Snapshots: A Week in the Life of a Teaching Artist, Part 2 | Elise May

[Read about Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in Part 1.]

Thursday: Skyping Lessons

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Last Spring, I received an email from a teacher in Nigeria who saw my website and wanted to teach my program in Lagos.  He had no money to bring me over for a residency.  I didn’t have time to go or I would have looked for a grant to get there.  The more he told me about his culture and how he saw the program benefitting his students, the more I knew I had to find a way to make it happen.  Enter technology!

Understand that this was quite a shock for me.  I am the ‘anti-tech!”  I don’t use a lot of technology for my lessons which are experiential and tactile by nature.  While we started corresponding via email, it wasn’t the same as face to face contact.   We started having Skype sessions where I taught him professional development and the tools and lessons for my elocution program.

Today’s Skype session lasts 40 minutes (only as long as his internet minutes allow.)  The school he teaches in does not have any technology which would permit me to have direct contact with his students.  It has been a wonderful lesson for me in letting go.  He is so passionate and respectful about the program.  While I can understand and respect his culture, I haven’t lived it.  He has to infuse his experience and adapt my program so it meets his students’ needs.  I know he is doing a wonderful job!  The program is now in its second term.

Friday: Character Education

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So many elementary educators are asking for character education units.  Today, I am in a fourth grade class using an acting exercise to get the students to feel what it is like to be on both sides of the bullying and peer pressure equation.  There are four different scenarios.  For each one, there is one student in the center of a circle of students.

The students in the circle start verbally trying to persuade the person in the center to join the group by doing something wrong.  The person in the center has to start by listening to the group.  Then they have to stand up for what’s right by speaking up.  With scenarios centering on hurtful words, stealing dares, returning a wallet, etc., these students were stellar.  Some of the boys were far too comfortable with their role in the outer circle so when the tables were turned on them it was good to see them react with thought and care.

When the class was back in their seats, a short demonstration by one group was watched by all.  The central boy spoke with a speech impediment where he swapped an “r” sound for a “w”.  Eric became Ewic.  A girl I was near in the audience instantly rolled her eyes and chuckled under her breadth repeating “Ewic” very softly to herself.  I don’t think anyone else heard or caught her reaction with what was going on so I didn’t want to bring this to the group’s attention. It was a gut level reaction on her part which left me wondering if she understood the lesson.

Saturday:  Creative Readers 

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Saturday morning I teach an inclusive multi-sensory literacy program at my local library which I created for SEPTA (Special Education PTA.)  It was hoped that children whose needs could only be met by being schooled outside the district would have an opportunity to experience a class in their community with some of their peers.

We have elementary students with physical challenges, learning challenges, some on the autism spectrum, some non-verbal and then, as it is an inclusion program, we have some whose only challenge may be to accept being in a class with special needs children.  The elementary students, for the most part, approach their theatrical tasks with abandon as they have very few inhibitions.  Their high school volunteer buddies, who are there to support and model all activities, however, have a much harder time not looking at themselves or worrying what their peers may think.  I am there to focus on and serve the needs of the younger students.  Each week, I find myself wondering if I have done enough to address the needs of the older students as well.

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