Posts Tagged ‘Bates College’


Jordan Conwell’s Presentation at Bates

June 20, 2012

Bonner Senior Celebration of Learning (Capstone)

Nancy Salmon, dance educator, recently sent me an email with the text of Jordan Conwell’s presentation that he did for his capstone project at Bates. I felt the message is powerful, whether we live and/or teach in a college town or an island school, small rural town or a suburban or urban environment.  Consequently, I know some of you will be moved by Jordan’s words. It’s not about the arts specifically but it is about community – something that the arts directly connect with all the time! Jordan kindly gave me permission to reprint this on the meatsed blog and shared a photo as well. Knowing that many of us are visual learners the visual helps imagine Jordan delivering it.

Good Evening. My name is Jordan Conwell. This month, I will graduate from Bates with a double-major in Sociology and Rhetoric. It has been privilege throughout my four years at the College to be part of community partnerships with the Lewiston School District and the Auburn School District.

The school community at Park Avenue School in Auburn has graciously welcomed me for the past two consecutive academic years (as well as for one semester during my freshman year). I consider my relationship with the school and my community partners there – Amy Heimerl, Robin Fleck, Chris Turcotte, and many others – to be my most rewarding community engagement experience.

In my work as a classroom aide in Amy Heimrel’s Kindergarten classroom, I’ve helped with tasks ranging from working with students on iPads and beginning reading/ writing skills to assembling pop-up books to making photocopies. Throughout, I’ve been able to marvel at a group of four-to-six year-olds who are learning, communicating, doing, and being.

This is what I wrote in the acknowledgements of my community-inspired sociology thesis:

To Mrs. Amy Heimerl, Mrs. Robin Fleck, Mrs. Chris Turcotte, and the students, faculty, and staff at Park Avenue School in Auburn, Maine- Thank you for allowing me to become a part of your school community, and letting me in on the tremendous joy, in spite of the many obstacles, that is embedded in the spirit of your work. Those of us with aspirations to think, write, debate, and legislate about education issues will always stand in awe of all that you do on a daily basis. You are, and always will be, the talent.

If the educators at Park Avenue School are the talent, that makes me a lackey, or maybe even a groupie. I hope that over these past few years I’ve been the best lackey anyone’s ever seen. Because the talent is doing some really important stuff. In talking about my learning, I’ll try to explain what they’ve taught me (even if they don’t know they have), and what it means relative to what I’ve learned in classrooms at Bates.

There is a sign in the teachers’ photocopy and lounge area at Park Avenue that reads, “I touch the future, I teach.”  I don’t teach, I just get to admire those who do, so I won’t claim to touch the future. However, I have looked into the future’s eyes and felt the warmth of the future’s smiles and laughter. I have unfortunately on occasion felt the acute hurt of the future’s distress. The future has the potential to be much, much better than we are. We, us adults, we are the past; we drastically affect the future’s present- sometimes for better, much, much too often for worse.

You see, we send children to school with backpacks full of our failings, insecurities, hatreds, the sub-group histories we hold at the expense of whole group dialogue, and – of course – our ideas of nation and tribe. We send them to school burdened with all of our stuff, and then we somehow expect the next generation to be better than us. Children are somehow expected to move up from their parents’ stations and be more secure, less hateful, more willing to dialogue across difference, and free of insular ideas of nation and tribe. But we blanket them with our world, a world of the opposite.

Where do schools come in, then? I think I’ve learned that educators are a radical present-tense. School days are moments in which they try their hardest to defend the future against us, the past, in order to free the future. So that it might realize its potential and be better than us.

  • We tell them that people who wear hijabs hate us; Educators tell them that people who wear hijabs are just as likely to be their friends as anyone else.
  • Media portrayals often tell young students of color that they cannot achieve in school; Educators tell them that they can indeed learn if they try. And then they say lets get back to the reading we were working on.
  • We show them our selfishness, our pettiness, and our me first-ness; Educators show them that everyone needs to pull their weight, but everyone also needs to look out for others and make sure they also have what they need to do their share. Educators tell them that you may be line leader now, but you won’t be line leader tomorrow. So it’s not in your best interest to discourage the person who’s behind you today.

