Today I had the privilege to attend an Arts PD at our local University. This PD wasn't for just visual arts - but for music, dance and theatre. The original brochure seemed vague - the day was to be dedicated about teaching for student expression. No keynote, no session to pick between - I wasn't really sure what we were getting into. All I knew was that the district was paying for us to go and I would get to spend the day talking about what I actually do instead of talking about reading/math or some other initiative that I would need to modify/alter into my room. So, I figured, even if it wasn't a great conference, it would be WAY better than the alternative.
Well, as it turned out - it was fabulous. The seemingly vague brochure was right on target- we spent the day around the theme of 'expression' and there weren't keynotes or labeled sessions because it was very organic. There was light direction, but that was it - the attendees were allowed to move through the day and be inspired where they were at.
We watched and experienced a bunch of university students in their craft. We talked with them in an honest dialogue about how they got to where they are - what inspired them. Where or who made them decide to major in the arts.
We talked in breakout session with our colleagues about key words and phrases about what we teach, why we teach. We came back together and shared those lists.
We ate a FABULOUS lunch which included some of the best chocolate cake, well besides my mom's.
In the afternoon we watched a professional dance group that is doing a residency at the university. They have a very unique company which provides a lot of improv from the dancers as well as the audience and composer. It was beautiful, and surprisingly moving. I found myself lost in the movement along with the composition - tears stinging in my eyes.
In one of our table talks, when we were wrapping up our day - our discussion leader looked at me and asked, "So, when do you have time to make your own art?" I am sure this was meant to lead into the fact that many art teachers don't have time or the energy to keep up with their own work.... but I was never an artist first. Many arts teachers started out as a musician or visual artist first - then decided to teach. I'm one of the few that didn't fall into art education that way. I went through school feel stupid. I didn't mind school - but it sucked for me. I was good at art, enjoyed art. I loved doing crafts at home - making bracelets, painting, pearler beads..... but that was never viewed as 'important' or 'smart'. It was seen as cute and crafty. It wasn't till college that I had my moment where I went "huh - this is how normal people feel in class". I was sitting in my weaving class and one of the only students who 'understood' the warping board and how to dress a loom without notes. It was in the moment where I went "no one expressed to me that art could be a job - that I was smart and good at something I could make a living at". So, I went into art education wanting to be the person I never had.
I think though - when looking back on the day, the most powerful part was realizing that we spent the ENTIRE day talking about teaching and students and the word 'rubric' 'lesson plan' 'student growth' 'data' weren't really mentioned or key noted in any discussion. When we discussed what we teach- no one mentioned a lesson, or color theory, or perspective -- it was all about opportunity, mistakes, failing, asking for help, trying again, trusting, and exploring. The arts teach their own skills and foundations based on their craft, but what everyone is really teaching is expression and how to start, fail, try again -- how to preserver. The arts are beautifully, gorgeously messy.