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photo: Americans for the Arts, Washington, D.C. 2016. Personal Archive.

Barb Whitney: Curating a Career in the Arts

Heather Vaughan-Southard    Leave a Comment   

I haven’t always thought of myself as an artist or an arts advocate. I currently serve as the executive director for Lansing Art Gallery & Education Center. I am proud to lead the work...

I haven’t always thought of myself as an artist or an arts advocate.

I currently serve as the executive director for Lansing Art Gallery & Education Center. I am proud to lead the work of a local community arts organization dedicated to providing “public awareness, education and enjoyment of the visual arts by promoting the works of Michigan artists.” Driving community engagement through public art, exhibitions, and education, our team is igniting passion for the visual arts, providing a forum for self-expression and community engagement. As a stakeholder with vested interest in the success of Lansing’s students, a significant part of my work is related to providing access to the arts for all students.

My involvement in the arts may have been a departure from my parents’ anticipated journey for me. My academically-driven primary school experiences offered me success, and achievement, but little satisfaction. Then I discovered musical theatre. I sang and danced my way through high school, through college, and across the country. The All-American Singers offered me the opportunity to travel, a professional performance experience, and friendships that have lasted a lifetime.

That’s me in the lower left corner, pictured with 20 peers from the United States, along with our stages, costumes, and vehicles. Promotional materials, All-American Singers, circa 1995

I learned how to see differently, encountering the world as light and shadows, as edges and spaces. Over the next three years, I spent endless hours drawing and painting, honing my craft and learning to develop a visual narrative for my work. I discovered that the visual arts offer me a way to be completely unique and the means to represent my reality. Each piece I create acts as a thematic means to an emotional end with a goal of facilitating an interaction with the viewer.

photo: Kalamazoo College, Homecoming 2017, personal archive.

I exhibit my work at Grove Gallery in East Lansing, and I have previously shown in Grand Rapids and Toledo, among other venues. This February, I worked on a large-scale commission in Palm Springs, California. Photo credit: Layna Lesnau, Title of artwork by Barb Whitney: Resonance

My undergraduate degree in the arts has produced seventeen years of gainful employment. Importantly, it offered me opportunities to serve in exciting roles that made a difference in my communities. I have taught in inner-city schools, created camps for kids, ran a gallery, and administered funding programs for the arts. I consider myself an artist, educator, and arts administrator. Recently, I have begun to also identify as an advocate and an activist.

I recently completed a national fellowship with Americans for the Arts and defended my Master’s thesis from the University of Michigan – Flint titled “Arts Education: A Fundamental Right for Youth in the United States of America.” This fall, I joined the faculty at Michigan State University in both the Residential College in the Arts & Humanities and Arts & Cultural Management. Within each step of my journey, I advocate for all students who deserve quality arts instruction as a civil right. My academic research is focused on equitable arts education for youth in the United States of America from a sociological perspective, outlining the injustice perpetrated by withholding the rights to arts education from particular populations.

photo: Americans for the Arts, Washington, D.C. 2016. Personal Archive.

In my role as an artist, educator, and administrator, my goals are to drive access for ALL people to this piece of our humanity. We quantitatively know that the arts are a driver for the economy, a vehicle for attraction and retention, and a means for community interaction.

More importantly, the arts offer freedom of expression. They make people think. And feel. And discuss. They offer social commentary and are a first amendment right.

I truly believe the arts make life worthwhile, and I have bet my life on it. Not only are the arts a vehicle for my livelihood, they are the driver for my leisure activities. I volunteer as a juror, panelist, and consultant. I attend arts events regularly in my own community. I seek out arts and culture as a tourist; when I travel, I search for the local arts and culture that tells the narrative of the unique communities I visit. I strive to be a champion for access and equity in the arts, engaging stakeholders regarding the arts and arts education locally, statewide, and nationally.

Barb Whitney serves as Executive Director for the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center, on the faculty in two departments at Michigan State University, and as a MAEIA Leadership Associate.

A downloadable pdf of this post is available here: Barb Whitney: Curating a Career in the Arts.