We show the future the world as it is, while educators teach them to aspire to the world as it should be. But it’s not that easy; it’s not that prosaic. They know we fully expect them to do this whether or not we give them the support they need – financial and otherwise – and whether or not we get kids to school on time and whether or not we show up to parent-teacher conferences and whether or not we do anything more than change the channel when we see video of teachers’ unions protesting for the right to organize. While we continue to think the same thoughts and act like we don’t understand the world we create, and then perpetuate, we expect them to teach our children to be one million things we can’t be ourselves. Oh, and make them smart while you’re at it.

This is what I mean when I say that my learning at Bates College and my learning at Park Avenue School have formed a unique educational experience that neither could provide alone. Bates has exposed me to various points of view from which to understand the system that we adults create and perpetuate. Given my course of study, I am particularly well-versed in its social inequalities and its rhetorical discourses of power. I think I see the game for what it is, and Bates has given me the intellectual capacity to hold most of it in my head at the same time. After four years, I see in 3-D. But, in theory, there’s potential for me to see the system as a hopeless mess. I could read the A-Section of The New York Times and be depressed for hours.

But this is where Park Avenue School comes in yet again. Because what a theory can’t demonstrate and what words on pages can’t read and what a lecture can’t really espouse is that those of us thinking so hard about the system – working “across disciplines” as we say and trying to describe it in the most intricate and cutting-edge ways, even if it is in order to one day create change – we are surrounded by people who are already beating it.

More than anything, in my time at Park Avenue I have been welcomed into a community of students, faculty, and staff who are beating the system, who are working together to free the future. They hold together a fabric woven of various races, ethnicities, economic classes, religious backgrounds, levels of ability and disability, and nations of origin. They teach children skills, expose them to new technologies, and show them compassion every day, no matter what.

Although it isn’t always easy or perfect, people like Amy Heimerl and Robin Fleck create small moments of triumph and joy. If I’m not mistaken, those kinds of moments sustain them. And those moments have sustained me, too. Because you can only learn about what’s broken, in theory, so long before you’d like to meet some people who are trying to fix it…for real. When you’ve been exposed to the complete laundry list of problems, you’re excited to meet someone who says “This might only work for today, or it might not work at all, but let’s try this and see what happens.” Reorganized reading group, reconfigured classroom set up, new activity, improvised lesson plan. The future is one or two steps closer to freedom from our past.

And I thank them for allowing me to become a part of what they do so well. In accepting me into their community, they have also become a part of my Bates education. Because on Sunday, May 27th, 2012, I’ll accept a Bates diploma knowing that descriptions of the system are only as good as the understanding that educators (and many others) are everyday breaking that system’s rules – trying to get us to a better place populated by learners who realize ideals that we haven’t.

I think that I – and my fellow Bonner leaders, given their own unique, community-engaged learning experiences – know very well the conjunctive space between what the Bates mission statement terms “intellectual discovery and informed civic action.” I hope that we are ready, as the statement also says, “for the coming times.” If we have indeed planted our feet in the space and really do stand ready for the moment, we have to thank those of you representing the College and those of you representing our wider community, because you both played a part in it.

I’ve heard many discussions about the next few years at Bates College. They are sure to be full of institutional change, given the upcoming inauguration of a new president and impending faculty turnover. Efforts will be made to “increase the value of a Bates degree” and improve the College’s standing among elite colleges and universities. But I’m here to tell you, before these efforts even begin, that they won’t increase the value of my Bates degree one bit. Because my Bates degree and my fellows’ Bates degrees are different than most other Bates degrees. And I, for one, couldn’t be happier about that.

Their value is based on this combination or two-ness that I’ve been discussing. They have a certain reality and messiness based on our sometimes-uncomfortable knowledge that things aren’t that simple. But they aren’t that bad either.

  • Their value is based on a reciprocal relationship between what we’ve learned in the classroom and what we’ve learned and done with the community, with our neighbors.
  • Their value allows us to say that we graduated from Bates College, a school whose mission statement declaims preparing leaders with “a commitment to responsible stewardship of the wider world.” We are so prepared because the Harward Center for Community Partnerships and the Bonner Foundation and our community-engaged faculty mentors and our community partners encouraged us to engage with said wider world during our four years at said elite, residential, liberal arts college.

