Annette leads the Underground Railroad Residency, "Letters From the Underground" workshop
Being a Teaching Artist can feel like a calling, like the ministry, or medicine, or magic!
I will use this moment to toot my own horn letting you know that on occasion classroom teachers and school administrators have called be a magician or a wizard when it comes to my teaching artistry. I can't take any supernatural credit for the feats except to accept the compliments while letting them know that the "magic" is in my enthusiasm. I always feel that if the audience sees and feels your love of theater they can catch the same fever.Musician & teaching artist Rodney Appleby, accompanying a spoken word student performance from Annette's "Stories From the Microphone" residency
It usually pans out, also having a solid lesson plan no matter how simple or basic. The lesson plan is really important. I know some of true "artists" may feel too creative to allow themselves time to create something as mundane as a lesson plan, but mark my words, when you are in that classroom with 18 to (Heaven help you) 30 students all wanting to tell you about what they watched last night, and how it connects to the theme you want them to write about today, you're going to wish you had a plan to look at and remind you what your objective and activities were. Students ask questions during Underground Railroad residency
schedule that a lesson plan helps you plot out is also of great value, especially when you discover that you and your charges are having such a good time you didn't keep your eye on the clock!Sixth graders performing their original radio script with Annette's "Quiet In the Studio" workshop Using historical photos for letter writing inspiration during the UGRR residency workshopsCAO students learn public speaking skills in the "Stories From the Microphone" workshop
I think I mentioned earlier that I have become the Program Coordinator with an after-school program for teens most at risk of educational and societal failure. Many of these kids are on probation, some are frequent runaways, some keep skipping school, they have domestic issues, and lots of other negatives that keep children struggling through the public education system as well as the social services systems.
I've been comparing the kind of experiences I have as a teaching artist in public and charter schools to the recent experiences I've had in this after-school program.
They don't compare.
There have been several days leaving the program in the evening when I think this is just too much work. In the schools I'm a celebrity, a wizard, getting kids and teens to write about themselves and create stories using historical references because they are so psyched with my storytelling skills.
But at the "program" I have to work pretty darn hard just to get them to focus on what we are doing and stop talking. My ego for success and enthusiasm for the theatre is losing shine.
Luckily for me I have an assistant who is also a theatre/writing teaching artist, she gives me encouragement throughout the day and reminds me that this is a pilot program.
"We had some successes today" she will tell me. "That whole conversation they had about love and money that was important!"
"Yeah," I'll add, "but they didn't write anything."
"It'll come soon, they have so many other things going on. Most of them have never been in a situation where someone is asking them to think and play!"
Yeah, she was right. Some of the things we are asking them to do really don't make any sense to them. Improvisations where they can only say one sentence any way they want but they have to remember they can only say that one sentence. Or playing games where they have to copy a neighbor's movement but say that they are doing something completely different. It drifts on the corny side, and sometimes seems quite anti-cool. However, most of them try it and most of them are so happy not to be under the requirements of curfew, they show up early.
So I'm putting my ego in check, because like always it is not about me, it's about the audience, and in this case the kids. The audience is king to the theatre artist and the classroom is the king to the teaching artist, the greater good and the really big reward is in that challenge that I face when I doubt my skills and talents.
I'm a rock-star! A teaching artist Wizard, The Wonderful Wizard of Ah's!
So I'll remember the calling.
Teaching Artist, is a profession, a professional artist, who chooses also to teach.AND:
The "magic" of teaching is in the "oohs' and "ahs' of the students when they have discovered something new.AND:
"Ooohs" and "AHH's" from me, when the students have taught me something new about art, the world we live in, and myself.
Artists have always been life-long learners, we have to be, how else would we ease on down that yellow brick road to creativity?
"Ease on down ease on down the road, don't you carry nothing that might be a load, come on and ease on down, ease down, ease down the road!"