“Now using the drum, demonstrate to your partner what an ‘anxious feeling’ would sound like,” instructed singer/songwriter and Teaching Artist, Sue Trainor. The middle-aged student (and artist) followed Trainor’s lead and smacked the drum with ferocious thumb strokes, demonstrating a fretful rhythm. The grinning and enthusiastic Trainor nodded along with encouragement.
That was the scene in the library at the Southwest Baltimore Charter School on September 19th. Twenty or so adults, ages ranging from 30 to 60, sitting around small round tables – being taught, by an artist, how to teach. The Teaching Artist Institute (TAI) Seminar, a program partnership of Young Audiences of Maryland, Arts Education in Maryland Schools (AEMS) Alliance, and the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC), housed artists of all kinds including a classical pianist, an actor, a storyteller, a ceramic artist, a blues musician and more. The three-day retreat was the first phase of the TAI program which gives professional artists the skills they need to create an arts-integrated residency that can be brought to elementary, middle and high school curriculums. The program develops the capacity of both parties – artist and teacher- to ensure students are engaged and inspired through the use of the arts in the classroom.
TAI, which runs through the winter, pairs a Teaching Artist with a certified public school teacher. The Teaching Artist programs are field tested in the classroom between November and February. From there they become full fledged instructors, working closely with their teaching partner to use art – music, dance, visual arts or theatre – as a learning tool – connecting STEM disciplines and enriching young minds. The collaborative effort will ideally sustain arts-based learning long after the artist has left the classroom.
I attended a morning session that had the room split in two featuring the Teaching Artists – playwright John Morogiello and the aforementioned Ms. Trainor. Both instructors used creative methods to reach out to their fellow artists – stressing the importance of communicating effectively and creatively.
In a video I’ve included below, Teaching Artist and dancer, Kwame Opare, asked a very poignant question, “How do we get kids to want to ‘break in’ to school versus ‘break out’?” Well Kwame, I think your work with the Teaching Artist Institute may be the answer.
“If nothing else, it makes the kids want to be there.” Opare said. “If nothing else it keeps them coming to the school. Now that we have them, what can we do with them?”