On December 9th, 2017, as snow fell across the city, our TAP trainees came together at the Langston Hughes House in Harlem, courtesy of Renée Watson and the I, Too Arts Collective, to work on community building, teaching philosophies, inquiry, and reflection.
With a picturesque scene of snow falling, garland wrapped around the doorways and a tree with fairy lights before the fire place, the trainees felt Langston’s presence throughout the old brownstone and delighted in his spirit.
Facilitators Patti Chilsen and Heidi Miller led this week’s workshop, focusing on philosophy and pedagogy, inquiry and reflection, community building, and co-teaching. The day started with a “fishbowl” exercise, in which half of the trainees sat on the sidelines to observe and take notes as the other half participated as students in a lesson led by Heidi. In this lesson, the students interacted with the house (taking note of things they normally don’t pay attention to), created word response dances, and moved to a reading of Hughes’ poem, “Mother to Son”.
This lesson allowed those on the sidelines to observe how inquiry and objectives are used in real time, and also how reflection is utilized to cement the day’s lesson in your students’ minds. They unpacked pedagogy and talked about how that influences and affects a person’s philosophy of education.
The trainees then looked at a number of different teaching practices from established philosophers and scholars in the field like Maxine Green, Beverly Tatum, James Baldwin, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot and others. They used quotes from these scholars to create “philosopher boards,” in order to inspire their own philosophy creation.
In the afternoon, trainees Julienne, Abbie, and Jane presented a lesson that they collaborated on exploring and building observational skills through sound-making, gestures and close-looking.
Then, it was time for some community building fun with a few rounds of a TAP favorite: Emotional Taxi. The trainees discussed not only the fun they had during the game, but how that can be effectively used in the classroom as both a management and community building tool.
Of course, you can’t talk about philosophies and teaching for social justice without acknowledging power, stereotypes, and systems of oppression. As a preparation for next week’s focus on teaching for social justice, we watched two very different TED Talks: Chimamanda Adichie’s on “The Danger of a Single Story” and Christopher Emdin’s “Reality Pedagogy”. These videos opened up the conversation and allowed the room to acknowledge varying powers, the spaces we occupy, and how that affects others.
Next week, we’ll expand on this work and explore what it means to teach for social justice.