Branching out

Enough about theatre – doesn’t anything else happen at that jail besides theatre?  I am so glad you asked, because yes, so much else goes on there besides our wonderful class!  This past Friday, Michelle and I sat in on the Goodwill Job Readiness class, which happened directly after ours.  The PRIDE women worked on identifying jobs they’d like to have after release, and worked on resumes for those specific jobs.

In the two years I’ve been at the jail, there have been very few opportunities to sit and chat with the women.  We’re always up, we’re running around, we zapping, we’re writing, we’re acting, we’re moving moving moving!  How interesting then to sit in a room at long tables and have quiet conversations about jobs, about lives, about hopes and ambitions.

Michelle was especially drawn to one young woman who became more and more frustrated with the process.  She didn’t know what job she wanted; she’d had many jobs and didn’t really like any of them.  She knew what she wanted to do but it was hard to make money at it.  This whole narrative sounded pretty familiar to me (from my own life) so Michelle and I had a whispered conversation questioning whether she should step in and help.  With permission from the Goodwill instructor, she did, and spent the rest of the class discussing what her options might be and what skills she already had.  Michelle has worked in career services type programs before, so she was fairly vibrating with eagerness to jump in.

“This is what we need on the outside,” I said to her.  “A center with theatre and job readiness and life skills and trauma therapy and rehab and social workers.”

“Let’s do it!” she replied.

“Yes, let’s!”

It’s been my dream for a long time now – I might be gathering enough forward momentum to take some steps.  A new program is starting at the jail for women in maximum security, and I hope to teach a class there as well.  Historically, those incarcerated in maximum security receive less programming which is a shame because they need it just as much.  One of the women in our class for PRIDE seemed especially concerned about it the other day.  Maybe she has a friend there or maybe she fears she’ll end up there herself.

The class itself was a shortie.  We only saw them for 45 minutes, so we played a fun improv game the whole time.  This group loves to role play!  I asked if the game we played made anyone nervous and Ms. S said, “No, we expect this now.  We come to this class and do silly stuff.”  And I can tell!  The women who’ve been with us a while hop right up and since they show no fear, the new women usually follow with little or no hesitation.  If someone does hesitate, the rest of the class eggs her on until she gets up and then bursts into cheers and applause.

The one disappointment is that only one woman completed the writing assignment I gave them last week.  I heard the same excuses I always do: I didn’t have time, I had other things to do, I forgot.  Although I’d expected it, I still gave them a hard time.  As long as I keep my tone light and a smile on my face, I feel perfectly okay giving everyone a little bit of grief.  I used to be more reticent about this but this time around, I would like it take less than two years to get a collection of writing together.  And my lesson plan doesn’t work without the writing!

We brainstormed a few solutions and I left a reminder note on the whiteboard in the classroom, in hopes that they’ll see it throughout the week.  A couple of women did feel bad and promised to have theirs done this Friday.  We’ll see…

-Kat Craft

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