Posts Tagged ‘MALI’

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Pen Pals Pilot Program

April 4, 2019

PEER 2018:  5th Grade Painting Pen Pals Pilot Program

Lynda Leonas has been a Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Teacher Leader since 2015, Phase 5. It was great to hear about her work at Walton School that is connecting her students with others.
5th grade students from Mrs. Breau’s class at Walton School in Auburn, Maine, began a trial practice run of the painting pen pal program on November 8 during a 30-minute art class with their art teacher, Lynda Leonas. Each student inspired personal responses and program feedback from music and art educators, teaching artists, and members of the Maine Arts Commission during the November MALI Critical Friends Day at the Viles House in Augusta. Students were thrilled with the responses they received and hope to meet their practice partners one day!
Elementary schools in Androscoggin and Cumberland Counties will participate in a larger practice run of this peer student painting exchange this coming spring. We hope to define and direct any technical adjustments necessary in creating a simple large scale painting pen pal exchange and exhibit for teachers and students within the State of Maine. Each grade 5 student will create a painting within an open choice painting studio environment. The painting will be exchanged with a student in another school district. Each participant will reflect upon key ideas and emotions expressed within the art work they receive and respond with his/her own personal interpretation to create visual conversations!
Students and teachers will expand their communities without leaving their classroom throughout the Painting Pen Pals process. Students will access and upload paintings, reflections, and literary responses in the form of poetry into a WIKI site creating an online exhibit while art and classroom teachers upload formative assessments, enrichment activities, and their own painting pen pal works! Our goal is for all peer partnerships to meet in person at a culminating exhibit of their completed works.
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Two Teaching Artists’ Journeys

March 19, 2019

Nicole Cardano and Brian Evans Jones

Maine Arts Leadership Initiative Teaching Artists Leaders, summer institute, 2017. Brian is in the back row, third from the left. Nicole is in the front row, first person on the left.

I’m always interested in learning about the needs of teaching artists and how to better support them. I view their role in education as vital. Oftentimes it is the teaching artist who inspires a young person. Providing opportunities for learners in grades PreK through high school that include a teaching artist can be empowering for the learner. I have hope that every young person either becomes an artist or an appreciator of the arts as they continue learning on their life journey.

Those of us who have made arts education a career are so fortunate. We are engaged in the creative process as  individuals and have the chance to help young people develop their artistic ideas as well. When arts educators collaborate with teaching artists it is truly amazing. Both teachers learn but the ones who benefit the most are our students.

Pablo Picasso said: “Every child is born an artist, the problem is how to remain one once we grow up. I think of the artist in each of us as a fragile, beautiful and precious light, a creative spark inside of every person.”

Nicole and Brian at the MALI Summer Institute, 2018

Recently I asked two teaching artists who are leaders in the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) to ponder what has contributed to their success as teaching artists. Brian Evans-Jones and Nicole Cardano joined MALI in 2017 during the summer institute.

Brian Evans-Jones is a poetry and creative writing teacher who moved to southern Maine from the UK. He’s been writing poetry since he was 16. Brian has a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Warwick University.

“Since 2005 I have taught creative writing, which is as important to me as my own writing. I’ve taught all kinds of people, from 4 to 94, in all kinds of venues, and this is the main way I try to spread the appreciation of poetry.”

Nicole Cardano has been teaching Drama and Improvisational Theater in PK-grade 12 schools for eight years. In addition, she teaches adults. Nicole’s studies and practice of improvisational theater connect to the foundational philosophies of Listening, Support, Eye Contact and Respect. The games that she teaches and her directorial mindset work from these foundations. Nicole believes in the process being more valuable than the product. Learning and developing these skills fosters a stronger community, a place of open listening and supportive fun. You can learn more about Nicole’s work on Facebook at Theater Today, Nicole’s non-profit organization.

“This December I worked with elementary and middle school students in preparation for their field trip to see Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol. The students learned about workhouses and the hard labor and often dangerous jobs that children did in London during the 1840’s. We imagined this world through writing and theater exercises.”

