Have you ever wondered what teachers are like outside of the classroom? When I think back to my elementary school teachers, I revert back to my elementary student self and view teachers as authority figures who hold the fate of my future with a single letter grade. Earlier this month, I was able to attend the Right Brain Initiative’s 2nd workshop in their Professional Development series called “Arts Integration–Digging Deeper,” where I learned that I had the completely wrong impression about teachers.
Teachers and teaching artists came together to learn more ways to integrate the arts in everyday classroom learning and refresh ones they learned from the first workshop. We delved into the world of theatre, using pantomime as a tool to teach students about improvisation and teamwork. We practiced different types of drawing as a way to teach students to be resourceful and careful observers. It was great to experience some of the activities that students experience during their Right Brain residencies and witness the many “aha” moments as teachers were exposed to the benefits of arts education firsthand.
Arts integration is not necessarily a new concept to me. Having studied art history in school, I was already well-versed in how the arts provide new avenues in innovation and thinking. In fact, the most memorable part of the workshop for me was the personal stories teachers exchanged with each other about their experiences with Right Brain.
One teacher I sat with spoke about her school’s residency with Nicole Penoncello, who used printmaking as a way to teach elementary students about the water cycle. She was impressed not necessarily by the artwork created by students, but rather how their learning had such a lasting effect. Throughout the year, she would ask questions about water to refresh the students’ memories, and she said that they would answer correctly with such confidence and even volunteer more details about the cycle itself.
As these teachers told their stories and asked their questions, I began to feel a great sense of camaraderie at the table. Everyone, both old and new to Right Brain, were eagerly listening to these stories to learn more about their perspectives on Right Brain. We had open discussions about classroom techniques and teaching philosophies. We would even joke and talk amongst each other during the training, like children do in class. It felt like a meeting of friends. They really listened to each other’s stories and digested them, providing them with intimate insights into The Right Brain Initiative, while getting formal training from Right Brain’s Professional Development team.
It was so encouraging to witness such openness and eagerness to learn about Right Brain. The professional development series brought teachers together to create a safe space and network where they can ask questions and try out new ideas. But it also brought together like-minded individuals who are passionate about educating children and more simply, like to have fun. It’s nice to know that teachers, like all of us, are forever students, learning constantly about our ever-changing world.
Sarah Hwang is the Winter/Spring 2015 Outreach Apprentice for The Right Brain Initiative. She is excited to begin the new year working for Right Brain!