TA Spotlight - Charlotte K.

Charlotte K., Sophomore at Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, is a teaching assistant at the St. Matthew’s summer site. Read more about her experience here:

Describe your TA experience and focus this summer:

I was hired to be a Science TA. Additionally, with permission from the Site Directors, I developed the ‘Summer Stage’ program in which I produced and directed a play, The Lion King, Jr starring the Peninsula Bridge 5th and 6th grade students. This class was an elective, meaning that the performers gave up other enrichment activities (including the ability to play outside on the lawn!) to participate.  It was a hard sell at first - only two people were initially interested. However, I talked it up, and the more I got to know the students and the more I encouraged them, the more confident and interested they became. We ended up having 28 people audition - all of whom got a role. Then, as rehearsals progressed, other students approached me wanting to get involved. Luckily, I was able to put them to work as ‘crew,’ so we had a lot of help backstage, too!  To pull off the performance, I spent five weeks, two hours a day, working with students - most of whom had never performed on a stage before - memorizing lines, learning choreography, and rehearsing. My family even helped me paint the set one weekend. I wanted the students to get a taste of a theatrical experience. Our final performance was on the ‘Graduation’ Day - in front of about 100 parents and family members. The kids did a fantastic job in such a short time. I was amazed at their focus, hard work, and creative input. 

How did you grow this summer as a TA?

I learned how to be a leader and an active follower.  I also learned the importance of listening well. I did not realize going into the directing process that the students would be so engaged in the process. They gave me ideas for choreography, helped me simplify complex or confusing lyrics, and gave me suggestions as to how they thought the staging should look. Over five weeks, I got to identify with the students not only as my mentees but as my friends. They would talk to me about their lives, their struggles, and their ‘crushes,’ I gave a lot of advice and tried to act as a role model. I was fascinated by their stories and became more acutely aware of my privileges. I tried my best to treat them as I would want to be treated - with respect and courtesy and friendliness. At the end of the summer, while watching them perform, I felt like a proud mother.  

How did the Peninsula Bridge students grow?

As I mentioned earlier, most of the students had never acted on stage before.  Many came into their auditions terrified or impartial about theatre. I worked hard to help them learn about theatre as a form of entertainment, but also as a way to tell stories and to communicate across cultures and generations. Acting in the theater has taught me so much, and I wanted to share these lessons and benefits with the students at Bridge.  Based on their proud smiles after the final curtain, I think I succeeded in planting a seed of interest for many of them. 

Did you learn any life-long lessons that you will take with you back to high school?

I learned about the importance of collaboration and what it means to be a good listener. I also learned through watching the kids the importance of connection - with peers and with teachers/TA’s. Learning happened best when I connected with the students. I also learned the importance of being a good role model, setting boundaries and practicing integrity - kids keep you honest!! 

What were the biggest challenges this summer?

Keeping my energy up! Our rehearsals were at the end of the day, and I needed to be ‘on’ to keep the students focused. 

What were you most proud of?

Days can seem long, rehearsals can seem tedious, yet the final product makes it all worth it.  I attend an Arts Boarding School, where we spend ten weeks, four hours a day rehearsing and perfecting a show. My students were able to complete this feat in half the time!!  I always felt so happy and grateful when the students would come in having practiced their lines at home or lunch. It showed me that the idea of creating a ‘Summer Stage’ experience, and all the hard work that went into making it a reality was worth it!  Having the parents and families attend the final performance - some with bouquets and handmade congratulatory cards for their kids - really inspired me. 

Describe 3 words that embody the Peninsula Bridge summer experience:

Collaboration

Curiosity 

Confidence

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