Getting Familiar with the Unfamiliar


I use to write a lot when I was a child. At one point I started writing a novel that I asked my grandmother to edit because I was determined to become a published author. I entered writing contests all the time and at school my teachers complimented me for my writing skills. One time I won a writing contest at King Soopers and my story was posted on a board for shoppers to read. If you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I would confidently exclaim “to be a writer!” Somewhere along the way, as I got older, I became very disinterested in writing. There was a small percentage of myself that was still holding onto this love of writing and stories, but as wrote less and less I forgot about writing. It became difficult to access my imagination, and before I knew it, writing was something strange and uncomfortable to me.

When I first thought about applying to the Teaching Artist Training & Internship (TATIP), I was really excited. There was only a hint of anxiety at the presence of writing. I’m interning at PS 676 in Red Hook with Jashua Sa-Ra and Adia Whitaker for an in-school dance and poetry residency. In class, hearing words like motif and couplet freaked me out, but observing the combination of dance and poetry (and realizing in and outside of class that words and dance are no strangers to one another) has reminded me to intentionally find ways to get more experience with other art forms that I’m not comfortable or familiar with doing. I want to read more poems and research other examples of dance and poetry and movement stories.

As for an update in class, the students have been refining their sensory Superhero Origin poems. My favorite part about this activity is asking them open ended questions about where their superhero comes from, what superpowers they possess and how they help their communities. Asking open ended questions has showed me how to help students really exercise their imagination muscle. I absolutely love hearing about a superhero who comes from the land of hugs and gives hugs to people to make them feel better, or a superheroes who helps their community by magnetically pulling trash off the ground using their hands! It’s really fun to hear their ideas and to encourage, acknowledge and positively comment on their imaginative ideas. The superhero origin poem is also a great combination of creativity and social/environmental change. I’m happy that I had a chance to observe this combination used to engage primary students.

Being able to observe and practice skills that we have learned and discussed during the Saturday workshops has made me feel more confident as a Teaching Artist trainee. This experience has also made me think about returning to writing and how exercising my own imagination/creativity muscle (with dance and other art forms) can foster a creative classroom. 

-Simone Johnson, Dancer, TATIP Trainee