Monday, November 2, 2015

First Hand Fieldwork, Being a Teaching Artist and a Parent

First Hand Fieldwork, Being a Teaching Artist and a Parent
Amanda Grundy

If you’d have told me 20 years ago when I was an undergraduate student getting my BFA in Musical Theatre, that one day I’d be a teaching artist, I never would have believed you.  First of all, I had not heard of a job called a “teaching artist” and secondly, although I’ve always loved working with children, I saw myself strictly as a performer.  But 20 years ago if you had told me I’d be married and raising two going on three children in while living and working as an artist in New York City, I would have been thrilled.  Although, I never could have imagined what that would have looked like and what challenges that would bring, thankfully, that is what I’m currently doing. 

At present, I am a teaching artist for Disney Theatrical Group, Covenant House Crossing Bridges Project, Trinity Baptist Church, and my husband and I have started our own company to promote creativity in adults and children called Eli Draws.  I am slowly and persistently pursuing my Masters Degree in Educational Theatre at CCNY.  My husband is a working actor.  He and I are raising two amazing children, Eli, aged 7 and Ava, age 2 and we are expecting our 3rd child in February.  Although not easy, I love what I do and I have found that being a teaching artist/ Ed Theatre graduate student and being a parent can actually go hand in hand. 

 As a teaching artist and graduate student I am always learning about theatre for young audiences I can take my children to see.  I have taken Eli, 7 years old, to many performances at The New Victory Theatre and now I have started taking Ava to performances for theatre for the very young.  Eli and Ava also both have come to see Disney Kids productions I have helped to direct as a teaching artist with Disney Musicals in Schools. 

Eli goes to Broadway shows on a regular basis and gets the full effect of the magic by often having backstage tour with friends we once worked with in our professional theatre jobs. 

I love that I get to enjoy these shows with my kids from the   point of view of a teaching artist and a parent. I am watchinghow my own children react to the shows and pre-show workshops which gives me true feedback from their experience.  I get to ask them questions I want to know as a teaching artist and a parent, which helps me to further develop my skills as an arts educator and as a mom.  

Being a teaching artist also helps me to be a more informed parent with my children’s education.  Because I work at many schools as a guest, I know how to quickly assess the culture of that school.  This proved to be incredibly helpful when we were looking for elementary schools for our son to attend.  As we toured many public charter schools and zoned elementary schools prior to my son’s kindergarten enrollment, I was able to know which school we felt was the best fit for Eli.  After a few months on the waiting list Eli got in to a wonderful charter school which is perfect for his giant imagination and learning style.

Because Eli is in such a great school, I also get to learn from his teachers.  At Eli’s school as a parent you are allowed to stay for the first 45 minutes of the school day which they call morning meeting.  Every morning of Eli’s kindergarten year, I stayed for that 45 minutes not only to help Eli adjust to his new school, but also to learn from his amazing teachers!  I noticed their classroom management strategies, the scaffolding of their morning meeting and how it would fit into the rest of their instruction for the day, and their joy in teaching.  I would then take these techniques and fold them into my own teaching whenever possible.  

As many benefits as there are to being a teaching artist, graduate student, and a parent, of course there are also challenges.  Truthfully, I have written many papers and lesson plans while my children watch Thomas the Tank Engine and Dora the Explorer episodes.  Artist careers are not the most lucrative careers.  It can be difficult and expensive to figure out childcare with a freelance teaching schedule and evening and weekend show schedule. 

Despite these challenges, I will continue on my teaching artist career path.  The lesson my husband and I want to teach our children is that there are creative ways to manage challenges and it is worth it to manage these challenges.  Working in the arts has an important, lasting impact on people.  Our hope is that our children see that we both get to do what we love to do and one day they will follow that example. 

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