NICOLE, HER TEACHING ARTIST JOURNEY

I started out as a Teaching Artist before I knew that this job title even existed. I was teaching drama and improvisational theater at the Summer Festival of the Arts and re-establishing the drama club program at my alma mater, Pemetic Elementary School. One program would lead to the start of another one. In the last nine years the work has grown. I have formed a non-profit, Theater Today, and have been able to spearhead a larger program in partnering with The Grand Theater, in Ellsworth.

Two years ago I learned that The Grand had a program called Performing Arts for Children showing school-aged performances during the school day, but they were not getting the audiences that they hoped for. The opportunity to partner was clear. Several professionals collaborated to create a Community Arts Curriculum out of which grew my role as the Arts Outreach Educator. This is our second year of this outreach collaboration and we are working with the full student body of four schools, three serving grades K-8, and one 9-12 high school. I have worked with 1,311 students leading theater integration workshops in their classrooms since September of 2017 in just this partnership alone (not including the additional programs I still lead). After meeting with classroom teachers, I design improvisational theater workshops that provide connections between the classroom curriculum and the live theater field trips at The Grand.

I grew up locally on Mount Desert Island in Maine. I got my first taste of theater in school. This made me aware that I wanted to be able to sing better, as I could not really carry a tune. As luck would have it there was an outstanding vocal teacher in our town. Carol Cramer Drummond was an accomplished opera singer and became my performance mother. Carol taught me confidence through song and showed me another world. I struggled to learn in school in the format I was expected. My mother too had her own history of challenges in school. I am now raising my daughter, also as a single parent, and I find myself advocating for her experiential learning needs.

Theater was the only subject I could think to study as I went on to Saint Michael’s College in Vermont. Both of my parents supported this decision. I graduated cum laude with a departmental award of honors and minored in Spanish as an extension of my year abroad in Mexico. My senior year of college one of my theater professors was intrigued with the book “Truth in Comedy; the Manual of Improvisation” from the training and performing center IO (formerly Improv Olympic) in Chicago, IL. IO teaches long form improvisation, where you perform a full show based off of one audience suggestion. Our professor formed an improv troupe and we studied this book. I graduated college in May of 2001 and went home to work a summer job and await a New England Theater festival that I had been selected to compete in. I had plans to go to New York City to follow a job lead. That September our nation experienced 9-11. My understanding of the world as I knew it had changed. The job did not pan out. Going to Chicago to study improv felt like the most sensible and sane endeavour. I competed at the festival in January and flew out to take a level one class at IO. I stayed for the full year and completed the improvisational program. Chicago became my home. Improv was the language that I spoke. I continued to study, perform and work for ten years in this city.

I moved back home to Maine for family reasons. I was raising my three year old daughter and my father had gone through stage four bladder cancer due to his exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. Time moved forward and my daughter entered school. She was also displaying learning challenges and was not showing the results that our schools wanted. I served for a full term as the chair member of our local school to support education and to better understand it. I really enjoyed being a part of this team. My term ended and I had to decide where I could make a greater impact. My programs were growing and it is a conflict of interest to be on a school board and working in the schools. I continued to develop the work that I saw a need for and believe in. I formed Theater Today to continue this mission. Theater is a tool that helps to communicate and explore topics of interest. This has been true on my journey through life. The practice of theater is a social, emotional and educational tool for all. I embrace process more so than product.

I design the curriculum for the theater integration workshops as the Arts Outreach Educator with The Grand. In our first outreach workshop I was working with 8th graders. The show that they were scheduled to see was “Frankenstein”. The students were studying gothic romantic writing. I taught them about the significance of Mary Shelley and how she wrote Frankenstein, the first sci-fi novel, based on the real modern science of the early 1800’s. The science teachers invited me to speak on this in their classroom, and so I did. In these workshops we highlighted that we are in the middle of history. Through the use of improvisational theater we “built” Victor Frankenstein’s laboratory and acted out scenes on what could go wrong with today’s modern science….

Next I worked with high school juniors and seniors in preparation for seeing Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town”. With the practice of theater we explored the American Dream and enhanced public speaking skills.

This December I worked with elementary and middle school students in preparation for their field trip to see Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol. The students learned about workhouses and the hard labor and often dangerous jobs that children did in London during the 1840’s. We imagined this world through writing and theater exercises. We explored Dickens mission of the important role of education in the fight against poverty.