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Joni Starr: Arts Integration, Part 2

Heather Vaughan-Southard    Leave a Comment   

Arts integration as a teaching approach started to come into its own in the 1970’s and 80’s. For over 30 years, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Arts integration as a teaching approach started to come into its own in the 1970’s and 80’s. For over 30 years, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., has been offering arts integration learning opportunities for educators.

They define the practice of arts integration as “an approach to teaching in which students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form. Students engage in a creative process which connects an art form and another subject and meets evolving objectives.”

Today this practice of integrating arts with standard classroom subjects is growing as students, teachers, parents, and administrators recognize the value and strength of creative capacity in the 21st century.

In my 30 years experience in arts education, I find the challenge of arts integration is reflected mainly in two points:

1. A clearly stated outcome for the lesson.
2. A thorough understanding of the material being taught.

There are many wonderfully effective lessons that equally partner the arts disciplines with non-arts disciplines, where the outcomes are well matched for teaching two disciplines in one lesson.

For example:

-The levels of the rainforest and the levels of dance choreography.
-The contours of a map and the contours of texture in visual art.
-The understanding of character objectives in literature and drama.
-The understanding of fractions in math and in time signature in music.

Other times, when implementing arts integrated teaching and learning the outcomes are less clear or become complicated. Time is spent closely reading the standards to see which ones might connect across disciplines and which ones might be manageable in the allotted class time. Outcomes can easily become long and multi-layered to address objectives in both subject areas, thus confusing both teacher and student. And teaching can easily sway towards one discipline more than the other, ultimately negating the practice of arts integration.

It is important then to clearly understand how both the arts and non-arts subjects truly integrate. How they support and connect to each other and how they allow for the practice of creativity in the classroom.

Arts integration at its best allows students the creative opportunity to be leaders in their own learning.

In writing and implementing arts integrated lessons, many teachers falter in their confidence of one of the subject areas. If the art teacher is asked to integrate with a science concept, the art teacher must understand the concepts of science. And if a math teacher is asked to integrate with music, then the math teacher must understand music content. A strong solution to this is for teachers from differing disciplines to partner teach and/or learn from each other. In these cases the outcomes are often clear and the lessons effective and impactful for students.

This content understanding and/or partner teaching can, however, be a tall order for any teacher. Most teacher training programs do not integrate the arts into teaching, they actually separate them. Arts teachers are trained in their specific discipline and there are deeply important and valid reasons for this. So when asking teachers to make effective use of arts integration in the classrooms, it is a shift for both arts and non-arts teachers. Sometimes successful, sometimes not.

The benefits of arts integration for both teaching and learning are well documented and highly impactful, yet preparing teachers to do their best work so their students can as well, remains an area of growth.

Do you have examples of best practice for preparing teachers to integrate the arts and/or non-arts content? Or a strategy for facilitating effective collaboration?

Join the conversation by offering your perspective in article comments, social media shares, or by emailing Heather at hvsouthard@gmail with a prospective blog post for the MAEIA blog.

Joni Starr is an arts integration specialist, theatre educator, and teaching artist. She served as a Founding Contributor in Theatre for the MAEIA project.

A downloadable pdf of this post is available here Joni Starr: Arts Integration, Part 2.

 

 

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Joni Starr: Arts Integration, Part 1

Heather Vaughan-Southard    Leave a Comment   

Arts education benefits students because it affords them creative capacity and this allows students to be a part of making their own education instead of just receiving it. The creative process asks students to be...

Arts education benefits students because it affords them creative capacity and this allows students to be a part of making their own education instead of just receiving it.

The creative process asks students to be inspired and to be imaginative. To pay attention to the world around them and envision something that isn’t there, but could be. It sparks big and small “what if” question in individuals and these inquiries often lead to meaningful and impactful outcomes in all sectors of society.

The creative process also demands a skill from students. Often times this is in the form of artistic expression, from the more formal disciplines of music, dance, theatre and visual art to architecture, engineering and gastronomy. These skills are the foundation for creating, for putting something in the world that wasn’t there before.

