops, what would I want?

A planner at heart, these questions actually helped me focus and quelled my anxieties. Potential blindspots found detail and I mapped out ways of helping teaching artists keep the seed of the lesson they had crafted, while ensuring that it would flow and have a hook for our student population, who are often antsy and lack focus (they’re kids!). I started to see the benefits of time away. It forced me to come back and look at the work with fresh eyes: to consider the WHY in everything I do and reconnect with ASTEP’s mission – to break cycles of poverty, where poverty is defined as a lack of choice. I made sure that, without giving kids free reign, they didn’t feel bound by the plan. They had space to be expressive, offer input and interpret activities in ways that helped them feel strong and valued.

In action, the week felt fresh, fueled and live! And as I reflect, I am reminded that this isn’t a job – it’s a service, it’s an offering and it’s a commitment to people and communities who are in need of support. If it stagnates with monotony or gets stuck on autopilot, the communities we partner with suffer. And as summer continues, I’m going to keep checking in with myself, seeing the detail, the room for improvement and challenging myself to best represent ASTEP’s A-Game!

 

Pablo Falbru’s blog: Some may say I’m a dreamer


Pablo Falbru, a 2018 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow, will be sharing monthly blog posts about his experiences teaching the arts through ASTEP at Refugee Youth Summer Academy. A team of 13 ASTEP Volunteer Artists lead the creative arts classes at the Refugee Youth Summer Academy, which supports the personal growth, cultural adjustment, and education of multicultural refugee youth and helps them successfully transition into the US school system. Through the arts, these young people learn they have what it takes to succeed no matter the obstacles, which is key to breaking cycles of poverty.


 

Blog Post #1:

July 17, 2018

Week 1 | RYSA: Some may say I’m a dreamer

Greetings! I’m Pablo Falbru, one of the recipients of the Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellowship. It is truly an honor to be selected for this Fellowship and contribute to the legacy of Jennifer. I was picked to be the head music instructor for the Refugee Youth Summer Academy (RYSA), and have been brimming with excitement since I got the call. We just finished week one of the program, though my journey started at the end of June. I spent the last weekend of June meeting and training with the ASTEP team, followed by a week of training with the RYSA Team. Over the course of that training period, the importance of this work grew even clearer for me.

The scope, circumstances and challenges that these kids face really puts our lives in the U.S. into perspective. Certainly we face our own challenges of poverty, violence, and oppression. But the sheer scale that this happens in the countries that the RYSA students come from is staggering. So first and foremost, this has been an opportunity to put my privilege in check. To reflect and be grateful for everyone and everything I have. And to practice infinite kindness and understanding of the students I teach, the strangers I meet and of my own friends and family.

As I mentioned, we just finished week one and I couldn’t have asked for a better start! I have three classes, each translating to roughly Kindergarten-1st Grade, 2nd Grade-3rd Grade and 4th Grade-5th Grade. In some classes, I could have as many as 4 different languages being spoken, not counting English. So that is hands down, the most challenging part of the job. But I’ve always been a fan of languages, so I’m using this as an opportunity to learn something new. As with any class, some students are stronger than others. So finding ways to empower and inspire each kid is a delicate balance. They have all responded well to everything I’ve put forth and it’s rewarding to see their eyes light up when something clicks.

One of my favourite things that happened this week was when a “challenging” kid from the K-1st class…(this student had been reprimanded earlier in the day in another class)…played the djembe with confidence and consistency. As he played I could see he had a natural talent for music, in particular rhythm, and he was so happy to show me what he could do. These are the moments that remind me of the transforming power of the arts. How a creative outlet presents an opportunity for the “challenged” to excel. To show the dimensions and range we have when given the space to explore and express freely. So for me, having the chance to cultivate that and create an environment that everyone can shine, makes my life all the more worthwhile. So thank you to the administrators of the Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellowship for the honor of carrying the torch that keeps the inspiring legacy of Jennifer alive, namaste.

~Pablo

ASTEP benefit concert, Aug 13 at 7PM

Recently, there has been a great deal of news coverage related to one of the many populations that ASTEP is proud to serve. Hundreds of youth affected by refugee/asylee/unaccompanied minor status have been thrust into the limelight – and while ASTEP isn’t able to prevent what’s happening to families at our border, we will continue to play a vital role in caring for them while they await the next steps in their journey. Most importantly, making sure that the students we serve get the chance to use the arts, if only for a moment, to remind them how to be kids.

In response to this humanitarian crisis, ASTEP will be putting on a concert in support of our students. On Monday August 13 at 7pm, ASTEP’s Founder/Co-Executive Director Mary-Mitchell Campbell will take the stage at Joe’s Pub for SANCTUARY: ASTEP & Broadway Sing for Children in Need. Mary-Mitchell, Music Director of Mean Girls, together with some of ASTEP’s most stalwart supporters & performers, will perform to honor and sustain the children at the center of this maelstrom.