The curriculum areas of integrated study have spanned grades K-12.

In the growth of the outreach program with The Grand I see that there could be more partnerships with other arts organizations in an effort to expand the community of learning. For example, art exhibits could have in-classroom workshops with visual artists in connection to gallery showings. The possibilities are endless. Partnering teaching artists with directors of arts organizations has the potential to create a lot more routine work for arts integration in our schools and blurring the line between classroom and community, thus creating more experiential learning opportunities. Many students, and adults, have not been exposed to all that their town or neighboring towns have to offer. Arts outreach expands the exposure to life that any one person has.

The programs with The Grand and Theater Today are primarily supported by grants and scholarships. We do hope to expand the sponsorship opportunities for this programming.

BRIAN, HIS TEACHING ARTIST JOURNEY

Path 1:

January 2005:  I am in the last year of my undergraduate degree in Creative Writing at Warwick University, UK. Not sure what to do after graduating, I go to see my course director and ask him, “How can I teach creative writing?” He tells me I should go see the professor who runs the university’s creative writing summer school for students aged 11-16. He gives me a job. I work on the summer school for the next 4 years, starting as an assistant for a couple of days, and ending up as a full teacher, staying for two weeks.

April 2006:  I am training as an English teacher in a vocational high school in Manchester, England. I hate it. The school asks for volunteers (unpaid) to run Enrichment workshops. Starved of creative writing teaching, I run one on story writing. 8 students attend.

June 2006:  I am interviewing for a full-time job as English teacher at another high school in England. The principal offers me the post. I say I’ll take it provided I can teach an hour’s creative writing a week, pointing to my experience on the Warwick summer schools and at my previous high school. He says yes.

January 2010:  My creative writing group at the high school has had enrolments of 12 students, 4 students, 18 students, and 23 students. I have organized annual competitions in poetry and fiction, getting the principal and vice principals involved in the judging. I have published chapbooks of the students’ work. In January of 2010, the head of Creative Writing at the local college (Winchester Uni) agrees to judge a fiction competition, teach a lesson to my groups, and give them talk about taking creative writing at college.

December 2010:  I have quit my job at the high school. I contact the head of Creative Writing at Winchester Uni to ask for work, and he asks me to teach an undergraduate course. I teach at Winchester Uni until I leave England in 2014, eventually increasing my teaching to 6 courses per year.

November 2011:  One of my colleagues at Winchester Uni starts an organization called the Hampshire Writers Society. I attend the first meetings to support her initiative. She tells me about a competition to become Hampshire Poet Laureate in 2012 and encourages me to enter. I enter it.

January 2012:  I am named Hampshire Poet Laureate. Over the next year, I am paid to write 4 poems and to run workshops in prisons and homeless hostels. The Poet Laureate also promotes my work as a teaching artist to schools throughout Hampshire. I set up an online project (Writing Hampshire) that encourages people to write poems about their favorite places in the region and submit them for web publication.

2012-13:  Approximately 30 schools contact me to ask me to run poetry workshops. About half of these want me to help students write poems for the Writing Hampshire project. Writers’ groups, arts centers, and community organizations also ask me to work for them. Combining my work as a college professor and teaching artist, I am teaching creative writing full-time.

Path 2:

June 2006:  I am completing my training as a high school English teacher. One of the requirements is to join relevant professional associations. I find an organization I’ve not heard of before called the National Association of Writers in Education. I don’t have much money, but I decide to join it.

July 2008:  All NAWE members receive a letter from the Open University. The OU is expanding its creative writing courses and wants new teachers. NAWE members are encourage to apply. I do, and I am given a course to teach.

June 2010:  After two years teaching my OU course, my manager contacts me. They have a vacancy at short notice, and would like me to take it. The combined income gives me enough money to quit my unhappy high school job and go freelance, albeit with a part-time income, but with more time to write.

December 2010:  I contact my local arts center. Based on my experience teaching for the OU, they hire me to run poetry and fiction workshops. By the time I leave England in 2014, I have run 30 workshops and classes fort them, for children and adults.

