This is a post I wrote a little while ago for the Kenan Fellow Blog. I'm currently a Kenan Fellow with Lincoln Center Education. I hope you enjoy!
The weeks leading up to Summer Forum the Kenans were involved with preparing the materials for each workshop. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect since the Teaching Artists and facilitators were requesting materials from pencils to fruit and newspapers. Everyone at Lincoln Center Education seemed prepared and excited to meet the hundreds of teachers and artists that would be immersing themselves in Maxine Greene’s philosophy.
During Summer Forum, the Kenans had the opportunity to participate in the weeklong Aesthetic Education Immersion workshop (when we weren’t supporting the other workshops). In my workshop there were visual artists, performers, elementary school teachers, college professors, principals, people who had been teaching for 1 or 2 years and people who had been teaching for almost 30 years. It was a little intimidating being around such accomplished professionals but they treated the Kenans as equals. I learned a lot from them throughout the week just hearing their perspectives and experiences.
During the workshop, we learned about LCE’s pedagogy by experiencing it. Our TA’s led us through lessons as if we were their students at a school. Instead of the teachers lecturing us on a topic, they provided us with materials and guided us with questions that the class would respond to, pose new questions, and collectively uncover with answers. The TA’s were responsive to each person’s contribution and ensured that there wasn’t just one correct answer. The lessons also involved various activities that were meant to prepare the class for viewing professional performances or visual artwork. These hands on experiences in the classroom enabled me to notice and make connections to the performances and artwork that the lessons were developed around.
A of the central aspect of LCE’s pedagogy are the Capacities for Imaginative Thinking. I mentioned a few of them in the above paragraph! They are notice deeply, make connections, create meaning, embody, empathize, take action, pose questions, live with ambiguity, reflect/assess, and identify patterns. These capacities are not unique or bound to the arts. They can be used in everyday life. I have found myself using the capacities when I’m walking around the city, talking to my friends, or practicing my flute.
Participating in that 5 day workshop has already had a huge impact on my teaching style and view of education. One important detail that I took away from Summer Forum was that we should be enabling students to learn with resources and opportunities. This will allow them to make discoveries not just in an arts classroom but also in other subject areas and other aspects of their lives.
I think participating in Summer Forum was an important precursor for the Kenans as we headed into to the Middle School Audition Band Camp; which was immediately after Summer Forum ended. Boot Camp gave us the perfect opportunity to exercise the pedagogy we just learned. I was constantly asking my students what they were noticing, we asked them to define terminology in their own words, we encouraged them to ask questions, and give positive and constructive feedback to each other.
During Bootcamp, I was assisting with the instrumental group. The teachers leading the instrumental group were excellent and I learned a lot from observing them. They encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and work with the full group of students during warm-ups and sight-reading exercises. Previously, my teaching experience had been limited to one on one lessons or coachings with small groups. It was a great experience for me to work with and teach a large number of students at once. Along with working with the large group, I coached a small group containing one flutist and six clarinetists on scales, sight-reading, and prepared pieces for about an hour each day.
Those two weeks gave me a small idea of what it would be like to be a middle school band director. I found myself exhausted at the end of each day because as a teacher you have to constantly be engaged and excited about what you’re doing. I also found myself connecting with the students and sympathizing with them when they were frustrated. It was crushing when a smart, passionate young student came up to me crying because she felt that she wasn’t good enough and didn’t deserve to be there. It was eye opening to see these students go through internal fights that I’ve experienced throughout my 15 years of playing flute. I told the student that she had drive, good work ethic, and a beautiful tone and yes she needed to work on rhythm and scales but she now had the tools and knowledge to practice and improve. I also said that she did belong there because she auditioned and was accepted because the judges saw talent and potential in her. Everything that I told her was what I should tell myself when I’m unhappy with a performance or think I don’t deserve something but honestly I often don’t. I learned a lot from that student when the next day she volunteered to perform a mock audition in front of the entire class without fear. It wasn’t perfect (nothing ever is) but she got through the audition with a great attitude and even played three scales from memory with no issues. I was so proud of her!
I was honestly proud of every single student on the last day of the camp when we held individual auditions. They practiced and worked hard on their scales, sight-reading, and prepared pieces. Everyone improved to some degree. They still have time for further improvement before their auditions in the late fall. I’m excited to hear them when they return for mock auditions in October.
After experiencing Summer Forum and Boot Camp, I’m looking forward to Phase 2 of the Fellowship and further exploring LCE’s pedagogy. If it’s anything like Phase 1 it will be unexpected, enlightening, and over before I know it. I’m inspired to pursue a career as an educator and a musician due to the experiences that I’ve had while working at Lincoln Center and living in the city. I’m thankful to UNCSA and Lincoln Center Education for providing me with this amazing six-month opportunity.