Once again, we started on time. It’s a small thing, but I love it. We began with an exercise in Design Thinking. (Or there’s this.) In order to practice the process, we interviewed a partner and were interviewed in return about how much we enjoyed (or didn’t enjoy) hosting dinner parties. (Anyone who knows me knows I was in the ‘did not enjoy’ camp.) It was also, not coincidentally, a great way to get to know another member of the cohort. After that, we repeated the process – somewhat less formally – and interviewed each other about our ideas about our action research project. My partner is a K-8 art teacher and, astonishingly, her school does not permit her to have her own field trips! She also set a goal for herself about folding in an object-based approach to at least one unit in each grade level. I offered her two challenges – first, to address the field trip issue. To me, such a restriction is absurd. Apparently, grade level teachers at her school get two trips a year. She used to collaborate on one with the 6th grade teacher (on Egypt), but that teacher subsequently left. Second, I encouraged her to map out her ideas for the year so that she not trying new things in several grade levels at once. She said she’d been at her current school for 10 years, so she knew her curriculum pretty well. I guess there was a third. She spoke of how well she used to collaborate with an art teacher who had a very different approach from her, but she too had moved on. I encouraged her to find a partner for planning. Teachers in the arts often have solo acts. They get attached to various other meetings. It would be useful for her to have a thinking partner. I talked through my photography idea with her. It was just so useful to change it from an idea that was floating around in my head to something more concrete. She offered me some good suggestions, including several about technology, which I desperately need. She also led me to see how photography could be a recurring tool that I could use throughout the year, instead of for just one project. It was cool. Again, having the time to talk to another teacher – what a luxury! (For the record, I am far from the only non-art teacher there, which I think is great.)
After that, the white gloves came out. The Museum has a program called Art to Go. Before we could touch the objects, we again paired up with one person looking at the object and the other looking away – pencil and paper in hand. I was the ‘describer’ first. As with the activities yesterday, the goal was not to say ‘This is a mask,’ but to describe things in terms of shapes, sizes, lines, etc.. It was very hard. My partner got a lot of the shapes down that I described. They just looked like they’d been juggled and dropped from what I’d intended. I did little better when it was her turn to describe a new object. And then we got to touch them which was awesome. I still remember going to something like a Please Touch area of the Smithsonian when I was a child. So cool, then; so cool, now. The person who runs the Art to Go program modeled a questioning protocol. Sometimes, it can be annoying to be asked to toggle between being a student and a teacher when I’m in a professional development situation; so far, it’s been great.
After lunch, we got a tour of and an introduction to the research library at the museum. It’s just incredible to me what they have available in the museum and on-line – for everyone. The day closed with an opportunity to do some planning for our projects. We could stay in the library or go through the galleries. (Teachers being trusted? Amazing!) And the day really ended with us again being asked to offer some input on the next day as well as reflect on the day we’d just completed. I’m eager to get back at it tomorrow. Today helped me go from a zillion thoughts buzzing around my head to a more tangible plan for what I want to do and what I still need to do to prepare.