April 2013:  The manager of the Jane Austen House in Hampshire, England, attends one of my poetry workshops at the arts center. She hires me to run a poetry workshop at the Jane Austen House.

August 2014: I have moved to Maine with my family. We go to a children’s art event at the Jewett House in South Berwick. I get talking to the manager, and tell her about my work at the Jane Austen House. She hires me to run a writers group at the Jewett House and also some one-off creative writing workshops.

November 2015: With some others, I give a presentation at the New England Museums Association Conference on my work at the Jane Austen House and the Jewett House. Soon after the Conference, I am hired by two other historic buildings to run workshops for them.

May 2015:  I am at the end of my first year in grad school at UNH and looking for ways to fill the summer. I offer some free mentoring to a young writer who has come to my writers’ group at the Jewett House. Her mother is grateful, and invites me to go with them to an event called Big Night run by something called the Telling Room in Portland. I go, and I am hugely impressed by the Telling Room’s work with school students. I ask to train as a Telling Room Teaching Artist.

2016-2018:  I work on multiple residencies for the Telling Room, working with 7 schools and leading several residencies.

Path 3:

April 2016:  I am at the end of time in grad school at UNH and wondering about starting a creative writing nonprofit. I hear about a funding workshop run by the Arts Council of NH. I go to it and meet the woman in charge of Arts funding. We meet again later; she tells me about the NH Teaching Artist roster. I apply to the roster and am accepted.

May 2016:  I look for other rosters to apply to, and discover Maine has one. I apply, am accepted, and am invited to a Teaching Artists Training Day.

Brian conducting Poetry Out Loud workshop at Hermon High School

August 2016: At the Training Day. I meet Argy Nestor, who talks to me about Poetry Out Loud. I have experience of the British equivalent. Argy asks if I could do some workshops for POL in Maine. I say yes! I also meet Kate Smith, music teacher at my local elementary school. She tells me about our local Education Foundation, which funds projects in our district. She encourages me to apply for a grant to work with Central School in South Berwick. The grant is funded.

November 2016 and 2017: Argy sends me hundreds of miles to the parts of Maine that are farthest away from my home in South Berwick, bringing Poetry Out Loud wokshops to rural schools and broadening my knowledge of my adopted home state at the same time.

March 2017: My 2-week poetry residency with second grade at Central School in South Berwick takes place. 80 children all write several poems, redraft one to go in a chapbook, and share their learning with their parents.

Brian and Kris presenting, MALI Mega, March 2018

August 2017: Argy invites me to apply to the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI). I attend as a Teaching Artist Leader. Kris Bisson, Chorus teacher at Marshwood Middle School, attends my poetry workshop. She asks me to be involved in a composition project with her 7th and 8th grade chorus groups, and writes a grant to the Marshwood Education Foundation.  I also meet Tim Christensen, potter and Teaching Artist extraordinaire; Nicole Cardano, improv artist; and Lindsay Pinchbeck, teacher of the integrated arts school Sweet Tree Arts.

Fall 2017:  I run my part of Kris’s chorus project. I meet the students for 6 sessions and help them write lyrics based on a local landmark bridge that is the focus of a community renewal project.

Tim Christensen, Brian, Lindsay Pinchbeck at Sweetland School

January and October 2018: Lindsay Pinchbeck invites me to Sweet Tree Arts to run collaborative residencies, first in partnership with Tim Christensen and later with Nicole Cardano.

2018:  The Arts Council of NH send me to schools throughout the Seacoast region of NH to run Poetry Out Loud workshops.

2018:  Kris Bisson and I present our collaborative project at MALI and at the MAMLE conference.

November 2018:  Argy asks me to make some Poetry Out Loud videos to be hosted on the Maine Arts Commission website. I work with student POL competitors and the MAC’s Ryan Leighton to plan and record the videos.

December 2018:  Kris’s chorus perform their composition piece at the State House in Augusta. I am privileged to attend.

This is not a complete picture of what I have done, but I hope it gives an idea of how my work as a Teaching Artist started, expanded, and changed. What I want to show is that I never planned to do this: every new thing emerged and developed from other things I did before, generally not knowing what they were going to lead to. I don’t claim that this is an ideal path: I still have not gotten back to being a full-time teacher of creative writing as I was in 2014, before I left Britain; and even then my income was barely enough to support a new family. But it has been a fun ride.

