Last night I was in my first improv show. After eight weeks of taking my first course in improv, I, and my fellow students, had a chance to put our work and efforts to the test in front of a live audience. It went well, it actually went very well and it was loads of fun and funny, and I learned a lot. But I learned in ways that I never expected to learn.
First off, I learned that the rules of improv relate to everything we talk about at LIFEChanges and that improv skills are ironically some of the most important skills for us to have in life, to have a better life. But that discussion is a whole other blog and or book, which will surely follow.
Secondly, I learned that my Father was right. I, like many of us, to be sure, disagreed with our parents while we were growing up, or better yet, still do. I know my parents had much to learn in many areas that I already knew about as a kid and unfortunately their generation didn’t consider the possibility that they could learn from the younger generation, much less their own children.
But there was a lot my parents did right, in fact, they did more things right than wrong, but as a child, I just chalked it all up to, “they don’t understand,” “they don’t get it,” “they don’t get me…” And though much of that was true, I, in my ignorance, young mind, possibly arrogance and potentially stupidity missed some of the benefits of their teachings because of that attitude. Perhaps this all could have been solved with some skills we all could have learned from an improv class. 🙂
But it’s not the actual improv class that I am focusing on here, it is that I was learning beyond what the teacher was teaching us and I was teaching some of the other students what I had learned independently of the teacher’s teaching and the class. I came to a moment of reflection last night that I had learned so much more than what the teacher had taught me. I had researched improv, watched it and studied it on TV, I had talked to other more advanced improvisors and was all the better for it, as were some of the other students who heard what I shared and applied it.
For whatever reason, this particular teacher of this particular improv class was not a great teacher. He actually didn’t teach anything about improv per se, but basically lead us through improv exercises and coached us through them. Nonetheless, I am very grateful to him, because in so many ways, he was the best teacher for me. He showed me so much. For starters he showed me that there are people out there “teaching,” and making money who don’t know what they are doing. And I, for one, who have taught a lot of things and a lot of people in my life, have felt up until this day that I wasn’t good enough to teach on a bigger scale that what I have been teaching up to now.
Secondly, I would be so frustrated with doing the exercises and not learning why we were doing them or what we were supposed to get out of them that I went and did the research on my own to find out what these exercises were for. (Though I see the value of sometimes doing exercises without knowing why and coming up with the reasons, figuring things out in the process on our own, etc… but this teacher’s approach was not that sophisticated).
Which leads me to my Father, and what he would tell me, or yell at me. When my Father would see me watching television, as a child, he would tell me to do my homework. On the occasions that I had already done my homework, my Father would tell me to go read or learn more about the subject matter in another book. I would inform him that I was doing just as the teacher had told me to do and therefore I was doing my job, and doing it right. Usually, this would result in my Father doing some informing of his own, and a little affirming and a little persuading and a little forcing, if not A LOT!
Through his loud speaking at moments like that when I had “talked back” at him there was a phrase that I did get but it never sunk in, until a couple weeks ago and then it came to a culmination last night. That phrase, paraphrased, was that the teacher only opens the door to learning certain subject matters, but if you really want to learn it, you have to walk through that door and learn on your own. The teachers job is just to introduce you to the subject matter. My Father was actually a teacher, and by all accounts and recounts from his students, every single one, though he was strict and tough, he was the best teacher they had ever had.
And here he was a teacher, that helped his students more than they had ever been helped in a class, and still he was saying the teacher only opens the door. Well, if he opened the door, the what the other teachers did was only unlock it for us. And my improv teacher just showed it to us. I don’t want to put anyone down, but the point is that, the imrov teacher showed me the door, and I unlocked it, opened it and walked through it like crazy.
A week or so ago I was telling a friend what I was learning from my improv class and my friend commented that this is course I was taking was a great course and how it really teaches one about life. I started to laugh and realized, that nothing I had shared with him came from my class, rather it came from my research about improv and my putting it together with everything else I had learned over the years.
Then last night, I shared in my monologue some of the improv lessons for life that I had formulated by my research on our radio show. The lessons struck such a chord with our audience, that not only did we receive comments afterwards, but that our guest, an expert Life Coach and Teacher, who had heard the monologue, used up the first several minutes of his interview time to agree and further comment on the topic of the monologue and the improv lessons for life.
What I like about the “taking a step beyond the door” as my Father would say, is that, not only is that the way to truly learn something, but that does two other things. Number one, if you look at what subjects you do that with automatically, that gives you an idea of your likes, interests, propensities. The second thing is, that if you delve into subject matters enough, you end up figuring things out that may never have been figured out before, because you have taken the information in, potentially from various sources and processed it in a way that is uniquely you, and who knows, maybe you too can be an expert in that field some day.