Monthly Archives: May 2014

NYU Educational Theatre Forum 2014

NYU Educational Theatre Forum 2014: Forum on The Teaching Artist  April 25-27, 2014

Arts Horizons is committed to the professional development and training of our roster of teaching artists. To that end, we recently sponsored the attendance of solo performer, writer, and teaching artist Angela Kariotis to NYU’s professional development conference, “Forum on the Teaching Artist.” Angela is currently the artist-in-residence for the New Jersey State Council on the Arts’ Artists-in-Education Residency Grant Program. She is working with high school students at Rosa Parks School of Fine and Performing Arts in Paterson, NJ and at St.Anthony’s in Jersey City, NJ to develop original creative writing. For each residency, Angela keeps a detailed blog that documents her creative process, student work, and teacher resources.

Angela shares her insights from her vibrant learning experience at The Forum on the Teaching Artist: 

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Angela at NYU’s Teaching Artist Conference.

Many arts education conferences can be summed up with ‘We need more arts education.’ There won’t be anyone in the audience who would contend against that declarative. This particular conference was different. The focus was on the teaching artist and best practices in the classroom/workspace. This was a practical conference and the two workshops that I took really stood out. The first helped me learn about what diversity in the class can mean and the second helped me learn about the need for training for all artists in creating a safe space.

There are specific exercises and lesson plans that we participated in that we could tailor to our own tool box. These were generative art exercises. This was refreshing. Also though I learned to frame a conversation I’ve been having with myself in articulate ways.       For example, In the Everyone has a Voice Workshop we identified what Diversity in the Classroom could mean:

  • Family structure
  • Learning styles (visual, kinetic, audio)
  • Sensory needs
  • English language Learners
  • Economic
  • Ethnic
  • Behavioral mixes
  • Experience
  • Age

We asked ourselves, ‘How can we modify a lesson to fit different diverse populations?‘ I think the most important point is acknowledging and identifying the diversity in the classroom. The idea also breaks open the meaning of diversity and the implication of our work. The next phase of the workshop delivered clear strategies for addressing diversity and a take-away lesson plan.

The next stand-out workshop was presented by practitioners from The Moth. The Moth is a performance troupe with a season schedule and a Story Slam. The point is to tell YOUR own TRUE story. And that’s what this workshop was about: using storytelling as a teaching tool. Bringing storytelling into the classroom is also a means of generating material and devising content for the theater. This is what I do anyway. As a performance artist all my stories are true. I bring that ethos into the classroom. Here are some goals from this workshop–

  • How can you use your own stories as a teaching tool?
  • How can the elements/arc of a story inform the lesson plan?
  • How can generative art apply to my discipline?

What struck me is how different this might seem to folks; how out of the ordinary. It made me pause and reflect on the need to create context and space for this practice. Also, the workshop helped identify a necessary step–for the facilitator and teacher to share their very true stories too. I don’t ask students to do anything I haven’t done myself. For a teaching artist, that seems easy. But in this workshop we see why it’s powerful for teachers to share their own stories, practice storytelling.  Another important point in any workshop about true stories is creating a safe space. The difficulty in grappling with the nuance on HOW to create a safe space was clear when the Moth facilitator acknowledged, “There should be a safe space in the room when it comes to this kind of storytelling but I don’t pretend to know how to do that. I don’t know exactly how to create that safe space.” This conversation reminds me of working with artist/facilitator Sharon Bridgforth and her methodology of creating safe space for work. I now believe all teaching artists should be trained in knowing how to create a safe space in their classroom. I wouldn’t have been able to articulate that very important point before this conference experience.

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