The creative process requires students to relate to each other. The work is not accomplished in a vacuum. Making observations, discussing options and recognizing differences all feed the imagination. Choosing of materials, assessing value and editing choices hone the skills. In connecting with others, students are building a community of trust and confidence that provides a platform for success.

This approach to education, this integrating of the arts into teaching and learning, this practice of creative capacity, is a strong reflection of the needs of the world. Students of today are leaders of tomorrow who will be called upon to recognize how to solve problems, how to improve living conditions, and how to connect more authentically with others.

Arts education plays a central role in our world and should also play a central role in our schools.

Joni Starr is an Arts Integration Specialist and Theatre Educator. She served as a MAEIA Founding Contributor.

A downloadable pdf of this post is available here: Joni Starr: Arts Integration, Part 1

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Ana Luisa Cardona: Chutes and Ladders

Ana Cardona    Leave a Comment   

When I arrived in graduate school forty-six years ago, it became clear that I enjoyed crossing the boundaries of academic disciplines far too often. In those days, crossing disciplinary boundaries was a practice frowned upon...

When I arrived in graduate school forty-six years ago, it became clear that I enjoyed crossing the boundaries of academic disciplines far too often. In those days, crossing disciplinary boundaries was a practice frowned upon by those whose professional careers were built upon ever-increasing levels of specialization. Forging new chutes between education and art, communications and anthropology, image and word, movement and understanding, practice and theory didn’t fall neatly into predetermined knowledge silos. Although change was in the air, evidenced by Marshall McLuhan’s The Medium is the Message (1968) and John Berger’s Ways of Seeing (1972), it has taken awhile for the breeze of change to take hold.

In 1984, my hunger for connections led me away from the ivory towers toward work with a community arts organization in Detroit where all forms of knowledge and skills had to converge to support a multi-arts and media community center dedicated to social change. Armed with the “just-released” ground-breaking 128 ram MacIntosh computer, this vibrant organization put the ability to combine words and images in the hands of artists and journalists, poets and musicians, community members young and old.

Continuing my dance with one foot in higher education and the other in the world of community-based arts, I happened in 1997 upon For the Sake of Science, the Arts Deserve Support by Robert Root-Bernstein in the Chronicle for Higher Education. Here was a MacArthur Fellow and “Genius Awardee” granting academic research-based permission to: make meaningful connections across the polar opposites of art and science; to align and make sense across disciplines and bodies of knowledge; and across habits of thinking and doing.

This “connected” approach later informed my work as Arts Education Consultant in Michigan’s Department of Education (1998-2011) where my mantra was – “Remember the arts…you can’t integrate what you don’t have” – a caution to those who use “arts integration” as an artifice to supplant the arts.

In fact, Michigan’s Arts Education Content Standard 5 calls for students to “recognize, analyze, and describe connections among the arts; between the arts and other disciplines; and between the arts and everyday life.” The National Core Arts Standards define the standard dedicated to connecting as “relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context.” The connected approach is perhaps best illustrated by Michigan’s Visual Performing and Applied Arts Credit Guidelines developed by a committee of K-12 arts educators and higher education faculty and researchers in 2006- one of whom was the already-mentioned Robert Root-Bernstein, co-author of Sparks of Genius: The Thirteen Thinking Tools of the World’s Most Creative People (2001) with with Michéle Root-Bernsteinand professor of physiology at Michigan State University.

In these Michigan credit guidelines, silos are broken down and the artistic-creative process is described as a rather messy iterative process in which steps are revisited several times, in differing order, before creative results are finalized in significant contrast with the traditional linear process in which each step is visited once in a single order.

While discipline-based knowledge and skills are critical to developing fully in the arts, connections are essential in a world where no one discipline holds the answer to complex problems and the traditional ladders of specialization call out for the chutes that connect us and make our lives and work meaningful. Close to fifty years later, this “graduate student” continues to color outside the lines because that is where the interesting stuff is happening.

Ana Luisa Cardona serves as Arts Education Consultant for the MAEIA project. She brings a state and national perspective to the work of MAEIA.

A downloadable pdf of this post is available here: Ana Luisa Cardona: Chutes and Ladders.

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Michael Letts: Art as Energy!

