Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Teaching Artist to Arts Teacher

Teaching Artist to Arts Teacher – How student teaching made me experience the difference of these two worlds - Talia Marrero

As I begin to sum up my time with the Ed Theatre Program at CCNY, I am now spending a lot of time in the field. To be honest, student teaching was not something I was looking forward to. After being a Teaching Artist - for almost seven years now, I sarcastically thought, “Great! Now I get to do what I have been doing for so many years, but for free.” I was not too keen on the fact that I would be a guest in someone else’s classroom, especially when I was used to running my own in-class or after-school programs without assistance. Student teaching just seemed like something to squeeze into my already busy teaching artist schedule.

However, after the first week of student teaching, I began to reflect on the whole reason I wanted to become a certified teacher in the first place. After so many years of enjoying the life of a teaching artist, with its flexible schedule and generous artistic opportunities, two things remained a constant dissatisfaction. First, I was tired of teaching someone else’s curriculum. I was either brought in to integrate theatre arts into an already existing classroom curriculum; or, I would teach curricula that were given to me by the organization (tweaking it to fit my own style course). Although there was room to collaborate and create, I never felt like I had complete control of the academic agenda. I wanted to plan a year-long curriculum map for theatre arts; not plan an 8 week residency catered to the needs of that given classroom. This brings me to my second dissatisfying factor, I felt like my impact was being cut short. Unless I was doing a year-long after-school program, I did not like cutting my relationships off so quickly with my students after establishing them. My role as a guest teaching artist, in most residencies, was to teach some basic theatre skills and to “put on a show.” I did not get to focus on the process, and I felt like I wasn’t making a difference since I was not a part of the school faculty. I was merely a guest coming in to relieve students from whichever academic class they were normally scheduled for.

Remembering these factors, I left my first week of student teaching easily reminded that being a classroom teacher is a completely different ballgame than that of a teaching artist. I look at my cooperating teacher and am astounded by how significant she is in each student’s life. Her part in that school community adds to their school culture. Bringing theatre into their daily lives, adds to their perception of the school. For once, I actually feel a part of that culture. The students do not see me as a guest that’s there to play theatre games; they see and treat me as a regular teacher - a part of their school community.  It’s a great feeling to know that I am now helping to serve the school’s mission, not only my own.

On the contrast, as a teaching artist, many of my students would look forward to my class. But now, I’m in school where some students are just thrown in to receive an elective credit. I am facing students who do not want to be there – just as much as I didn’t want to be in Math class growing up. Classes taken from the Ed Theatre program helped me approach these situations in various ways, from lesson planning to tackling the art of engagement.

The Ed Theatre program has also helped me hone my craft as an educator. Since I began studying in the program two years ago, I have already sharpened my tools as an instructor. I find that my facilitating skills have strengthened, as well as my ability to easily adapt and modify (which I think are essential skills to have as a classroom teacher.) My sense of intuition has also enhanced, allowing me to cater to the needs of the class – as they are ever changing. My cooperating teacher is also sculpting me to enter the world of the NYC DOE, which is a completely different world than the teaching artist’s world. I am learning the logistical elements to teaching and meeting the requirements of the City. Whether you teach a core content subject or an elective, all teachers are being evaluated the same and must meet the same standards. This is all new information for me to include in my teacher’s toolbox.

All in all, I am quickly seeing the difference from a teaching artist to an arts teacher. As I slowly transition from one to another and continue to self-reflect, I am nothing but completely grateful and satisfied that I have made the switch. Although I am not completely on the other side, I am only steps away and it feels so good. I know that I am well prepared for this new venture. My years as a teaching artist have truly prepared me for what lays ahead. I would not be as ready as I am today if it wasn’t for the combination of my teaching artist experience and education in the Ed Theatre program.

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