Join us for this one of a kind event – purchase your tickets today!

 


THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS

Dr. Keith Bell, Licensed Acupuncturist
The Bisesto Family
Angie Canuel Kantor
Karen + Dan McCallan
Monterey International Pop Festival
Sheri Sarkisian
Dr. Rocky Slonaker + Mr. Dan Friedman

 

 

Rachel Kara Perez’s blog: send me your weary, a scattering of poems


Rachel Kara Perez, a 2018 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow, will be sharing monthly blog posts about her experiences teaching the arts through ASTEP on STAGE! This program gives over 1,500 NYC youth access to the transforming power of the arts by bringing performing and visual artists from the Broadway and NYC community to after-school and in-school programs. ASTEP on STAGE! partners with schools and community organizations serving youth affected by the justice system, incarceration, gun violence, homelessness, immigration status, systemic poverty, and HIV/AIDS. Through the arts, these young people learn they have what it takes to succeed no matter the obstacles, which is key to breaking cycles of poverty.


 

Blog Post #3:

July 9, 2018

send me your weary,

                              a scattering of poems

i.
In the red of uncertainty
In the dawning of hope
In the throes of sorrow
In the echoes of despair
I will reach for the beginnings
For the endings trail behind
In the songs of my country
In the dance of our pride
Worth fighting for and working for
Keep living for
The dawning of expectation
The certainty of demise
I send my children on without me
I will not let them see me cry

ii.
In the throes of uncertainty
In the wake of my fear
I will make my parents proud
Even though they are not here
In me they live on
In me they find hope
In me they find solace
And a chance for something more

—————

These tears betray not
The paths I have traversed
Roadways you’d die on

————-

These arms are empty
Hold no hope, discarded
Ready for anything

 

-when you have nothing left to lose

 

#istandwithrefugees

 

Marcus Crawford Guy’s blog: POSITIVE + REALISTIC.


Marcus Crawford Guy, a 2018 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow, will be sharing monthly blog posts about his experiences teaching the arts through ASTEP on STAGE! This program gives over 1,500 NYC youth access to the transforming power of the arts by bringing performing and visual artists from the Broadway and NYC community to after-school and in-school programs. ASTEP on STAGE! partners with schools and community organizations serving youth affected by the justice system, incarceration, gun violence, homelessness, immigration status, systemic poverty, and HIV/AIDS. Through the arts, these young people learn they have what it takes to succeed no matter the obstacles, which is key to breaking cycles of poverty.


 

Blog Post #3:

POSITIVE + REALISTIC.

 

We’re playing the Game of Life. Well, actually, we’re working with students to build it, asking them to complete the board with events, choices and circumstances that will shape their play in our final class this Thursday – “Remember to bring dice, Mr Marcus – that spinner thing won’t do!”

We’re working in a juvenile correction program at Passages Academy, where the common trait among all of the students is some kind of criminal charge, though we don’t get into those conversations. It’s a given and we work hard to move beyond that to build a creative and productive classroom environment. But with an ever-changing community, the politics are clear and while some infractions are considered “cool”, others are unanimously agreed upon as unforgivable. Regardless of the specifics, these factor entrench the students in a highly complex social environment. So when I posed the question: “What’s a negative event that could happen in your life?” it’s unsurprising that the answer was matter of fact “go to jail” because, generally speaking, it could be agreed upon – no politics.

Ok, well let’s think about something with lower stakes?” This caused a silence. “What’s something that could go wrong for me today that would affect me negatively but not be so high stakes as to cause me to break the law?” More silence. “Umm…you could stub your toe.” This was followed by a long and fairly intricate conversation about what feels normal, what feels bad, and what feels great for the students in their current state of being. The positivity and negativity associated with certain events exist on a sliding scale based on the privileges we are conditioned to. It makes sense and my upper middle class upbringing didn’t account for this.

Our dialogue about positive life events took a similar turn. The students weren’t willing to put events on the board that they couldn’t imagine for themselves. It was not productive, they said, to think about things that simply wouldn’t happen. I challenged this with the idea that if this was true, then thinking about the extreme negatives would only make them more likely to happen. So we agreed that we wanted to make a game board that felt realistic and true to the lives these young men were leading but that didn’t confine them to a certain realm of success or growth in the world.

And so, what was supposed to be a simple conversation about how we complete the game, became a complex discussion of what’s positive, productive and promotes success for this specific population. For the community in question, positive days felt like ones without negative interaction vs. being ones where something great happened. The latter just wasn’t in their realm of expectation.