Heather Vaughan-Southard    Leave a Comment   

One integral aspect of many MAEIA assessment items is time limits. Sometimes this may seem unnatural, high pressure, or “test-oriented.” But in the arts, limiting time can often...

One integral aspect of many MAEIA assessment items is time limits. Sometimes this may seem unnatural, high pressure, or “test-oriented.” But in the arts, limiting time can often be good, can even be liberating, and can spur creativity.

Creativity is not just coming up with new ideas. In fact, there are few if any truly new ideas. Usually creative concepts are changes to existing ideas. We can invert an idea, or synthesize it with another idea, or magnify it, apply it to a different purpose. Creativity is change.

Time limits are part of many art forms. Music, drama, and dance are all time based. In visual arts, time limits may seem less appropriate. But, a common question from new art teachers is “what do I do with students who finish early?” That can be a real concern, until we learn to structure visual arts lessons in terms of process, to consider that time is of the essence.

Creative Process as Time and Energy

It is often said the first idea is the worst idea. It is the first thing that comes to mind. It may even be a cliché. It is first because it is the idea we already know. But, it does have some value: it is a start.

So, we change it, we modify, combine, repurpose, transform, extend, or oppose (flip) it. Creative ideas don’t come to us like magic, fully formed. Creativity is what we do with ideas, how we edit, transcend, and develop them. Creativity is really about process. Great works of art come from artists so committed to process that they cannot stop processing ideas until something fresh emerges.

Therefore, we need be sure to teach process, not just product. A product goal is a goal already conceived. Creativity is also finding a new goal. We don’t always just want to get to a product, we want to create a process that leaves artifacts as evidence of a unique trail of thought. Then we arrive at creativity that can flow without a beginning or end.

The great artist/educator Thomas Hirschorn took the idea of a monument and redefined it. Traditional monuments are permanent structures that create and honor memories. Hirschorn flipped the “permanent” part of monuments and came up with the idea of a temporary monument. And he didn’t design it himself. He designed a process and let the people of the community create their monument. The idea was “monument”, but also was “temporary”; it had a time limit. A time limit can be a very empowering idea: we know when it is over. It eliminates the pressure of judgement of the “final product”. It is done when it fills the time, when the energy has been applied and sustained, and the artifact or outcome is the experience: the power of process, the real memory, not the object.

Hirschorn also came up with a great concept to define art: “Quality no, Energy yes!” He says quality is a characteristic of a product, but art is about energy. This is true when we consider that art is communication of ideas and emotion, empathy and expression; the true completion of art lies in also presenting (one of the process categories of the National Arts Standards), not only creating. The impact art makes in experience and ideas is the ultimate value. We make art to communicate and express.

Energy can take the form of time spent. The real goal of most artists is to spend their time making their art. When one piece is done, they don’t quit with relief, they start another. The value for the artist is in the creative thought, the time spent. The goal is to be creative, not to be done being creative. And more and more, for contemporary artists, the real creation is of a process which produces an artifact.

Oliver Herring, in his Art 21 episodes, says he doesn’t care about “the medium or the object…I really care about the process.” His “Task Party” process is one of play; “Play- it’s a thing we put on hold because we get distracted by so many things.” As educators, we know play is a primary learning process. Daniel Pink has identified play as one of the “Six Senses” of right brain creative thought. Picasso famously said “Every child is an artist…”. Herring says “everyone is a creative agent.” Children love play time. Tell a child to go play for an hour, and give them something to play with, and they will fill the hour with energy. Herring simply provides time and materials in his Task Parties and people bring the energy and infectious play.

Time is a major component of systems to structure energy. Ask any musician. Time in the art studio also is identified in Harvard Project Zero as a key benefit of visual arts education, one of the “studio habits of mind”: “engage and persist”. Inspire to play, to explore ideas, we engage and persist. The process of art is often playful search and research, an exploration. Exploring is grounded in play. It doesn’t end when you have a product, it ends when you run out of time.

How can we structure a visual arts lesson to target systems of time and energy as an objective?

