Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Secret to Working with Teenagers by Daemond Arrindell

Freehold Associate Partner and Faculty Member Daemond Arrindell and Teaching Artist Carter Rodriquez have been working for the last several months with several teenagers in our Engaged Theatre residency. Here are some of Daemond's thoughts on that experience.


The secret to working with teenagers is all in the snacks. If one can tame the raging hunger that distracts them beyond all things, then maybe you stand a chance. Because you might get past the hunger, but THEN what are you going to do? They've likely seen or heard things that are a ton more exciting than what you have to show them or talk about on YouTube last night. And it was flashier on YouTube. And it had back up dancers. And a soundtrack. And Eminem made a cameo. So what else have you got in your bag of tricks? Juggling? Forget it unless it involves pyrotechnics.

So what? Well there is always ... honesty. Talking. TO them. WITH them. There is always showing them who you are and then asking them about themselves. and then asking them MORE about themselves. There is suspending judgment - kinda like you wanted adults to do when you were a teenager - and engaging, and believing what they say and dare I say it: trusting them. And then doing that again. And again and again.

I think one of the secrets of working with teenagers is forgetting at times that you are adults and they are teenagers and remembering that YOU are a person and THEY are too. Thinking of yourself as part of the group and becoming US. This is what Carter Rodriquez and I do with our kids in the Engaged Theatre program's residency at Washington Hall this fall. We talked, sure, but we listened a ton too. We let down our guards and then we listened more. Then they let their guards down and we listened even harder. And we believed in them. And TOLD them we believed in them. Rinse, repeat and add lots of snacks. Because none of the above works unless you feed them.


The original performance by youth entitled "We Are Tomorrow's Today" with the Detention All-Stars is a partnership of Freehold's Engaged Theatre and the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative. Performances were held on Saturday, December 10th at Washington Hall. For more information on our Engaged Theatre residency work, go to: Engaged Theatre Residencies

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