As I gear up to play the game tomorrow morning, I’m thinking about how we can lift these students up, even when they are living with limited choices. How can they move forward and have lives that aren’t defined by their mistakes but by their potential to grow and move beyond this moment in their very young lives?

Our game board is deliberately two thirds positive – here’s hoping that’s what’s still to come!

 

Rachel Kara Perez’s blog: Paint on the edges


Rachel Kara Perez, a 2018 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow, will be sharing monthly blog posts about her experiences teaching the arts through ASTEP on STAGE! This program gives over 1,500 NYC youth access to the transforming power of the arts by bringing performing and visual artists from the Broadway and NYC community to after-school and in-school programs. ASTEP on STAGE! partners with schools and community organizations serving youth affected by the justice system, incarceration, gun violence, homelessness, immigration status, systemic poverty, and HIV/AIDS. Through the arts, these young people learn they have what it takes to succeed no matter the obstacles, which is key to breaking cycles of poverty.


 

Blog Post #2:

May 10, 2018

It’s always amazing to see how quickly things can change and how at times they stay remarkably the same. For several months I had much of the same core group of students, and then while somewhat knocked out of commission due to being sick this month, I came back and it felt like I had to start all over again, earn their trust again, explain why I had been absent, deal with the guilt of unexpectedly needing to stay home to rest. Then learn someone from the core group, one of the little ones (which is how we affectionately refer to the younger class), left while I was gone. The turnover struggle is real, and you would think it gets easier with time.

Recently we had a class working with body and face paint, and the children really got into it. Maria, our Teaching Artist for this particular lesson had worked with the children before, and those who had been there, remembered her favorably. We had a large group of older students, and bunched them in at the tables.  We had some newer students who came in a little late, as they were completing their orientation. No matter, the more the merrier, and for whatever reason, at this site I’ve observed that the children take particularly well to the visual arts, and are good sports about sharing materials and space.

I always find it interesting how the confidence of very small children is something to be envious of. Perhaps it is not even what one would call confidence, more a disregard, or a lack of self awareness, a beautiful naiveté that leaves them refreshingly unguarded and willing to try something new. Working with children ages 5-17, I notice that self-conscious behavior can often set in as early as 10. I say all this because in the younger group, I had a little girl and boy saying they couldn’t paint a heart, even after I saw them do it, and wanted me to do it for them. They wanted it to be perfect. A new child, 5 years old and all smiles (also the younger sibling of the little girl) not only did not care whether he could make the perfect heart, he was not interested in it. He proceeded to paint his entire arm green with such dexterity, he would have painted his sleeves had I not jumped in to roll them up. Una casa! he proudly proclaimed. If only we were all so confident in our renderings, in what we create. There is always much we can learn from the little ones.

He proceeded to wipe off his arms and paint over and over again, enthusiastically creating new temporary masterpieces, marvelling at the fact that he had transformed his skin into a canvas. There was a lot of laughter, and his sisters kept telling him not to get it on his shirt, as I repeatedly rolled it up and he repeatedly painted to the edge (he definitely got it on his shirt, but it washes off easily). If I could give the students one thing only, it would be the ability to never lose that innate curiosity so many little ones have. To maintain that spark, that eagerness, that imagination, that beautiful naiveté, and fearlessly transform it into art. To not worry about getting paint on the edges.

 

 

 

Marcus Crawford Guy’s blog: A 2 SHOW DAY


Marcus Crawford Guy, a 2018 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow, will be sharing monthly blog posts about his experiences teaching the arts through ASTEP on STAGE! This program gives over 1,500 NYC youth access to the transforming power of the arts by bringing performing and visual artists from the Broadway and NYC community to after-school and in-school programs. ASTEP on STAGE! partners with schools and community organizations serving youth affected by the justice system, incarceration, gun violence, homelessness, immigration status, systemic poverty, and HIV/AIDS. Through the arts, these young people learn they have what it takes to succeed no matter the obstacles, which is key to breaking cycles of poverty.


 

Blog Post #2:

A 2 SHOW DAY AT ASTEP on STAGE!

545am / My alarm rings and the only thing slower than me is the sunrise. I’ve got an hour long train ride ahead, followed by a 15min walk to my first site for the day: a juvenile detention center where I’ll be leading classes in poetry over 4 days in the next two weeks. ASTEP Shirt – check! Supplies – check! Game Face – check! And just like that I’m out the door…

845am / My Teaching Artist cohort and I are taken through 3 security doors to meet the school librarian who’ll escort us and our pre-approved materials to the classroom. “The kids are excited for poetry month!” I am too. And I’m hoping the caffeine (now 3 hours old in my system) keeps working its magic.

915am / SHOWTIME. Act 1. 2 young women write Acrostic poems and open up, sharing the positive qualities they’ve assigned to each letter of their name. Their uniform ages them and for a moment I forget they’re just teenagers – they speak so beautifully. But their youth shines through as colored markers (approved contraband) are brought into the mix.

