by Mark Kreder
Walking into YPT for the first day of their Artist Educators Training workshop was a bit like the first day of school for me. You have teachers there who try to make you comfortable, you’re a bit nervous because you aren’t sure if you’re going to know anyone, and when you find out that you do, you tend to gravitate to those people.
It was like this for about the first 20 minutes, while a group of 30 adults sat and waited for the workshop to begin. The moment the workshop started, that all changed. Firstly, because of the environment that was created by Lois Adamson, Amber Ebert and Aimee Bouchard; secondly, I realized what a privilege it was to be in a room of 30 awesome people who knew things I didn’t, and were also willing to share them with me. You didn’t need to be an expert in any particular area of arts education. You just had to come with a willingness to learn more and share your thoughts.
The first day of the workshop was very theoretical. We looked at how to approach a lesson plan, which was taught by lesson planner extraordinaire, Marjie Chud. We discussed the role of the teacher in the classroom, and also examined case studies in a section that was led by Anne Wessels. The resulting discussions were incredible. We were dealing with situations that had no “correct” answer, but as a group we tried to find solutions that we all could see working. Sometimes these conversations would evolve into larger topics, such as privilege or ableism in teaching. We started to have these conversations, which it is now our job to continue.
We ended the first day by sharing games with each other. If you have ever seen a group of 30 adults playing games designed for children, you know that it is a magical thing to witness. Even though we were playing we still had our thinking caps on! We asked ourselves: what age group would this be appropriate for? Would a child with mobility issues be able to participate in this activity? Would someone whose first language wasn’t English be able to understand what to do?
All of the information that we absorbed on day one we took into the wonderful, crazy, exhausting day two. This day was all about the practical. We created a 20-minute lesson plan in pairs for either Grades 1-3, 4-5 or 8 and then taught those lessons to actual children! Perhaps more important than creating and carrying out these lesson plans was observing others while they taught theirs. I was able to see different teaching styles, how others dealt with issues and learned tools I can apply to my teaching in the future.
There is never going to be a “right” answer to every situation or question that arises when it comes to the world of teaching. And that’s ok. My two days at YPT during the Artist Educator Training workshop showed me that the best way to prepare for whatever comes up on the job is to discuss challenging situations and continue having those conversations with people who have different ideas than you. It doesn’t end after the two days though – that was just the start!