Crisis to Challenge: A Message From Dr. Patricia Newman

Coping in Crisis is our educational theatre program specifically designed to facilitate discussions with middle school students about relatively “big” topics such as racism, bias, income inequality, special needs, and gender issues. Students share ideas about how to respond to inappropriate, hurtful, and unfair behavior that can be directed at them and their friends from others. They participate in discussion, activities and self-directed role plays that share resources, ideas, responses, and strategies that are assertive but not aggressive, and that can help layer their resilience to damage that can result from harmful peer pressure. They learn together that there are many ways to support peers whose boundaries are being violated.

Coping in Crisis is specific to the topics listed above, but all our programming is designed to help students explore and identify the feelings and thoughts they can experience resulting from a multitude of situations and interactions that can occur as they go about their daily routines with others.

Daily and continual reminders in RESPECT’s work and in our interactions with community partners reinforce the need that students of all ages must better understand their own emotions, responses to those emotions, and to identify and respect their own boundaries as well as those of others. Also, their need to learn that they have some ability to make choices about their emotional, cognitive, and behavioral responses to others and how to get help when they have questions or need support.

“Crisis” is partly defined by the experiences, history, and ability to cope a person has. RESPECT cannot change the experiences and history that our audience members come to us with. We can however provide information, resources, and a unique, motivational, and effective teaching modality to help them learn the skills needed to increase their social and emotional readiness to better cope with situations as they arise.

To a small child, a “crisis” might be having no person ever to play with them at recess or ask them to join a learning group, especially if they have no context for the behaviors, perceive no resources for help or do not know how to access help and do not know what choices they may have.

Nearly without fail it is better for students to have information, context, choices, know they are not alone, know they cannot always succeed in every relationship interaction, and know they have value within their boundaries. Those are some of the important skills taught during RESPECT programs.

As the school year ends, we are at a near record breaking season of workshops and performances. The RESPECT staff deserves accolades for a year of managing multiple post Covid adjustments and demands with great talent, flexibility and frankly, stress! I appreciate each of them!

A special thank you to one of our Artistic Directors, Samantha Zarders, who leaves us soon, for new and challenging roads! She was a primary, strong force learning her way through the COVID pandemic and new theatre and recording techniques to make our work more accessible to students during that time! She will be missed.

MANY thanks to our continually generous sponsors and donors who never, ever let us down. We have scholarships for late spring and summer – please do not hesitate to reach out for your school or summer camp!