When I first started the Teaching Artist Project training, it was quite the eye-opening experience. Using the arts to teach, and incorporating them into lesson plans, has led me to notice how students learn. They are excited and eager to participate, it brings the spark and ignites their drive to learn. As a result, it leaves them exploring on their own, and – more importantly – learning with each other.
The way TAP works is that they train both new and experienced teachers together. We’ve done group exercises to become familiar with each other and get on the same page as well as share ideas to understand the process of incorporating the arts into the teaching structure.
The ideas and concepts of social justice in education and the philosophy and pedagogy of what that means to me personally has changed and become more defined as the TAP classes go on. To me, teaching for social justice started with the idea of everyone learning at the same pace regardless of ability. Currently, it means to me that social justice in education is all about the group working together to help each other as a community and inspiring one another.
The first day of my internship with TAP consisted of watching as my mentors T. Scott Lilly and Katie Rainey explained to their students the process of incorporating performance elements into their writing. The students enjoy the movement activities and learn about topics like character by acting out one of their choosing. Then, the students learned about elements of a story by using descriptive words like “ominous” to enhance their writing. The Teaching Artists used examples of ominous from the story “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe as a way of getting the students to understand the concept and created their own ominous stories as well.
So far in my experience with TAP, I am honestly happy to meet with all my fellow peers as we learn to work together and cooperate on a new level of educating students in this modern age and environment. The idea of encouraging creativity and critical thinking to solve problems, to give the students a platform to actively perform and experiment with concepts safely and without fear of mistakes will lead to great growth. This process will always be a great way to get student voices and opinions out in a continuously evolving fashion, which will help them understand the continuously changing world around them. I strongly believe that through arts education students will not only discover their own voices, but be able to give voice to others in their group, and encourage each other to better themselves. The drive for self-improvement is just one of the effects a good teacher can make and leave on students for years to come.