Make Music & Puppet Play

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Joined: 11 May 2006
Posts: 2
Location: Tucson

PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2006 12:50 pm
PostPost subject: Make Music & Puppet Play
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Hi Jeff,

Not sure if this is the correct way to do this. My computer knowledge is limited and your site is complicated and so in depth...lovin' it!

Thanks for calling this morning. A great way to start the day.
Shanti Om
Steve Granek

May 14, 2006

It’s Mom’s day, I just returned from a glorious bike ride. Bike rides are conducive for mucho thought and for the past 3-4 weeks I’ve been taking a lot of bike rides, I’ve been thinking a lot about puppets. For instance, I’ve been thinking about how and when to share Bodhi’s “crime against puppets” experience, last Monday, with a group of very aggressive 5 year old boys, and even going so far to ask all my clients and people I talk to what their personal puppet experience is. I’ve been so much so into this puppet thing for the past weeks that even my very receptive 25 yr. Old son told me, “Dad, enough with the puppets for a while.” Levi is my portal into the Pop Culture World. He recommends books and music and movies and offers insights into his generations fears and desires and foibles that I would never have access to otherwise. He is an extraordinary social artist, & musician involved with two bands, a rock band and a New Original Funk Music band, with 12 pieces and a Show. (That’s another story) His view of the world influences me greatly. Eventually I will share exactly how Bodhi, the wise wizard puppet, became a portal for me into the world of my pre school musicians, and dance students.

Even though Levi suggested I take a rest with the puppets, it’s not that easy to forget about them and all the implications that arise.
My clients come to me for body and foot reflexology, polarity therapy, and Hot Stone spa treatments. The first person, Ann K. that I asked about puppets, actually grew up in a home where her mom played puppets with them for hours, making them and creating stories and plays, and using buttons and socks. She herself continued her mom’s lead and did the same with her kids, now 10 and 14 yrs. Old. Ann is in her 4th decade of life so as she is telling me her experience while she is receiving a treatment; I could feel the flood of joyful memories wash over her as she was telling me her story. I didn’t know what to be more amazed with, the fact that she grew up in such a creative home, or the depth of her experience.

Now, me personally, I’ haven’t had any use or interest in puppets since I was teaching “emotionally disturbed” boys in Kingston, N.Y. back in the infant days of Sesame street. I of course love Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch. Nicole, who I call Dr. No, the reason I’m Now into puppets, who you will be hearing from soon, thinks I actually am Oscar the Grouch, when really it is more like Cooookie Monster. And how can you not love the Count! Don’t young kids love to count?

I grew up in the Woodstock generation, so Howdy Doody, a marionette, and his show of course was a major influence in my early puppet world. Then their was Rooty Kazootie a hand puppet I loved because his baseball cap was always turned sideways, and on the way to the back, where it is so popularly worn these days. Then of course, there is that horrible story of Pinocchio, wow that is a scary one. There in my childhood was Kukla, Fran and Ollie who I desperately wanted to like but couldn’t and the person that caused the most disinterest in puppets for me, I’m sad to say is Shari Lewis. I just couldn’t get behind her characterizations, even at a young age. Well enough of the past, but I had to tell you that, to tell you this:

3 weeks ago Dr. Nicole Ofiesh shared with me her desire to help children learn through puppets. I listened intently with an open mind even though it didn’t really ring my bell. Dr. No is an amazing teacher whose goals are similar to mine, and Jeff’s ideals so I said o.k. Let’s go ogle puppets and see what comes up for me. I came across all the garden-variety sites that sell puppets and outfits and skits etc. I typed in puppets and learning and got back many of the same results and also stumbled upon Puppet tools.

During this time the dialog that Dr. No and I were having was phenomenal. We explored many possibilities and relationships with puppets. Dr. No has 6 yr. Old that loves puppets so we asked her and her friends very leading questions about them, such as, “Do you guys think you could learn from puppets?” And simple stuff like, what would you do right now if you were a puppet, and could you do anything without someone bringing you, as a puppet to life? What’s the difference between a stuffed animal and a puppet? Nicole will remember more in detail about the specific conversations. It was fun and exciting for me in discovery of the puppet world in this way.

