Sunday, February 3, 2013

Wrestling Alligators

This is my freshmen improv team after they received a Division 1 rating at state speech on Saturday. They are some of the bravest kids I know. Not brave in the sense they faced armed gunmen, they didn't save anyone's life, didn't run into burning buildings.


They faced their fears, not once, but twice. Both times they proved to themselves they could do something that made them so nervous, they weren't sure they could go through with it.

Group Improvisation works like this. Your group walks into the performance room and draws three random situations. You have two minutes to choose one and develop a scene from it. Then you have five minutes to act it out. Trust me when I tell you, this is not easy.

Oh, it's easy and fun in my classroom after school with lots of other improv kids sitting around. But when you have to go in front of 100+ strangers and do this, not so easy.

They made it through district competition with a scene about wrestling alligators. I wasn't sure what would happen once they got in the room. Their nerves were either going to help them or hurt them. That's the thing with improv. Sometimes the nerves freeze your brain and nothing comes out. Other times, the nerves get you thinking, "Oh, what the heck."

As the boys threw chairs around, pretending they were wrestling alligators, the girls sat on the sidelines "watching". I kept thinking, "Girls, you've got to wrestle the alligators....." They didn't, but their scene got a 1, so they moved onto state competition. Even the judged remarked, "You need to wrestle the alligators."

So that became the mantra. "Wrestle the alligators."

I gave them lots of things to work on in practice. Sometimes I wondered if I was being too mean, too tough. I pushed the girls. especially, to leave their comfort zone (do you remember being 14/15 years old? Your comfort zone is important).

Yesterday, they were nervous, but not as nervous as districts. My other speech kids found seats to the front and their families were there. I asked them if they wanted me to stay in the hall with them until they went in. The most nervous told me to go ahead and go in.

The last thing I said--"Remember to wrestle the alligators."

And they did.

It was probably the best improv they have done since November. Not perfect. But good enough for a Division 1 rating.

But that's what you get when you wrestle alligators. The confidence to face your fears.


  1. Love the new mantra: wrestle alligators. I think I might adopt that. Congratulations to you and your brave alligator wrestlers!

  2. Thanks Christy. I may post it in my room and tell the story. Kids are so afraid to try new things and risk exposure....

  3. Great words to lead them through all the year, Deb. You do so much for those students!

  4. Wow...god for them, and good for you! Like Christy, I see this as a mantra, too - a wonderful one!