New and Familiar

April 5, 2022

YPT Team Member Teshonne Powell reflects on returning to the office and in-person programming at YPT

“In-person” and “virtual” have been two terms that have been compared, juxtaposed, and set at odds while we navigated our work and our lives during the pandemic. In 2020, as YPT adapted swiftly to support the safety of our team and our students while continuing our work, I was guilty of imagining these two things as opposite of each other. I saw “virtual” as uncertain, confusing, and a bit scary. But as we transition back into our physical office space in Takoma DC and back into classrooms with students and young playwrights, I’m starting to see these two modes of working as integrated, two methods of fulfilling the same mission.

When I first returned to the office for the full workday, a couple of weeks ago, I laughed upon sitting at my desk for the first time since 2020 because I had a large poster calendar hung up that still had March 2020 posted. I saw all of the notes I made that month, notes written with no idea or expectation of what was to come. I tossed the calendar away with a feeling that I was making a fresh start. Seeing my coworkers’ faces in person was a different feeling as well. I’m still getting used to being able to hop over to someone’s desk to chat briefly about something. I enjoy the feeling of collaboration that comes with being able to do that. Our partially remote work schedule has also been helpful in easing me back into the office environment while maintaining the flexibility that working away from the office allows.

YPT Teaching Artist Sisi Reid instructs students at Washington School for Girls in the after-school Story Art program.

And, just like that, I was also back on the road, visiting YPT programs at Prince George’s Community College and Washington School for Girls, while scheduling future visits to our workshops at Chelsea School, and SAFER at Sitar Arts Center. YPT transitioned its arts education programs to in-person instruction to support the needs of our partner schools and organizations that are managing the physical and emotional safety of our students. I remembered quickly that school visits were one of my favorite things about being a Communications Manager at YPT. I get to see the “magic” first-hand. Watching students come up with story ideas for the first time, develop their characters from scratch, encourage their fellow students toward the creation of fun, original, thoughtful stories. After all this time, it was amazing to see the perseverance of our youth with my own eyes.

What I’m experiencing as a staff member at YPT is not a return to normal. With our hybrid work model, we’re trying to integrate what we’ve learned about ourselves when we worked remotely and create a work environment that reflects our values of responsive flexibility and autonomy. There will be moments that call for safe and careful in-person experiences, and there will be moments when virtual interactions suit our needs the best. What we’ve strengthened over the last two years is the confidence to get creative and innovate in order to continue our work. We’re trying new things with the same, familiar YPT spirit.

Photo: Teshonne peeking out from YPT’s office entrance.