Teaching with Grace


Saturday December 12th marked our final weekend workshop for CWP’s Teaching Artist Training & Internship Program (TATIP) and brought a close to the first portion of this amazing experience. The meeting began with a return to the previous week’s discussion on teaching plans and on building and sustaining a relationship with the classroom teacher(s). Additionally, we discussed the qualities necessary for creating and sustaining a safe space for students while also challenging them to be brave within that space. Participants also learned of several fun and interactive games to engage students and to relate to larger themes, such as storytelling or emoting, that may be a part of a teaching artist’s lesson plan. One such game is the “Emotional Taxi” where one student enters the car expressing one emotion in a way that others can guess what they’re feeling, but must take on the emotions of the next person that enters the car, and so on. When one person leaves, everyone must return to their previous emotion.   

After lunch everyone came back together to watch author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s powerful TED talk titled “The Danger of a Single Story”. The entire speech is wonderful, though the following quote led to a productive discussion amongst the trainees:

“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

As facilitators Patti Chilsen and Renée Watson explained, this lesson is especially important not only for Teaching Artists to impart to students in traditionally lower-income, disenfranchised parts of the city, but is also a necessary teaching moment for more privileged students. We followed this exercise with an introduction to pedagogy. Trainees learned of six different philosophers whose theories largely make up the foundation of teaching artistry. We discussed quotes from Paulo Freire, Maxine Greene, John Dewey, Cornel West, Beverly Tatum and Louise Rosenblatt.

Our final training session was concluded the way it began — with graffiti walls. We reflected on all that we have learned and shared over these past six weeks. From our first graffiti walls to our artist maps, from creating inquiry questions to model lesson plans, trainees were able to trace all of the ground we’ve covered and discuss the courses impact on our teaching and our artistry. 

A word that Patti and Renée often use is grace. Grace as a necessary quality for Teaching Artists and for being a part of this global community and society. I am thankful for the grace they have and continue to show the trainees and will carry that lesson as we continue to go forth in this training and in the classrooms. 

-Jehan Robeson, TATIP Trainee, Writer