TAP Throwback: The Power of the Debrief


Editor’s Note: Even as we’re full speed ahead with our TAP 2018-19 trainees, we’re still reveling in the reflections of our 2017-18 participants. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be sharing several blogs authored by our now-alums. These blogs are both delightful throwbacks, as well as hints about what might be ahead for this year’s trainees!

In Spring 2018, I attended the second debrief of the Teaching Artist Project. This would be one of the last times the TAP class of 2017-2018 would be gathered as a group in the Drama League and one of the last times Patti Chilsen (then Teaching Artist Project Artistic Director) would help guide us through the discussions and reflection about the teaching and learning process.

As I slipped into my seat that evening, it dawned on me how much I have changed as a teacher throughout this program. When I entered the Drama League for our first TAP workshop, I felt overwhelmed. TAP introduced us to a teaching style I was completely unfamiliar with—one focused around positivity and empowering the children we teach. Now, as I sat listening to Patti talk about tips on classroom management, I found myself taking notes—visualizing how different techniques would work in the classroom that I co-teach in. As I sat in my seat, I realized I was slowly developing my own teaching style, one TAP has helped me realize.

That is the power of the debrief: it allows us to take a breath as we complete our residency; it allows us to reflect on the progress we have made as budding teachers. A lot can seem overwhelming when you start teaching—children can be energetic, there can be frequent disruptions in the classroom, children can be roaring down the hall and the list goes on—but as I sat in the second debrief and listened to everyone talk about their classroom experience, I realized just how well-prepared TAP has made us for teaching.

Embedded within each TAP lesson and debrief session, our TAP facilitators were showing us with their actions how to manage a classroom. When Scott played his singing bowl at the beginning of one of our TAP sessions, he was showing us a great way to begin our class. When the TAP facilitators end the class with “I have a voice, my voice is powerful, my voice can change the world,” they were giving us an excellent way to end our class. On top of that, they were giving us an excellent way to empower our students.

On top of all this, our debrief sessions gave the us a chance to talk to our Mentor Teaching Artist. The classroom can be a chaotic place, so for many of us in TAP, getting to sit down and talk to the Teaching Artist in charge of the classroom can be a rare thing. Because of the debriefs, the TAP class had a chance to check in on how they are doing in the classroom. It can also be a great way to get tips on classroom management.

The TAP facilitators have provided an excellent bedrock for us to become the best teacher possible. Some days, I still feel slightly awkward in the classroom, and I still sometimes have trouble finding the words to connect with a particularly rowdy student, but with my training with TAP, I have the tools and skills necessary to address these issues.

Jean-Luc Fontaine is a poet and TAP alum who is pursuing his MFA in poetry at Sarah Lawrence College.