The value I’m talking about doesn’t have anything to do with the endowment, multi-million dollar capital campaigns, need-blind admissions, the ten-year plan, a student union, the General Education Curriculum, or faculty research productivity. It most certainly doesn’t have a thing to do with U.S News and World Report or what Brian Williams say about Bates tuition on NBC Nightly News, or how quickly the College responds to Mr. Williams.

If you think you can add value to my Bates degree in these ways, you fundamentally misunderstand the value of my degree. Thanks, but no thanks. I know community engagement efforts are secondary beneficiaries of these efforts, but that doesn’t change what I’m saying. Because I’m talking about priorities.

The value I’m talking about has to do with making sure that more Bates students graduate with Bates degrees like ours.

  • It has to do with closing the gap between the current Bates experience and the Bates mission statement, just like our community engagement has closed the gap for us.
  • It has to do with finally recognizing that calling our neighbors “townies” and other shows of disrespect for our community should be considered student misconduct issues of the most serious variety.
  • It has to do with the Princeton Review calling Lewiston the eighth worst college town in the United States of America, and whether or not Bates takes the time to respond to that at all.

The value I’m talking about hears a senior say, as one did to me, that community-engaged coursework was a quote “dumbed down” version of a college curriculum and that students don’t come to schools like Bates to do stuff like that. It responds with some examples.

  • Like Jacob Kaplove, Class of 2012, who takes what he learns in the psychology classroom and assesses the possibility for mental distress among local youth and their families.
  • Or like Rebecca Schmidtberger, also Class of 2012, who took a classroom of underachieving local eighth graders through the entire Feagels translation of The Odyssey.

It makes sure that every student, faculty member, department, and administrator knows that there’s nothing dumb about that. Actually, there’s something very Bates about it. The value I’m talking makes sure that students do come to Bates to do stuff like that, and that they are fully empowered to do stuff like that throughout their four years here.

In short, the value I’m talking about will allow the College to look back upon days when students spoke with humor and pride about “the Bates bubble” (as some do now) as a sad and regrettable stain upon this College’s history. Because that’s exactly what it is. It will then be able to discuss all of the efforts that were made to put, and keep, those days in the past, never to return again. That’s what the Harward Center, the Bonner Foundation, our community-engaged faculty mentors, and our community partners did for us. They popped the damn bubble.


Bates Dance Festival

April 21, 2012

Theater performance – April 27 & 28 at 8:00 pm

Bates College and Bates Dance Festival collaborating to present “red, black & GREEN: a blues”. A hybrid performance of hip hop theater, poetry, movement, music and visuals that brings together big ideas and moving personal stories to jumpstart a conversation about environmental justice and social ecology.

Marc Bamuthi Joseph is the conceiver/director and performer and has assembled a small cast of contemporary music/dance/theater greats. For more information click here.


Maine Arts Assessment Workshops

December 12, 2011

Last week in Maine

Last Wednesday started out as a very funny day for me. My husband kindly rescued me by bringing me a pair of shoes after I realized that I had two right shoes with me. After that my umbrella wouldn’t close. Once I got past the laughter of both situations I had a marvelous day and realized once again how fortunate I am to work with soooooo many wonderful arts educators across the state!

Later in the day we had professional development opportunities happening in two different locations.

At Bates College… three of our arts ed teacher leaders were presenting three different workshops.

  • Quick, Down, Dirty AND Effective Art Assessment (K-5 Visual Art) with visual art teacher leader Laura Devin and her colleagues from RSU1 Karen Wolfe and Rosemary Polizotto
  • Why create criteria based on MLR standards with student involvement ? with teacher leader and  Visual Art Educator Richmond Middle/High School Jeffrey Orth
  • Finding the Hidden Treasure in Art with Student Self Assessments with teacher leader and Visual Art Educator Brunswick High School Jennie Driscoll

Laura, Karen, and Rosemary's session participants

Jennie's session, viewing artwork

Jeff presenting

The rainy cool day didn’t keep folks from attending. The three workshops had almost 20 participants; visual art educators and Bates students. It was a wonderful afternoon hosted by Maine arts assessment leadership team member and teacher at Bates College Bronwyn Sale. Thank you to Jennie and Bronwyn for their work in planning the event! A great big thank you to Bates College for partnering on this event!

