When a Volunteer Freezes

 So, this kid waves his arm frantically. He is volunteering to come to the front of the school assembly to help out. I call on him and he pops to the front of the room. I put glasses on him as a costume. He turns to the audience – and freezes. There is no moving him. He’s my main character. And if my activity is to be successful, he has to move!

 The last thing I want to do is have a kid lose face in front of peers. So I have to think quickly of what to do.

 First I have to figure out, has the size of the audience scared him?

 I stand in front of him, blocking his view of the room. I whisper, “Do you want to do this part?” If he shakes her head, “No,” then I say, “Would you like to play another part instead?” If he says yes, I give him some smaller part to play. If he says, “No,” I ask, “Would you like to help me choose the person to take your place?” If he says, “Yes,” then I quickly say to the audience, that our volunteer “has decided to choose someone to take his place.” I then invite him to sit close by. This way, he can still feel part of the action and doesn’t have to do the long walk back to where his class is sitting.

 But what if the issue is that he has limited English?

 Again, with my back to the audience, I talk to him. I tell him not to worry – I’ll show him what to do. When we do speaking parts, I whisper the words to him and we repeat them together.

 And finally, what if the volunteer freezes but won’t relinquish the role?

 Let me tell you about this kindergartner . . .

 I was in a room with two classes of afternoon kindergartners together – about 50 kids. I had all the kids stand in a circle. The girl who volunteered to play a bully character, called Mean Jean, was to stomp around the circle wearing a crown and make mean faces at the kids. The kids were to act afraid of her. But when she got to the 12:00 position on the circle, she stopped, stood stock still and began to sob. I still don’t know what caused this – perhaps a classmate said something unkind to her? So I called her back. I asked if she’d like someone else to play Mean Jean. But she refused to relinquish the crown. She continued to cry. We were at an impasse. Then I asked if she’d like to choose someone to play the part with her. She nodded. So my two main characters had “twins” playing the roles and the tears disappeared.

 There is bound to be a time in your school visit experience when a volunteer freezes. But if you have a few strategies for thawing them, then the show can go on!

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