The following profile on Right Brain teacher Megan Smith is included in our new 2015 Progress Report, one of four teacher testimonials featured in this latest update on our work and achievements over the past year. Check out what Megan has to say about the eye-opening experience she’s had with Right Brain.
1st grade teacher Megan Smith radiates with energy when she talks about her classroom. But her mood softens when she reflects upon her experience with arts education. She likens it to the black-and-white instruction one would usually associate with a math class. “I made mistakes,” she said. “In class I would be told, ‘A tree does not look like that…’ So I just said, ‘Nope, the arts are not for me.’ “
Megan admits that she didn’t see the value of Right Brain in the first couple of years her school partnered with the program. “I didn’t get it. I was like, ‘I don’t know how this is going to be useful and I just don’t have time.’”
Things began to shift in the spring of 2014, when Megan worked with Right Brain teaching artist Nikki Flinn of Acts of Wonder to integrate theatre with literacy. Students used principles of performance to dig deeper into the meaning and characters of classic fairy tales. By physically embodying the characters of these stories, she saw her students more engaged in the classroom than ever before, learning and making sense of the content in profound new ways.
Watching Nikki work, Megan experienced a radical shift. “What Nikki did in my classroom is literally the most amazing thing I have ever seen. It has totally changed my perspective on my own teaching,” she said. “I used to say, ‘The kids don’t have time for drama, they are supposed to be reading!’ Now I know that the more they play when they read, the more they read. I am now a believer in drama.”
Megan gained concrete tools from Nikki and a structure that allowed her to feel safe trying new things on her own in the classroom. “I would have not even known how to take that risk before Right Brain. Now I can say, ‘It’s not scary!’ If it doesn’t work, I can make a mistake in front of these kids and it’s totally cool, we will move past that.”
Ultimately, she was surprised that she was able to get the same results that Nikki did. And she was able to translate theatre to the students’ writing process. The kids embodied a character through theatre and they wrote from the perspective of that character with added depth.
Based on the success of these experiences, Megan totally re-envisioned the structure of her school year. She made plans to start with theatre. “The arts are not a distraction. They really aren’t. I have no idea how I have time for this, but I’ve made time for it because it actually works. It’s had a major impact. Major.”
This year’s report is filled with stories of our impact upon teachers and schools, and Megan’s is one in a series we’re posting on the Right Brain blog! Read more about the transformative and personal impact we’re having upon teachers and within schools in our latest progress report, and find out more what Right Brain has been up to over the past year.