Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Power of Collaboration - Days #4 and #5

Days #4 and 5

Teachers and dancers offer feedback with a generous spirit
On the fourth day of the week Sean Curran joined us as special guest instructor with professional dancers from his company. During this session, the teachers shared their dances for feedback from professional dancers. There was energy of mutual respect, talent, listening, giving and receiving that swelled around the studio. A 3rd grade teacher in Queens told me: “After watching the dancers, I thought it would be intimidating to have them work with us, however they were extremely supportive and had great insight and suggestions for moving our work forward.” Another 2nd grade teacher in Brooklyn said: “Working with Sean and his dancers added another creative dimension to the summer session. It helped me increase my movement vocabulary I plan to use in my class.” The teachers talked about how this was a huge stand out moment for them in the week.

Teachers share their choreography
On the final day, the dance groups presented the unit of study and performed the culminating dance. The quality of the work created by the teachers was so rich. I was particularly struck by the “fences” dance. They chose a song titled: “Back to the Middle” by India Arie. The metaphor of fences was woven throughout the piece with beautiful moments of stillness, echoes and cannons of movement. They ended in a twisted mangled shape on the floor as if to make the statement that breaking down fences is messy and may or may not be a good thing. I was actually brought to tears with that one.

Building ensemble also means building trust
I think the work these teachers created was very rich and powerful on many different levels. They walked in on the first day as complete strangers and ended the intensive as an ensemble. I believe it’s attributed to the collaborative setting developed in great part by the Critical Response Process. So many of the performing arts require sharing and collaboration and this process feeds so nicely into our philosophy of ensemble while developing a host of other skills students need to succeed in the education system. In a time when student success is determined by standardized testing, this course helped teachers think about how to provide new opportunities for students to build descriptive, interpretive and analytical skills. Teachers could also assess students’ listening and verbal skills as they give and receive feedback. In addition, it could also be adapted to develop students’ writing skills and be applied to cross-curricular units of teaching and learning. Lastly, it is a valuable part of creating a safe and respectful learning environment.

The New Vic Education Department has implemented this version of the Critical Response Process in the pre-performance lesson plan for Momentum. It includes students attending the show, an afternoon dance professional development with partner teachers in early December and training sessions with our teaching artists.

As we find more ways to use this process, I wonder: Who else is using the Critical Response Process? How can we find more ways to work directly with our students in this manner, especially in our 45-minute workshop model? What are your professional development strategies for working with a variety of teachers in the arts? What methods do you share with your teachers for peer-to-peer learning? How do you work with your teaching artist employees around the idea of ensemble building? What questions am I not asking about collaboration and critical feedback?

Courtney J. Boddie is the Associate Director of Education at The New Victory Theater. She holds a Masters in Educational Theatre from New York University. She is on the adjunct faculty for the Educational Theatre Graduate Programs at both New York University and City College of New York, CUNY. She is currently a member of the NYC Arts-in-Education Roundtable TA Affairs Committee and Face-to-Face Conference Committee. She has also served as facilitating partner with the New York City Department of Education Office of Arts on Special Programs to design arts education professional development for NYC Public School Teachers. @courtneyjboddie

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for outlining the rest of the workshop, Courtney. I particularly benefitted from considering your provocative questions in the final paragraph. I don't have any answers, but I too wonder how we can gather the field, document best practices, and reward good works. Thanks to you, here's one method: your blogging!