Some of my most successful visual arts lessons use structured systems of time and energy as objectives. I think of them as creative systems and as “art problems”: play with a purpose, a structured exploration rather than an “assignment.” Assignment sounds like something you do for work, not play. I like the word “problem.” In math, a problem is about learning a process as much as finding a solution. The successful math answer is evidence that the student knows the process. Why not think of an art project of the evidence of engaging and persisting in a process? Energy, yes! Many less than successful art pieces look like they just lack real engagement or involvement by the artist, for whatever reason.

Time limits can force us to be more creative. If we have all the time in the world, we will search our mind for that next decision, that next best move, the right answer. But the answer is not there. In our mind is only what we already know. With a time limit, we must go back to our play state, make a random decision, go with it, play with it, and then decide what it means and see how it works: the process of discovery. Limits of time and of materials will force new analogies.

As my young son once told me when I asked him what he would do if he wasn’t so lucky to have all his cool toys- he didn’t miss a beat: “It’s okay dad, I’d just go outside and play with sticks.” Play was the experience, not the object, the process not the toy or artifact.

Time limits also give your students freedom and deniability. They do what they can with the time given, the goal is to make it through the process and have something to show for it, and to describe the decision-making process. The art from each student can be unique and surprising, not a replica of something that some other artist already did better than they can. It will be their voice.

In one of my recent MAEIA presentations, I had a group of teachers do a timed collage, based on a MAEIA visual arts performance event. At the end, much of the group discussion was around the feelings and outcomes we encountered because of the time limit. The teachers were interested and surprised by the effect of a timed project. The project was loosely based on the collage-based Performance Event “Communicating an Idea”. If art is about communicating, then this item gets right to the core of our purpose! Don’t be afraid of timed projects and assessments, and take a look at the MAIEA assessments to inspire your own use of time systems to inspire your teaching and students.

 

Michael Letts is an Associate Professor of Art Education at Northern Michigan University as well as a MAEIA Leadership Fellow.

A downloadable pdf of this post is here: Michael Letts: Art as Energy!

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Stand up and be counted: A message from Creative Many

Heather Vaughan-Southard    Leave a Comment   

Dear MAEIA community, Below is a message from Creative Many Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, Sarah Gonzalez Triplett. Creative...

Dear MAEIA community,
Below is a message from Creative Many Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, Sarah Gonzalez Triplett. Creative Many and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs are partners of the Michigan Arts Education Instruction and Assessment project.
As we head into the new year, Creative Many is working again with DataArts to collect valuable information on the impact of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations in Michigan. Arts and culture are a powerhouse in our state, contributing to our economy and providing thousands of jobs and cultural experiences across the peninsulas.
Stand up and be counted
The 2018 Creative State Michigan Nonprofit Report is produced in partnership with the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. We need all non-profit arts and cultural organizations to complete a data profile in order to accurately capture the sector and make a case for the arts in our communities. If you belong to one, please visit our site to learn more about how you can be counted. If you value arts and culture in your community, share this information with local nonprofits who make a difference every day.
The deadline for completion is January 4, 2018.
Participating organizations will receive important reporting features from DataArts to support your work. Don’t miss the opportunity to be included in the 2018 Creative State Michigan report!
Many Thanks,
Sarah Gonzalez Triplett
Director of Public Policy and Advocacy
sarah@creativemany.org
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Powerful Voices in Michigan Arts Education

Heather Vaughan-Southard    Leave a Comment   

We offer hearty congratulations to two MAEIA contributors who have received prominent attention this month. The National Dance Educators Organization convened in San Antonio, TX this November. Executive Director, Susan McGreevy-Nichols, annually awards a dance...

We offer hearty congratulations to two MAEIA contributors who have received prominent attention this month.

The National Dance Educators Organization convened in San Antonio, TX this November. Executive Director, Susan McGreevy-Nichols, annually awards a dance educator for their significant contributions to the field. This year, Michigan’s Nicole Flinn, received the award for her leadership and “grit” in advocating for K-12 dance in the state. Nicki is an assistant professor of Dance at Hope College and a long-time MAEIA contributor serving as Team Lead for many of the phases of the MAEIA work. Our congratulations to Nicki and appreciation for her leadership and dedication.

