Thank you for the kind words in your last letter. I was really moved by what you said. From my vantage point, the last couple weeks with Learning Through Art have felt like a momentous blur. I am glad that from the outside the chaos was inspiring. Even though I did think through the sculpture building process, I went into each class with my fingers crossed. You heard the announcement by the school principal: “Ms. Ardina has misplaced a bag of nails. If you find the bag please bring them to the third grade classrooms.” Thankfully, a rogue bag of nails wasn’t lurking in an inauspicious classroom space. It turns out that I left the bag of nails in the car that day. Nevertheless, that announcement exposes the state of mind I was in.
The truth is I feel that the most successful teaching moments I have are when we teach together. We have different strengths that compliment each other: You have a charismatic, performative character that involves and activates students, and I pay attention to the details well. The success of our teaching relationship is particularly clear to me when we are in the thick of it. I am able to pay attention to the details because I have a different vantage point when I work with you. I can take moments (yes, more than one) to step back and take a good look at what is going on, to give attention where it’s needed, and I can call on your strengths when I know your approach would best suit the situation.
That being said, it is more common that we teach alone. In these situations I am lucky to have someone to talk to afterwards. Whether on the subway, in the kitchen, driving back in the rental car, or on a long walk home, a great deal of our conversation turns to our experience teaching. I like to tell you about my successes and failures, what went well and what I would change. You are a good listener and thoughtfully consider what I say. I’m not sure that many teaching artists share the same situation.
In many ways we are constantly teaching each other what it is to be a teaching artist; together in our work and in our studies we are learning to be three in one: teachers, artists, and scholars.