Jessica, one of New York City Children’s Theater’s amazing teaching artists, tells us how her teaching style changed in the ARC classroom – for the better!
My work with ARC this year raised my awareness of how effective a routine at the beginning and end of each session could be. For me this was using the dance participatory “Big Hello” and “Big Goodbye” songs along with yoga breaths. The students counted on these activities and once they learned them, they would start them without me.
The students would often want to take idea of routine to the extreme, wanted to do the exact same activities week after week. As a seasoned teaching artist, I take preparation and lesson planning seriously. I normally plan out new creative explorations for each week. It has always been important to me to think of new and fun activities to introduce to the students, and yet, the students at ARC desperately wanted to repeat exactly what they had done the week before.
Finally, I realized I needed take in what is actually happening in the room. Were the students asking for a certain activity because it made them feel safe, calmed them down, or made their voices heard? Was it okay to go along with their requests or should I follow my carefully crafted plan?
I did my best to say yes as much as possible to the students while continuing to keep them safe and challenging them with some new activities.
In the end, I found that it was most useful to become flexible with my plan. I would choose one or two new activities and frame them in a way that excited the students “to learn a new game.” I would often take down a list of the students suggestions for what activities they wanted to do after we finished what I had planned for the session. I made no promises and stated that “if we did not get to something this week, there is always next week” and reminding students that they can always get friends together to play the theatre games that they learned with me.
I did my best to say yes as much as possible to the students while continuing to keep them safe and challenging them with some new activities. This pared with the beginning and end “routine” provided the students with enough structure to feel supported and enough freedom to explore. In the end I realized that rigidity in lesson plans is actually egotistic, and having flexibility to hear students voices creates an environment where they have ownership.
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