Where Dreaming Stops and Dreams Begin


Kym Boyce and Martha O’Connell share a conversation about their experience collaborating as practicing teaching artists with Community-Word Project’s Teaching Artist Training & Internship Program (TATIP).

Martha: While my Saturdays spent with TATIP have been transformative each and every hour, I would like to give a mighty shout out to one specific TATIP-inspired muscle: Collaboration (as cheesy as it may sound)! Kym Boyce and I have been designing a sample lesson plan and working through the complexities of combining our overlapping arts media: Visual, Media and Performance Art. It has truly been a process of Magic, Surprise, and Growth as an artist, teacher, and friend.

Let’s talk about the steps we’ve taken as fabulous new TATIP collaborators! 

Kym: Yes, it has been quite the experience with CWP as teaching artists in training, especially alongside our mentor teaching artists T. Scott Lilly and Elizabeth Leonard at PS 132 Juan Pablo Duarte school in Washington Heights, and the students at the Highbridge Green School where Martha and I have had the wonderful opportunity to workshop some of the theory and the lesson plans we’ve created. 

We redeveloped “Multimedia Mondays” within the acting & film group at Highbridge, as a way for students to engage with multiple disciplines within the realm of visual arts, use of theatre and the performance arts to explore themes of identity and community. This will enroll students’ specific interests through literacy and the arts in way that activate the multitude of student learning styles and intelligences.

With a student-centered approach, we started by surveying our students, in the 6th and 8th grades, about what they wanted to achieve most from our time together. And, it was their specific responses that informed our work and gave us a rich start.

Martha: Through discussion, sharing of resources, and more discussion, we have been building a collaborative process of:

  1. Designing lesson plans and teaching paths
  2. Testing out those plans with TATIP
  3. Testing those lesson plans out at Highbridge Green Middle School, where Kym is a teaching artist! It has been an honor to be invited by Kym to co-teach and workshop parts of our ‘Langston’s Quilted Dreamcatcher’ lesson plan.  

KymOne of the greatest takeaways we’ve gained in our journey with TATIP has been understanding the intrinsic value of interdependence through both collaboration and scaffolding. Scaffolding is the weaving of our artistic objectives, with the creation of something tangible, wrapped in the meaningfulness of life lessons.

Educator and activist, Cornel West once said, “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.” Having Martha share her time and talents volunteering with our middle schoolers has been nothing less than an act of love. Together we encourage the students to believe in the beauty of their dreams, lift up their visions for a transformed world, and to show up in their lives every day, with the classroom as their sounding board. As co-teachers we get to call each other in and lift one another up, and as co-learners, each of us is empowered through the arts. 

Martha and Kym: The process of collaboration as new teaching artists (TATIPees) has revealed:

  1. Ideas that lead to more ideas
  2. Sharing resources (poems, images, quotes) sparks each collaborator in different ways, leading to MORE ideas!
  3. Combing through lesson plans with another set of eyes fine-tunes everything
  4. Co-writing through Google Docs is a great method for refining, refining, refining
  5. Sharing impressions of how a session went is a magical way of gaining perspective in the classroom
  6. Co-teaching is supportive and challenging at the SAME TIME: We hold each other accountable and ease each others’ fears.
  7. The huge range of resources we can use: Border Crossers, election processing, standing rock, theatre improv warm-ups, Pinspiration
  8. We’ve realized our priority as a teaching team is to use rich materials to engage the senses, curiosities and creativity
  9. Keep up Constant communication: one-on-one time, FaceTime, text, phone, email, Google Drive,  and we’ve built up arsenal of resources, relationships, trust and honesty and, of course, authentic communication

KymAs a TATIPee, I’m super excited to see the unit we’ve been developing, “Langston’s Quilted Dreamcatcher” unfold and manifest. We’ve been using multi-layered tactile materials and spoken poetry to investigate dreams, exploring student’s visions for themselves, and their worlds, and how we can conceptualize our different kinds of dreams to build community. And, this wonderful woman that I have been given the remarkable opportunity to collaborate with, has been such a breath of fresh air, as a co-teacher and cohort all throughout this creative process. It’s been completely fulfilling lifting up all of our dreams together. 

Martha: AND, beyond our lesson-plan creations for TATIP, I have thoroughly enjoyed the nuanced exchange of collaborating with Kym in this work. We had a planning session on Election Night and worked our way through it: Kym affirms me during the work day; we continuously share insights on next steps in our work as teachers. This process has entered our lives and stuck.  Like glue. To our bones and insides. Living and working with love.

COLLABORATION for the long-haul. Thank you Patti Chilsen, Karla Robinson, Heidi Miler, T. Scott Lilly, Elizabeth Leonard and Katie Rainey for modeling it and supporting it on our teaching journey. 

-Kym Boyce, Media Artist and Martha O’Connell, Visual Artist