Celebrating Teachers of the Arts

I’m pretty excited as I go back to school tomorrow, because one of the projects I’m helping with is a day for Arts teachers in our Board (drama, dance, visual art, music).  For a long time I’ve watched my husband Steve, (drama teacher extraordinaire), work his magic in his classes, production courses and extra-curricular events, and I believe there is so much that teachers of all other subjects can learn from our teachers of the Arts.

I’ve decided to start the day introducing the teachers to Pecha Kucha by creating one that celebrates their wonderful skills (they’ll like the creativity boost that comes with the economy of Pecha Kucha).  I am inspired by this quote from David Booth’s book entitled Story Drama:

“This is the drama teacher’s struggle:    listening, watching, setting up situations that will foreshadow the direction of the journey, knowing when to intervene, when to use a particular strategy to open up discussion, to move the students into action, to cause them to pause, to reflect, to rethink, and all this without predetermining the learning, the content, the meat of the lesson.”

What hit me is that this quote really typifies the kind of work we all ought to be doing in our classrooms.  The delicate dance of teaching involves watching, inspiring, coaching, providing choices, respecting, motivating and providing rich content experiences…such a complex task indeed!

What is so amazing to watch is how through drama, Steve promotes what we want in the best learning environments:

  • an understanding that knowledge is a private reflection until we give it social value by transforming it in some way so that it can be represented publicly
  • an understanding of the critical role of building community in an environment where all voices are valued and taking risks is safe
  • differentiating how meaning is conveyed to include word, image, sound or gesture
  • a balance of focus on process and product
  • including the teacher (co-learner) as an integral part of the learning, both inside and outside of the drama
  • exploring different perspectives,  promoting higher level thinking such as analyzing, evaluating, creating
  • how understanding the big picture allows students to demonstrate their ability to synthesize
  • turning assessment into something immediate, descriptive and supportive of the whole group
  • stepping inside the past (or an issue) giving a personal connection to the curriculum
  • that drama work is never quite finished and reflection is a constant part of the process

The teachers I’m spending the day with are wondering how technology might help them with their teaching in the arts.  These teachers have, of course, always been really good users of technology – it’s just been paint, masks, props, instruments, music etc.  It’s going to be wonderful to have such a strong pedagogy base to work with.  Our focus can now move to how digital technology and Web 2.0 tools might continue to enrich their programs, for starters:

  • finding authentic audiences beyond the classroom, school or community walls
  • archiving students’ work in easy to access ways
  • provide spaces for reflection and conversation in new ways
  • using new digital tools that allow the blend of images, sound and text to express meaning

Think about the arts teachers you know.  How are they embracing technology?  Please share any comments or examples you might have so that I can share with this group of teachers next month.  Thanks!

David Booth (2005)  Story Drama
Jonothan Neelands (1998) Role Influenced Writing (in Writing in Role)
Elliot Eisner (2003) The Arts and the Creative Mind
Kathleen Gallagher (2004) Imagining Theatre and the Arts