Assessment webinar… The second opportunity was the arts assessment webinar, Standards Based Assessment in the Arts, the 3rd in a series of 5 webinars. The webinars are facilitated by Rob Westerberg and Catherine Ring. Guests on the webinar included three teacher leaders: Jake Sturtevant (Bonny Eagle High School music educator), Leah Olson (Hampden Academy visual art educator), and Charlie Johnson (Mount Desert Island High School visual art educator). Also joining the webinar was Dr. Jeff Beaudry, USM professor and Maine’s assessment planning committee member and Marcia McCaffrey, co-chair of the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (leading the revisions of the national arts standards) and NH Dept of Education arts consultant.

There were over 50 participants on the webinar. If you missed it you can access the archived webinar at

You can also access the past two webinars and meeting plans at

The next webinar is scheduled for January 4th and the topic is An Elementary Discussion: How in the World Can I Possibly Do This? The topic that will be addressed is

  • Addressing the unique needs of elementary arts educators

To join the meeting, go online to (sign in as “guest”). Conference Number: 1-866-910-4857, Passcode: 140893 you can go to this link:

On February 1, 2012 the final webinar will be held called Leadership and the Arts. The session will address:

  • The Role of Teachers
  • The Role of Administrators
  • The Role of the greater Community

To join the meeting, go online to (sign in as “guest”). Conference Number: 1-866-910-4857, Passcode: 140893. Please be sure and invite your administrators to join you for this webinar!


Regional Presentation in Visual Arts Assessment

November 25, 2011

One of 23 workshops being given this school year



Hosted by Bates College  Education Department

Refreshments, Networking and Sign–In: Starts at 3:30PM

Workshops: 4:00 – 5:30 PM

  • Did you miss the State Arts Assessment Initiative Conference on October 7th?
  • It’s not too late to learn more about setting criteria and formative assessment!
  • Join us in connecting with other Visual Art teachers and discussing approaches to assessment!

Laura Devin presenting at statewide arts assessment conference, Oct. 7th, USM

Workshop Choices:

  • Workshop #1  – Quick, Down, Dirty AND Effective Art Assessment (K-5 Visual Art)  4:00 – 5:30 PM with Laura Devin,  Visual Art Educator,  RSU1 Bath  and Karen Wolfe; Rosemary Polizotto

Following a short, hands-on art making activity, participants will examine ways to realistically utilize a variety of assessment tools to deepen student learning in grades K-5.   We will see how a variety of practical formative assessments consistent with rubric expectations can deepen student learning and address arts standards, studio thinking, and 21st century skills.  Optional:  Sharing of a favorite assessment tool from participants is encouraged (bring 20 copies).  Take-home resources will be available in hard copy and digital forms. WORKSHOP  LIMITED TO 20 PARTICIPANTS.

  • Workshop #2  – Why create criteria based on MLR standards with student involvement ? (6-8 Visual Art) 4:00 – 5:30 PM with Jeffrey Orth, Visual Art Educator Richmond Middle/High School

Worried about involving students in creating criteria for art works? Using MLR standards with students? In this workshop we will go through the process of working with student in creating criteria aligned with MLR standards. WORKSHOP  LIMITED TO 20 PARTICIPANTS.

  • Workshop #3  – Finding the Hidden Treasure in Art with Student Self Assessments (9-12 Visual Art) 4:00 – 5:30 PM with Jennie Driscoll, Visual Art Educator Brunswick High School

Participants will create a small art work and practice the use of exemplars, setting criteria, and use of assessments to inform revision.  Come explore the benefits for learning that come with student self assessments.  WORKSHOP LIMITED TO 20 PARTICIPANTS.

Please RSVP by to Jennie Driscoll to attend one of these free workshops by December 5th.  Please give your name, email, and workshop choice.

Workshops will be held at Bates College, Pettingill Hall, Ground Floor Rooms G10, G 21 and G 50.  Check-in is in room  G04 starting at 3:30 PM.  Workshop start at 4:00PM . For location/ directions/ parking  see building #55, go to:

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