MAEIA Leadership Associate, Barb Whitney, has had her research published in the Americans for the Arts’ State Policy Pilot Program Summary Findings and Final Report. Barb is the Executive Director of the Lansing Art Gallery & Education Center and is on faculty in the MSU Residential College for Arts and Humanities. You can read her research here: Americans for the Arts: SP3 Summary Findings and Final Report.

Do you know MAEIA has a bragging board? Notify us of your professional accolades or those of your colleagues by adding to the board or email Heather at hvsouthard@gmail.com. We want to celebrate the brilliant contributions Michigan Arts Educators are bringing to the field!

 

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Elizabeth Andrews: “Why Are You Always So Happy?”

Elizabeth Andrews    Leave a Comment   

It is 8:00 in the morning. I left my house at 6:30 to drive over an hour in order to be ready when my less-than-exuberant high school students enter the dance studio. They are here for Dance...

It is 8:00 in the morning. I left my house at 6:30 to drive over an hour in order to be ready when my less-than-exuberant high school students enter the dance studio. They are here for Dance Explorations – a multi-style, beginning level dance course designed for any 9 – 12 grader in the county.

I start the warm-up trying to motivate them with expressive music, witty comments & critique and overall excessive cheeriness. At a break in the movement, one girl raises her hand and asks a very grouchy, angry question that I am sure others in the class were also thinking: “Why are you always so happy?”

She caught me off guard. Did I overdo it with the morning coffee? Was I happy because I really love to dance and therefore it just comes out in my teaching? Nope. It took me a few seconds to form the answer: “Because it’s my job,” I said.

I do believe this. As a teacher, part of my job is to convey an attitude of positivity – of hope for not only the work we do in the arts but for my students as human beings. Part of my responsibility is to cultivate kindness, empathy and understanding for others – I do this through dance. Others do it through music, visual art, or drama.

Here is my wish for all teachers (and especially those of you in the arts): May you have the courage to do what you know is right, the energy to inspire your students with the passion you have for learning and creating, and the patience to do all that is asked of you!

On behalf of the MAEIA community, thank you for all that you do.

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Dispelling Myths and Providing Resources for Scoring, Reporting, and Demonstrating Educator Effectiveness

Heather Vaughan-Southard    Leave a Comment   

The MAEIA Demonstrating Educator Effectiveness page is here! The page outlines the process an educator moves through in the planning, implementing, and presenting evidence of their effectiveness; complete...

The MAEIA Demonstrating Educator Effectiveness page is here!

The page outlines the process an educator moves through in the planning, implementing, and presenting evidence of their effectiveness; complete with supporting materials organized according to each stage of the process.

While there, scroll down to find our video modules and tutorials, including a brand new recorded webinar on Scoring and Reporting the MAEIA Assessments.

This webinar addresses common myths in scoring and reporting assessments including:

-The arts are too subjective to score objectively

-Scoring and grading serve the same purpose

-There is one best way to record and interpret data

-Teachers always know which students to profile

And as always, let us know how these resources are impacting your thinking and your practice! Comment on social media, our community forum, or reply to this post!

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Cathy Depentu: The Benefits of Pushing Out of Your Comfort Zone

Cathy DePentu    Leave a Comment   

I believe in the importance of MAEIA and its resources. I always try to set aside my ego and throw myself into difficult challenges or situations in order to improve, from an advanced violin class (...

I believe in the importance of MAEIA and its resources. I always try to set aside my ego and throw myself into difficult challenges or situations in order to improve, from an advanced violin class (I am anything but advanced on the violin) to a challenging yoga pose (headstands anyone?). Technology can bring me to my knees. By the time I figure out how to do something, it’s obsolete. As I have prepared for my first solo MAEIA presentation, my MAEIA colleagues have been unfailingly patient while trying to teach an old dog new tricks. I am slowly getting better, which means a lot more obsolescence is on the way, but that is another story.

Stepping Out: Fears, Firsts, and Following
I am a talker–no one who knows me would dispute that. I am fearless in front of my students or with people I know, but generally not eager to speak formally in front of large groups. In fact, that is one of my fears. Another major fear is using technology, it hates me. So why is this what I am doing? What do I hope to gain? What do I hope to give people?