The universe then presented the next logical step for me, in finding Jeff and his site. This happening spring boarded me into another category of interest. I was propelled into my favorite world, where the combination of learning and playing, and enjoying is the focus. What is the correlation? I’ve asked myself this question many times and answered myself various ways, but Jeff actually had a scientific paper to back up every thought and intuition I’ve experienced. When I read Jeff’s paper I laughed out loud and jumped and danced myself, because every thing that he says is absolutely obvious for me! It is a joy to be in contact with kindred spirits on the path to a root based, natural way of learning! I have been in many classrooms and seminars and groups, I’ve danced and played music and simply played with so many children and adults in my years. It becomes amazingly clear exactly what children need in that moment to assuage their fear and confusion and to enhance their learning experience. They actually teach you how to teach them if you can gain access and trust yourself enough to listen.

Bodhi has been ready to tell his story from Monday, May 8, 20006, for a while now, so after retrieving him from the puppet theater, in the living room, that I created before I knew you didn’t need one, and bringing him into the computer room where he sits atop the hutch watching, making sure I get the story correct.

Both Bodhi and myself were pleased that he could make another appearance so soon after Friday’s, minimal yet profound contact. My fears of not having a script, or a voice, or the experience to work the puppet, disappeared with Bodhi’s first appearance, where I had an AH Ha moment, a Zen Satori. Have you experienced moments in teaching where there seems to be complete harmony and understanding, almost a melting of student, teacher and subject, even if only for a moment? Well, I’ve experienced that place of stillness many times through the magic of music and dance; but the Bodhi puppet became a door to another level of understanding through language. I discovered he automatically has his own voice that I don’t have to make up, because in the eyes of the children he has his own Life, therefore it follows, his own voice as well even if it sounds a lot like Mr. Steve’s. It became acutely obvious, instantly that I basically didn’t have to do a thing, except be present in the moment to how the children are relating. I understood why a stage is not needed and a script is only someone else’s story.

This truly became another level of Connection for me with these kids who I’ve been making music and dancing with for years. This fact I cannot stress enough.

I have complete command of my class and students. (When I say stop all present freeze and hold a pose as if they were statues with absolutely no moving or no sounds. It has become a game to take high poses and low poses and in between poses and poses on one leg and poses with two arms and one leg...), yet when Bodhi appeared so did a portal to another dimension of how children relate and obviously learn. Now the difference for me when the puppet appeared was that now I didn’t have to be “on”. My demeanor wasn’t as important, I didn’t have to be dynamic or be in command as it were. When Bodhi came out it was as if a sigh of relief hit the air when it came to getting the students involved.

That experience did not prepare me for what happened Monday morning, when Bodhi appeared to a little girl who was tired and cranky and yanking on her mom. He peeked out at her and she did not want to play. However, Bodhi persisted keeping a respectable personal space distance but coming closer and running away. At first she was making going away motions with her arms and was meaning it, but the more Bodhi played, the more she was engaged and the shooing away motions became playful rather than a sign of displeasure. Now she was laughing and gathering the attention of the other students who were just finishing up a story with their teacher. The five year old boys caught wind of the shooing away motions and then of Bodhi and they, @ least 4 of them, outright and literally began to try to attack him. They were grabbing and making punching motions and acting like a little mob. I was shocked, needless to say into some quick decisions. At first I was confused that this was actually happening but Bodhi kept talking while I kept him out of reach. He was saying, “Hey kids, what’s going on?” The kids kept it up even though Bodhi was trying to connect with them they were not having it. It got to a point and another Ah Ha moment for me, where I had to decide whether to discipline them as the teacher or get out of the situation as Bodhi. Bodhi’s last remarks before disappearing into the purple bag was, and it was almost as if he were doing it himself was, “You guys are really scaring me, hasn’t Mr. Steve taught you about personal space? I’m leaving.” Off he went and I continued on with the MM&D, but it was a situation that brought up a lot of food for thought. At the end of the class, before the kids left, I had them sit down and I brought Bodhi back out. He told the kids that he had to ask them what was going on and why were they trying to hurt him. One of the boys immediately called out, “we weren’t trying to hurt you.” Bodhi said o.k. he was happy about that, but he still felt a little scared . The quiet and look of concern on the kids made me feel to give them an out and Bodhi asked, “Were you guys just fooling around and didn’t mean to scare me?” They all took advantage of that out and said they were and that they were sorry. Bodhi asked one more question before the kids left, “Do you guys want me to come back and visit?” They had a wonderful look on their faces and all chimed in yes yes! As they all walked out they were saying with very good feelings, “bye Bodhi, bye bye.”
S. Granek
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Joined: 08 May 2006
Posts: 10
Location: Millbrae, CA 94030

PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2006 5:40 pm
PostPost subject: puppet hate crime?
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Hi Steve,

I loved what you posted. Puppets are alluring, and not the least bit a curiousity. It is interesting to note that your initial experiences with puppets were less than positive. This raises in mind many questions to me about the connection children make with puppets. The puppets you mentioned portrayed in the media from the '50-'70s were silly and not too cerebral...much the way children were assumed until we the adults "taught" them. What is also noteworthy to me after reading your thoughts is that one of the characters you truly connected with was Oscar, who out of all of them was the one with the truest sense of thought and observation...much like children really ARE.

