The Well-Told Story: Celebrating Two Years of ALT/space!

Not everyone who contributes to ALT/space is a writer by trade, nor do they need to be.  Writing about our work and the things we are thinking, focusing on, wondering about and struggling with while we teach is a valuable process, whether or not we think of ourselves as writers. 

The kind of writing that gets done on ALT/space is something of a hybrid.  The ALT/space concept is part blog (vignettes of and in the moment), part magazine (presenting a polished work to a public audience) and part reflective practice within community (working with an editor/first reader and sharing with colleagues).  The goal is to provide interesting, generative stories which will potentially spark recognition or new understandings of teaching artist practice across disciplines.

Ultimately, ALT/space is about telling stories about what matters to us about our teaching, our students and the communities in which we work. In the spirit of a tale well told and in celebration of the second anniversary of ALT/space online, here are six really well told stories of teaching artist practice for you to enjoy, ponder and, perhaps, connect in some way to your own teaching practice. 

Enjoy!

Malke Rosenfeld
ALT/space Editor & Curator

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Worth the Mess | Kate Plows

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This morning started with a huge mess.  I was absent from school for a few days, and when I returned, my students informed me that one of our glazes had settled out.  I plugged in the electric mixer, planted my feet, flipped the switch, and the bucket went flying.  Red glaze, steeped in iron oxide, splattered everywhere – the walls, floor, glaze buckets, my pants, a few nearby students’ uniforms.  The incident felt like slow motion.  When the action stopped, we all just stood there, blinking, until one student pulled out his cell phone and snapped this picture – which sent us all into throes of laughter. Read More

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Bamboo: Tools of Storytelling | Jeff Redman

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In February I began working with my 8th grade students to devise a theater piece based on modern day slavery. Doing research in humanities class with my collaborator, they each took a turn writing a story based on a first person account of how someone fell into slavery.

Now they were bringing the stories to drama class.  My job in the project was to guide them through the dramatization process, to help them interpret the material and make it into a theater piece. Read More

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Take a Walk on the Wild Side | Holly Adams
I have just begun a two-week venture called “Imagine That” with ten 3-5 year olds (some of whom have English as a second language, some of whom are maneuvering with other challenges). It’s a project I do with the Ithaca Youth Bureau for a couple sessions every summer, and one I look forward to with relish. The children come from a wide range of ethnic, language, and economic backgrounds, having only age as a common thread. Each session runs from 3:30-5:30 Monday-Friday for two weeks, and I used to think of it as glorified educational babysitting. However, several years ago, I realized that the secret was to have some delicious fun. Obviously, if I have fun, I will be a better teacher, but more importantly, it’s the KIND of fun I want to have.  Read More

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Between the Rattle and the Ease: Art’s Role in Teacher Education | Debora Broderick

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A few years ago one of my students, Ally, said something to me that sticks with me to this day. As she was trying to explain why making art is so important to her, she paused thoughtfully and said, “Art forces people to think and feel.  It rattles and eases the mind.”  Ally described her art making process as one where she’s constantly thinking, working things out while her fingers push the pencil or the paintbrush.  As she gets deeper into the work, her movements become meditative and peaceful, creating a space that eases her mind.  For Ally, having this experience regularly available in school made all the difference.  Art offered her, as writer John Updike reminds us, “…a certain breathing room for the spirit.” Read More

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Color Theory for Writing Teachers | Anna Plemons
By grace and serendipity I recently had the chance to visit the Bauhaus Archive in Berlin, Germany.  In looking through some of the color studies by Johannes Itten and Paul Klee I was shocked to discover something new to me—albeit embarrassingly elementary—about how colors work in conversation with each other.  I realize that in sharing my discovery here, I showcase how little I really know about visual arts in general and color theory more specifically; but the discovery was important to me as a writing teacher nonetheless.  Read More

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Best Seat in the Islands | Daniel A. Kelin, II

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As I sat in in the center of the newly-dedicated, freshly painted outdoor cement basketball court, surrounded by a couple of hundred local folks watching youth I had worked with perform, it dawned on me that these local audiences are truly the best audiences in the world.  At 7:00 pm on a Saturday night at the ‘Laura’ end of Majuro island in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, people sat on rocks, the cement court, wooden side benches, make-shift chairs made from implements found around the nearby houses, their cars (parked at the far end of the court), or just stood-for the entire three hours of our performance. Read More

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