So, I made my PowerPoint and my Process Agenda, Heather Vaughan-Southard (my MAEIA guru) proofread it and I rehearsed it over and over in my head. I knew my content and knew my audience (another big fear). I was ready!

The Professional Development day got off to a roaring start. We had one of the best keynote speakers I have ever heard! Dr. Adolph Brown talked (and danced and sang) about how to truly reach every student and make a positive difference. Cornerstones of his inspiring words were the Four “F’s”: Be Fun, Fair, Flexible and have Faith. At the same time as I was devouring every word, a little voice spoke to me: ”How will you compare to this? You’re not even close to his fluid, choreographed delivery style. They won’t like you.”

Processing in Real Time
Time to present! I got there 30 minutes before my session to set up and scope out the space. When I got to the room, I discovered that the room was too small for the anticipated audience. From now on I will double check with organizers to make sure we coordinate details! The computer and hook-ups were on the teacher’s desk, in a corner of the room. This was awkward as I had to be positioned behind that desk to access my notes. I felt like I was hiding from my audience from there! As being able to move freely about while presenting and interacting with your audience can “make or break” the vibe in the room, I will carry a set of notecards, or a printout of my notes so that I am no longer “trapped”. Of course, when I become as adept a presenter as Dr. Brown, I will be able to get this all done as easily as a casual conversation with friends (dare to dream!)

Once I began my presentation I noticed I was covering material much more quickly than I had anticipated on my Process Agenda. This could have been due to being trapped behind that desk! I started with the background of MAEIA and the website, but think I may move that until later in the session, as a few participants would have preferred to follow along with me on the website (or break off and explore on their own). Later in my session, I was moving around the room assisting people and realized I had skipped a couple of things that needed to be added, particularly our next project, Collaborative Scoring.

The last thing we did was break into small groups and explore the assessments. Each person found one or two they liked, and shared with each other and then with the entire group. I had stressed throughout the presentation that the assessments were just tools to be used as is or modified to suit the class or situation, so our next step was to take an assessment and modify it for use at a different grade level. As I walked around, I heard comments like “Look at this!”, “I could use this!”, “This is great!”. One group of art teachers stepped out of the room to work on ways to incorporate the assessments into their SLOs right away!

As we finished up, I asked my colleagues to fill out the Quality Quadrant and leave it for me when they left. Regardless, only about 60% completed the form. I am not sure what to do about that, maybe I will use them as “Exit Slips” and stand by the door to collect them and say thank you and goodbye as people leave. In the week following the presentation, I have received several emails and notes from colleagues who are excited about MAEIA and all of our resources , and are eager to work together to incorporate some of the assessments into their classroom.

Finally, I am deeply appreciative to colleagues who shared these words of wisdom as I was preparing my session. I list them twice because of their importance.

Chocolate and a break are GREAT ideas!
Chocolate and a break are GREAT ideas!

Flexibility as a Practice
The focus of our PD this year is, “Take Chances, Try Something New, Start With “Why?”. For years, we as arts teachers have had to “build bridges” from the content of Professional Development to our own subject area. At general PD the next day, I was seated with a group of math, science, and business teachers focusing on technology in the classroom. I typically sit, listen to them and try to build those bridges. But I jumped out of my comfort zone, took a chance and asked if we could also address the use of technology to better suit the needs of the arts or solitary teacher. We had a great discussion, and I think we all learned something. I thanked them for being willing to be flexible and I think we all benefited from the session. I know I did.

I plan to present this session again to the K-5 music folks who couldn’t attend this one. I have also offered to present to colleagues in the Michigan American String Teachers Association (MASTA). I know as I continue to work with the sessions I am creating, my delivery will become more natural and intuitive. I’m not Adolph Brown yet, but I’ll get there (he has a crew to do all his tech)!

Cathy Depentu is a MAEIA Leadership Fellow and serves as Director of Orchestras for Plymouth Canton Community Schools.

A downloadable pdf of this post is available here. MAEIA blog: CathyDepentu_ComfortZones

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