The Capital Teaching Residency at KIPP DC is a three-year program that offers individuals the opportunity to gain the skills and experiences needed to develop as an educator and empower the next generation of Washingtonians. Teaching is challenging, and residents come from diverse backgrounds across the nation to learn the art of teaching through this one-of-a-kind opportunity.
“I see Residents who come into the program and are pretty young and have been successful in whatever their previous endeavors were. Your first year of teaching is a place where you’re not going to feel successful and it’s hard. The biggest lesson I learned my first year of teaching was how to be myself,” says Salvatore Negrete, vice principal at KIPP DC Grow Academy and creator of Lighten Up: Improv for Capital Teaching Residents.
While a comedic art form, improv has tangible benefits that carry over into the classroom, including increased confidence, the opportunity to build camaraderie among peers, and the ability to think on your feet—the latter of which is crucial to success as an educator.
“Sometimes in teaching there is no right, and that’s where the idea for improv classes came from. With improv, there is no right or wrong, you just gotta be able to think, do, be yourself, and be willing to be vulnerable in front of people. Because if you’re in front of kids and you’re thinking too much about what you’re going to say or do, they’re going to know.”
The program launched last year with nine Residents, and Negrete recalls a particular exercise that illustrates the correlation between improv and success as a teacher, and just how beneficial this program is to helping teachers make meaningful connections with students and families.
“Last year we did an exercise on listening to the last word where two Residents would improvise conversation based on the last word of the others sentence. I think it hammered home the idea of having to listen and not being reactive. If we can take a deep breath as we interact with kids and actually listen and show kids that we’re present and there to hear what’s on their mind, that’s a huge relationship builder.”
This year, the group has grown to 25 participants who meet regularly at the Washington Improv Theater. As the program grows, the goal will always remain the same according to Salvatore, “I want people to find the joy in what they do each day and know that it’s okay to be their authentic selves and be vulnerable in front of their students or colleagues. We talk a lot about creating relationships and a sense of belong and trust and all of that is impossible without being your authentic self. Improv is an avenue to extract that.”