One Neat Class

One of the best parts about working in higher education is you get to observe firsthand the raw talent of college students. For me, since making the transition from overseeing the social media program of an athletic department to one of a whole university, I have enjoyed a much broader showcasing of talent. Many times I get to experience arts and disciplines that I have no background in. Today was no different.

I started a social media campaign at Coastal Carolina University simply called “Inside the Classroom” (yes, I managed to name a social media campaign without a hashtag). I pitched the initiative as a Facebook feature where I would poke my head inside a class at Coastal each week and quickly take a couple photos. However, starting with my first visit to a photography class in August, the professors made it clear that they didn’t mind if I did more than just “poke my head inside.” They literally opened up their classrooms to me.

What was supposed to be a once a week Facebook feature turned into a twice a week multi-platform spotlight. Instead of just spending a moment or two in these classrooms I was spending a half an hour covering the class via Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and Periscope. A Facebook photo album followed afterwards. Soon, no longer was I seeking out professors to participate. Instead, professors were contacting me asking if their class could be featured.

This morning I covered my favorite classroom yet. Acting 150 is a class for our freshmen theatre students. While they might be young, they are incredibly talented. Our theatre program is nationally renowned. Hundreds apply, few get in. The students I observed this morning are the best of the best.

I observed these students in an Acting 150 class today.

I observed these students in an Acting 150 class today.

The class was taught by campus-favorite Robin Russell. A theatre professor as well as our host of Coastal Now, she is one of a kind. The class I visited today had some of the most talented students on campus but it also had one of the most talented professors as well.

Robin during today's class giving her students pointers.

Robin during today’s class giving her students pointers.

In order to understand what I witnessed, you would just have to throw out any preconceived notion you might have about what constitutes class. Even if you do realize that an acting class might be a little different than a traditional class, you would still be blown away by what went down in the Edwards Building this morning. Students today weren’t reading scripts or listening to Robin lecture about techniques. Instead, they were dancing, or, to use an even better word, performing.

The students engaged in an activity called flocking.

The students engaged in an activity called flocking.

Robin had the students do an exercise called flocking. This was a type of dance where the 13 students would follow what the leader was doing. Sounds simple enough, right? Not so fast. The leader is decided by who is in the front while the group continuously changes facings and directions. With Robin changing the music frequently and encouraging the students to break off in groups, the leader changed rapidly. For 30 full minutes, the students danced non-stop.

The students were concentrated and poised.

The students were concentrated and poised.

Obviously because of my non-existent background in both acting and dance, my lackluster explanations can’t even scrape the surface of adequately explaining this. Please click here to see the low budget Youtube video I made on my personal channel by stringing together my Periscope broadcasts from today.

The students had to feed off the energy of each other and perform as a cohesive unit. It looked to me as if the 13 young men and women had poured some serious time into rehearsing and choreographing what I was witnessing. Not the case. The whole thing was 100% improv. The class had simply woken up on a Monday morning, showed up to class, and performed on the spot. Robin remarked a couple times that she wished she could charge admission for what we were watching.

It isn't easy to stay together for 30 minutes.

It isn’t easy to stay together for 30 minutes.

It was fun observing the students work together while Robin shouted directions and encouragement. At one point she even jumped in herself and led the group! I admit it, the type of activity, movement, and music I took in today was completely foreign to me but at the same time it was also very enlightening. Even though I am out of school, I am still learning and broadening my horizons.

These are super blurry photos but I wanted to include a couple images of when Robin jumped in and participated.

These are super blurry photos but I wanted to include a couple images of when Robin jumped in and participated.

After the 30 minutes expired, Robin cut the music and let the students get water. The class then huddled back together and discussed the exercise. After a long period of watching the students remain completely silent and focused on the task, it was really cool to see them open up and discuss what was going through their minds. They brought up challenges while also pinpointing what went right. As the talk was still at a high level, I had to excuse myself so I could get to a meeting. I usually stay in classrooms for 20-30 minutes…today I stayed for almost an hour.

Robin led a class discussion after the flocking exercise ended.

Robin led a class discussion after the flocking exercise ended.

Thanks to Robin Russell and her Acting 150 class for allowing me to visit today. The goal of Inside the Classroom is to show our audience learning in action while also giving our students social media coverage. However, a byproduct of these two things is that I become a more enriched individual. Talk about a perk of the job! Don’t Blink.

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