So given that kids really have an intuitive understanding of what is right and wrong, what is real and what is imagined, and all that is possible, what do you make of the boys attacking Bodhi? Were they trying to protect the little girl? Were they being "just boys"---as my daughter thought they might be---she said, "boys just do stuff like that sometimes---like the time Danny took my toy and just didnt give it back" (a story I would have never heard about had I not related your story to her). Do you think this would have occured if you were female? If Bodhi was a wise crone as opposed to a wise wizard? What was it about Bodhi or was it the experience--- allowed them to think all they had learned about appropriate social behavior did not matter at that moment? Did the participation of a puppet in their space provide enough of a loosening of boundaries that they felt it was OK to show anger in this way? I wonder if other teachers have had this experience.

As a teacher/clinician who works with puppets with children 1-1 or small group, I have not had this experience, but in that scenario children choose or create the puppets who join us for the day (most of the time)---so in that vein there is more control.

It was also fascinating to read your thoughts---did YOU feel like YOU wre being attacked? Certainly you could see how a new person to the world of puppets and education could stop at this point, but in my humble opinion your handling of the situation was brilliant...I like the way you came full circle with it and maintained the role of Bodhi as your team teacher and one who showed both strength and compassion Smile

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Joined: 14 Dec 2004
Posts: 206
Location: Virginia, USA

PostPosted: Tue May 16, 2006 8:27 am
PostPost subject: Losing Control, Aggression, Resolution
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Thank you for taking us on this adventure. Bodhi first pulled you in, and now the kids pulled you in deeper. And you, in your wisdom, allowed yourself to be led. The children do indeed teach teachers.

The puppet is an X Factor. You never know what's up—except, that is, your own best instincts. One minute you are enabling a resistant little girl to engage very successfully, while the next minute the scenario gets a little, well, overwhelming. Both are experiences that are carried by an unfolding of events outside yourself (you took a back seat in both instances after you set things in motion). Both instances resolved positively, memorably, and with high emotion. No finger shaking, scolding, and loud DON'Ts fouling the air.

Instinctively, you took on (were already a part of) Bodhi's persona and his reaction to being the object of so much physical ……attention, pawing, roughhousing, rough and tumble. Probably girls would not have treated Bodhi that way. Many teachers at the outset report an occasional unfriendly, show-stopping comment from a child. Others describe children engaging in play fighting, rather than relating and interacting. Others have described kids with their new puppets in hand, running, yelling, spending a lot of social energy. I call it spillage. With the lid always on in the classroom and time for running always decreasing, the sudden unfamiliar appearance of a puppet on the hand of a familiar adult could open the door to excitement and impulsive behavior. It appears to have happened so fast that you may not have been conscious of what was happening until you and Bodhi were in the middle of it. Bodhi is smaller than you, yet larger than life, and here was an opportunity for boys to show how strong and dominant they could be. There are lots of possible explanations, and it is interesting to try to figure out how it could have happened differently. I think the sheer novelty of it caused some inappropriate behavior to spike. But what is important here, I think, is that the behavior presented itself, and the target of their affections and strong attention escaped appropriately (which I am sure was disappointing and a bit of shock to them (good). And you, being the prime mover-player, brought him back. You were able to harness this energy and use it to your advantage—and theirs. After this, those children will be mindful of Bodhi’s feelings and respectful of his personal space. Puppets help socialize and sensitize.

As Nicole suggests, sometimes the sudden presence of a puppet before a group of children signals the removal of censors. Like when a kitten walks into a classroom, and there is a race to pick it up. In this instance, in the group’s response to Bodhi are the seeds of group impulsivity witnessed in older children who don’t learn to understand and become subjects of local newspaper stories. Better to allow behavior of that nature in young children to be expressed and for them to see the impact of their power on you and the persona of Bodhi. The whole scenario gives them a frame of reference for grasping the meaning of independent thinking—behavior which our learning culture does not really like to see in children who are always expected to be compliant but unexpressed. You did a masterful job of giving your kids an opportunity to assess their actions and to learn about self-control— through Bodhi.

Note: See Mary Beth Spann’s story of Kerry Koala for another example of how negative behavior can be guided toward the positive using peer and puppet honey and empathy, rather than resorting to adult punishment and intimidation.
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