How improv helps with decision making now and later

Do you remember when we were little, and we were told when to get up, get dressed, go to school, open your books to a particular page, go to lunch, recess, go home, do your homework, go get ready for bed, and go to bed?

Day after day after day after day after day…

We were rarely asked about anything that really mattered, about anything that did not pertain to ourselves. All the questions we were ever asked it seemed were things like, “What do you feel like eating?” or “Do you like this or that or the other thing?” But whenever it was anything of some importance, we as children were skipped over even though we heard every word and understood everything that was being said. Our opinions just were not important.

Well I’ve been teaching children for about 20 years now and I can tell you that they have great minds, great intellect, and great opinions.

I don’t know how many of you remember the TV show host Art Linkletter. But he used to have a show called “Kids Say the Darndest Things” In the show he would go down the line of children and ask them some questions that they normally wouldn’t be asked. The result was hysterical but I must say, also very fascinating. It is so telling how observant these children are when they’re in a room with adults. This should prove that they actually do absorb like sponges everything that’s going on in the household that they are exposed to and moreover that they ponder these things.

I also find that when children inherently all seem to have a very strong moral compass and a very set sense of right and wrong. That is perhaps because they tend to be very empathetic as children. They’re so caring. But I find as they get older and are exposed to more and more of the world, they tend to get very jaded often faster than perhaps we may like.

Oddly enough, this is why I think playing is so important, particularly improv.

It is within the confines of the games that are played in improvisation that children become challenged with life choices, something like they would experience outside of class. After all, improv mirrors real life on many levels. Therefore what comes out of the performer is coming straight from their intellect. This is why it is so beneficial for children.

Improvisation offers them the opportunity to experience certain situations that they will more than likely come upon during their lifetime. Only now it’s in a safe and supportive environment. This way they are free to fall on their face and make mistakes without consequence or judgment. This is a very beautiful thing. And I’ve seen kids organically and naturally rise to the occasion to try to deal with any situation. It is an opportunity for them to learn the consequences of their decisions and how they play out without risk of doing the wrong thing or offending or hurting anybody. And believe me, they love the challenge.

Now as I said earlier, I’ve been doing this for 20 years. And in my class I don’t want any student there who doesn’t want to be there themselves. This is something they have to want to do for themselves. I have had students in my class voluntarily for up to 13 years. Currently I have several kids in my class who have been there for close to eight years with no intentions of stopping. They start in grade school at around eight years old and generally don’t leave until they’re out of high school and are off to college.

I mention this because I get to see them as they grow and utilize what they learned in the class. Job interview, no problem. Dealing with unruly people, no problem. Get people to cooperate with you toward a common goal, no problem. Then when they leave my class and go out to the real world the real circumstances that they tend to come up upon they tend to deal with. NO PROBLEM. Not to mention it builds a certain confidence, and gives them a real sense of empathy towards each other and understanding towards people and circumstances whatever they may be. They also become quick-thinking creative problem solvers who generally know how to handle situations calmly and see them to their conclusion.

And all because they learned improv early and because they were listened to and put in a situation or several, where their opinion mattered.