10am / One of these young women is going to be released today. She wears a smile brighter than the sun and the girls giggle their way out the door, the guards having called and approved movement between classes. My energy and spirit are rejuvenated – who needs caffeine?

1055am / Act 2. The class draws to a close as 4 boys, having written their own Acrostic poems, share what they learned with the class. Through their lens of “cool” I can hear them celebrating one another, having a new set of armor being built up as their positive behaviors are acknowledged. As they walk out the door I know they’re all questioning: Can clever be cool? And is that alliteration?

1230pm / I crash in through my front door, inhale my lunch and switch out supplies for the afternoon show… I’m about to head back out on another hour long train journey… but not before I nap!

345pm / I meet my next team of Teaching Artists and we immediately start talking about how our plans can change if the group is too small, too large, too energetic, too exhausted, too noisy… you get the picture! They’re flexible, they’re ready and it’s showtime all over again!

445pm / Energy is flowing – dare I say uncontrollably. We’ve explored our signature rhythms and are trying (oh, how hard we are trying!) to focus on drawing the things the music makes us think of. Suddenly, “How Far I’ll Go” from Disney’s Moana blares out through a handy portable speaker and becomes the ultimate antidote to chaos. Crayons and markers are held up like candles, it’s Beyonce at Coachella, and the kids join one another for a chorus of their favorite song. The joy is palpable.

550pm / Time to wrap up. “What’s one thing you learned or enjoyed today?” Several kids sigh. “What?!” I exclaim, shocked by the reaction. “But we loved so many things! The drawing with Mr. Eric and music and playing the BAH! game and playing Bunnies and Hawks with Mr Julian.” The reviews are in and it’s clear they were a hit!

715pm / After my fourth hour underground today, my front door slams shut behind me and my ASTEP shirt stares up at me. The word STRIVING looks a little bolder than it has before. Today we did that. We were striving in pursuit of something great and I think we inched our way closer to the goal. I open my laptop and refresh my email. Gmail politely reminds me that tomorrow I’ll be an Actor again, out in search of a whole other kind of two-show day.

 

NEW! Summer Program in Arkansas

WORK WITH ASTEP IN ELAINE, ARKANSAS

BUILDING SKILLS THROUGH THE ARTS, NO MATTER THE OBSTACLES*

 

Don’t know where you will be this summer? Do you want to bring joy and hope to a new community that is hungry for change? This summer, ASTEP is partnering with Waves of Prayer in Elaine, Arkansas to host the Heroes of Elaine arts camp.

With a population of 636 people, this rural Arkansas community is still flooded with segregation, unemployment, and poverty. Coming up on 100 years after the largest mass lynching in US History, this new summer program aims to help the community of Elaine remember the past and claim a new future for all Elainians. This three-week summer camp will focus on visual art, theatre, spoken word. music, and dance and will teach students to use their voices, believe in themselves, and collaborate with their peers. The Elaine’s Heroes arts camp was first hosted in the summer of 2017 by Waves of Prayer and Remember2019 Collective members, Arielle Julia Brown and Mauricio Salgado. After a successful first summer, ASTEP was invited by Waves of Prayer and Remember2019 to support the development of the program.

Program Dates: July 4th – July 29th
Application Deadline: May 15th
Location: Elaine, Arkansas
Who: All artists!

At ASTEP, we are making a conscious effort to have our artists reflect the diversity of the communities that we serve. People of color, LGBTQ+, those with disabilities, those with all educational backgrounds, and anyone excited to work with us are strongly encouraged to apply.

Housing, Flights, and food are all provided by ASTEP and Waves of Prayer

Email Sami Manfredi at sami@asteponline.org or give us a ring at 212.921.1227 to learn more!

Be a part of Refugee Youth Summer Academy 2018!

 

For our 9th consecutive summer, ASTEP is teaming up with the Refugee Youth Summer Academy (RYSA), a 6-week summer camp that focuses on welcoming newly arrived refugee youth to their new life in NYC.

At RYSA, ASTEP Teaching Artists use their art form to help the students achieve school readiness, build English language skills, and develop coping skills and confidence. ASTEP Teaching Artists lead performing and visual arts classes with these goals in mind so that the students can learn to fully embrace who they are, where they come from, and where they are going. We use art as a tool to show students that they can be proud of who they are and thrive.

Program Dates: June 30th – August 17th

Application deadline: May 15th

Location: New York City

Time Commitment: 7 Hours Per Week

Who: All artists! We need a diverse team and hope that you are a part of it!

– Email Sami Manfredi at sami@asteponline.org or give us a ring at 212.921.1227 to learn more!

– Stipends are provided for ASTEP Teaching Artists








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