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Arts Learning Grant Recipient

May 25, 2018

The Telling Room

The Telling Room is a recipient of an Arts Learning grant this year from the Maine Arts Commission. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to visit their site in Portland not long ago. It was charged with creativity and excitement for learning. While visiting a group of students from the Biddeford Schools Gifted and Talented program were participating in a lesson. I had the opportunity to observe, participate, and speak to the participants. I also had the chance to meet with the staff and they kindly followed up with information that is included in this blog post. Thank you all for your contributions!
Suzanne Tighe, Biddeford teacher, has worked with the Telling Room staff for three years.
IN SUZANNE’S OWN WORDS
Thank you for helping to support the Telling Room. This is my 3rd year bringing students to the Telling Room or having them come to my school. My students always look forward to the visits.  My 5th graders this year did not get to visit with Marjo and they were so disappointed. She has been my contact person for the past three years. She has always made it a point to get to know the students and they feel that connection. One of my boys, a reluctant writer, was so looking forward to working with Marjo this part Monday. He wanted her to be the one to help him develop his writing.
I feel that the greatest benefit for the students is the level of investment they have in their writing after working with them. This interest and excitement about writing is then transferred to their every day writing. The students never know who they will be able to work with; a writer, photographer, a musician, artist or poet. This allows my students to work with adults who have a range of interests. Many of my students play musician interments or are gifted in the visual arts.  The opportunity to work with these artists is a wonderful experience.
For myself, its a great way to see some new ideas or see some old techniques reinvented. This allows me to use these techniques with other students. Its also an opportunity to talk about writing with a colleague and share ideas.

Marjolaine Whittlesey is a Teaching Artist Associate

Marjolaine Whittlesey is a Teaching Artist Associate at the Telling Room and worked with Suzanne’s students at the school and again on the day I visited at the Telling Room.

IN MARJOLAINE’S OWN WORDS
During a field trip to the Telling Room students get to experience the art of writing in a greater context than what they see in the classroom. They get to work alongside adult writers and see the plethora of publishing done by peers their age and other students from around the state. When they walk into our space they often comment on how it feels comfortable and creative, “like my home.”

Our space and our programing serves to create a safe space for each student to explore their own unique voice, which opens them up to their creative selves. Our programs often start with generative work that allows each student to find a way into the writing process. Our activities and warm ups strive to reach various learning types so that any student can feel inspired and successful. Our focus on writing as mostly rewriting is a skill that will serve any student throughout their whole life. We present revision as focused play rather than tedious work. Hopefully that sticks!

My hope is that each student remembers the excitement and pride they felt around writing and sharing. I hope that they can remember specific details about what they wrote or heard in others’ stories. Even if they can’t remember an exact writing exercise, my goal is that each student leaves a TR program being more curious about the world and their experience in it.

Students come to The Telling Room on a Field Trip with their class as a three hour experience. I love to hear when they return to school and continue to work on the pieces they started during the Field Trip and it becomes a bigger part of their classroom experience back at school. We had one student enjoy the writing they did with us in their Field Trip so much that they asked to return to The Telling Room for a Summer Camp — and then they followed that up with a semester-long afterschool program! They discovered that they loved to write and found a space to continue developing that love at The Telling Room.
Nick Schuller is the Program Director at The Telling Room.
IN NICK’S OWN WORDS
Sometimes we hear that “today’s young people” have difficulty receiving feedback or being told “no,” and that constant exposure to screens impedes their natural curiosity. Our work in field trips like this one counteracts those concerns: rather than shutting down because of constructive criticism, our young writers are encouraged to see an opportunity for new creative expression. We hope they’ll see that inviting diverse voices into the feedback process can foster collaboration and ultimately the product will be stronger as a result.

I always hope that we light a spark, and that field trip attendees will go back to school with a new energy for writing. I also hope that all of the students received a confidence boost from knowing that they can engage in the revision process and come out feeling encouraged.

Sarah Schneider is the Development Director at the Telling Room.
IN SARAH’S OWN WORDS
The opportunity to encounter writing in a new way—either through games and activities, other art forms like theater and performance, or simply being in a new space with time to write—can free up students to think in new ways and engage their imagination. Even reluctant writers often begin to open up in a field trip as they learn and practice writing a story they want to tell and that people will be eager to hear.

One of the key things students get to do with us, even on field trips, is share their writing—a whole piece, or even just a word or a sentence—with their peers. Getting a chance to share the story or poem they’ve been working on with an audience is a big part of building confidence. I hope that students remember that they can be bold and take a leap out of their comfort zone—in both writing and sharing their work—to discover things they didn’t know were inside them and to share their stories and voices with all of us.

Celine Kuhn is the Executive Director at the Telling Room.
IN CELINE’S OWN WORDS
I hope that students will remember that we offered them a safe and creative space to write for fun, tell their stories and find their voice. What we do every day is equip kids to succeed in and out of school.

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