My name is Dominic Bradley and I am a multidisciplinary artist in the New & Beginning Level of the Teaching Artist Project 2017-18. Almost immediately, TAP partnered me with another artist to create and present a well scaffold-ed lesson plan to the rest of our cohort. “Scaffolding” simply refers to a teaching strategy in which teachers break subjects into smaller chunks that each build upon one another to support a larger learning outcome. I found it intimidating because I had never worked with children before, and my previous facilitation experience as a direct social service worker did not include much in the way of curriculum development. Nevertheless, I was determined to rise to the occasion.
TAP furnished us with a lesson plan template in addition to a model lesson the TAP facilitators delivered during training. Thankfully, I also had access to the weekly lesson plan forwarded by one of the Teaching Artists from my classroom internship. However, I was initially confused about merging both our creative elements into one cohesive lesson plan. We spent an entire meeting just talking through it.
Although I am a multidisciplinary artist, my partner is a theater artist. One of my major influences is Afrofuturism. I kind of consider it to be the cultural arm of the Black Lives Matter movement. I imagine a future where I exist. I imagine a future where I imagine. I imagine a future where my cosmology holds weight, and I shape the world in accordance with my imagination. My partner was willing to use Afrofuturism as our theme. We agreed that we would fold improvisation (hers) and collage (mine) into our exploration of Afrofuturism.
Our opening and closing ritual hinged upon the “students” absorbing a superpower from an imaginary treasure chest. For the intro activity, we decided to analyze the digital collage works of Jessi Jumanji by creating mind maps, or brainstorming tools that use words and pictures to display and organize information about a central topic. I made a sample mind map in full color based on one of the Jumanji collages, and we both worked on a simpler, age appropriate mind map template. In the main exercise we wanted to take everyone on a space walk that allowed them to embody various prompts, such as “What if you were walking with planets in the palms of your hands?”
I was so nervous when it came time to present. My partner and I were second to last, so I had hours for my anxiety to reach fever pitch. Yet, being able to sneakily incorporate feedback given to others worked to my advantage. As basic as it may seem, not everyone remembered to give their names, honorifics, pronouns, and disciplines. It was an opportunity for me to call myself “Mx. Dom” publicly for the first time. I compared being a multidisciplinary artist to a “pizza with everything on it.” I extended the food metaphor to help explain mind maps. I worked on maintaining a presence throughout the space, rather than remaining static. When I forgot things–more often than I would have liked, my partner gently redirected me. I could see people’s bodies come alive during the space walk, and the closing chant similarly resonated. The facilitators liked the closing chant so much they asked me to close the training with it.
We did receive feedback from the facilitators on our lesson plan, but it was the feedback others received that stood out to me. There were notes about focusing on making choices instead of technical skill, establishing a wide range of what is “correct,” and developing touchstones for ourselves within the lesson plan. One question I will reflect on forever is “On my worst day, would I still be excited to do this lesson?”
Lesson plans are hard work. There are many tiny moving parts in even a single lesson. I believe all that hard work paid off. Not only do I think my cohort responded favorably, but also this lesson satisfies the part of me that needed this lesson when I was child. I look forward to flexing my curricular muscles to refine it and perhaps expand it to a series of lessons. Thank you, TAP.
– Dominic Bradley, 2017-18 TAP Trainee