Monday, August 13, 2012

For the win!

Have you heard the saying, "like a fish out of water"? It could easily be re-cast as "like a teacher out of his classroom." Even the most confident teacher seems to wither a bit when faced with speaking or performing in front of other professionals rather than their students.

So it would't have surprised me at all if the teachers at the Arts Impact summer institutes were awkward, uncomfortable, or rebellious.  But they weren't!  In all three institutes, I was not only impressed by the perseverance and open-mindedness of these teachers, I was encouraged.

It can be hard enough to adapt to new ways of teaching, then to expose your own vulnerability by participating in dance, theatre, and visual arts, and finally to create a group performance piece with a dozen other teachers that you hardly know?  This seems like an impossible challenge.  Yet time after time, I saw skilled and dedicated teachers rise to that challenge.  Mind you, before these institutes, many  were trained only in teaching, not in the arts...so their collective creations and performances are even more impressive to me!  This not only goes to show how much they have learned through their arts exploration at our summer institutes, but it also shows that we have teachers out there raising the bar and doing everything they can to bless their students with the best education possible.

In the first two pieces, teachers chose a painting (projected onto the back of the stage) and interpreted its motifs, moods, and meanings through dance.  Last year, we danced to an oil on canvas: "Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast" by Albert Bierstadt in 1870.  I revisited this painting last week and was still overwhelmed with the emotion of the piece, and I am infinitely grateful for the chance to have danced our collective interpretation of such an amazing piece. This year, the dancers interpreted a Spinifex Men's Collaborative from Western Australia in 2003: a synthetic polymer on canvas called “Wati Kutjarra (Two Men Story)”. I was not a member of this year's dance group, so I found it exciting to look for connections in the projected painting as I watched the dance unfold.  I definitely recommend that curious viewers out there look up the story behind these paintings and see if you can find any more connections for yourselves!




In the next two videos, teachers sat down as writers first and created individual scripts to a given topic.  After the individual free-writing process, teachers shared their ideas, looked for points of connection, edited and refined their ideas, developed their own characters, and rehearsed their stories in a classroom before a quick run-through with lighting on the performance stage.  As an audience to last year's theatre piece, I seem to remember the title being referenced as "Anything." As a participant in this year's untitled theatre piece, I would suggest the title of "It's only math..." Our group process focused on the satire, solution, and eventual optimism of teaching math through theatre and through our new Common Core Standards.  But I think that's enough of an introduction to help our audience understand our purpose.  
I feel so privileged to have worked through the creative process with these Seattle-area teachers!  And rest assured, our Spokane-area teachers were equally as inspiring.  But I chose to only record and post videos of the institute where I was a participant, not a leader. I would be happy to post a link to a Spokane video if one of the participants has already published it though.  My sincerest thanks go out to all the teachers and leaders in all three of these institutes.  I'm sure their students will also have many thanks for the risk-taking, forward-thinking teaching artists who are leading the way into their 21st Century classrooms!

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