If I have advice for new teaching artists, it would be:

·      Find things to do that are the right things to do for you, however small at first.

·      Look for places to meet good people: people on the same wavelength as you.

·      Be as creative about your teaching are you are in your art.

Good luck!

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MALI Teacher Leader Story: Catherine Newell

March 13, 2019

Music Educator 

This is the last of six blog posts in 2019 that include stories of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 8 Teacher Leaders and Teaching Artist Leaders. This series includes a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about each leader. CLICK HERE  for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE  for more information on the 96 Teacher Leaders and 11 Teaching Artist Leaders. CLICK HERE  for Arts education resources. CLICK HERE for the MALI Resource Bank. Search in the “search archives” box on the bottom right side of this post for past teacher leader stories. Thank you Anthony for sharing your story!

Catherine teaching

Catherine Chesley Newell is a music educator who calls herself a “Once-And-Future Elementary Music Teacher”, because that’s what she was before she had her daughter and what she plans to do again in the future. Recently Catherine said: “Right now I have the supreme joy of teaching music with small groups of children ages 2-5 at Beansprouts Early Learning Center in Freeport. From a child development standpoint, this has been the most fascinating part of my career!”

CATHERINE’S STORY

What do you like best about being a music educator?

The magic of making a song or a rhyme or a movement artful. Children’s hands become beehives or sparks or stuck in the mud. A word becomes a laugh, a shout, or a sigh. A song becomes a declaration, an adventure, or maybe a wish. Everything is transformed by imagination into what is needed in that moment. What could be better than that?

What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?

A passion for learning and growth, delight in the success of others, and flexibility. Maybe not THE three keys, but they’re certainly my keys.

How have you found assessment to be helpful to you in your classroom?

If I don’t know where my students are, I can’t lift them up to where they want to go next. Assessment has an undeserved, negative reputation. It needs a rebrand! Assessment isn’t the problem; the problem is when some administrators and politicians think the data gathered should be used to punish educators.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the Maine Arts Leadership initiative?

There’s nothing like spending time with other passionate educators. I come away feeling energized and motivated and full of hope and inspiration. This has been one of the very best things I have been part of and I am so excited to continue our work.

What are you most proud of in your career?

All of the times I was afraid to try something new and did it anyway, or worked through a challenging experience. Especially if it was particularly scary (public speaking leaps to mind!) or the stakes were high. Those are the times I’ve grown the most as a person, musician, and educator.

What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher?

There so very many misconceptions about who is and who is not a musical person or learner. I find that reshaping perception around this is challenging work!

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

My transformation from a “band person” to a “little kids” person. I worked incredibly hard at the Kodály Music Institute to develop the skills I use today. I spent a good part of three years learning repertoire, solfege, pedagogy, and analyzing music. I studied until one or two in the morning every night of my summer sessions in Boston. It was wonderful and worthwhile and I loved it, but it was some of the hardest academic work I’ve ever done. It was, however, luck that landed me in a district that (despite having limited means) supported my summer study. Our local Maine Education Association chapter did a wonderful job negotiating a contract that prioritized professional development!

Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers?

Keep growing, keep learning, but take care of yourself, too. Say no when you need to, accept help when you can, and rejoice in your achievements harder than you dwell on your disappointments. Long-term goals are wonderful to have, but the climb is a lot easier if you celebrate along the way!

If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

A good friend of mine passed away at 26 from a lifelong, chronic disease. Her greatest wish was to live long enough to get to be a music teacher. I have long thought that if I ever became fabulously wealthy, I would start a fund in her name to support music education. I think $500K would probably be a good start!

Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets?

Taking so long to join MALI, of course!

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MALI Winter Retreat

March 6, 2019

Amazing day

The Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) held the annual Winter Retreat on Saturday at Waterville Senior High School. Thank you to music educator and teacher leader Sue Barre who provided and arranged for a space for us to meet, exchange and share ideas, and most importantly to learn from each other. This is the foundation of the MALI community.

2019 MALI Winter Retreat

I was curious about words that are related to community. On a recent google search I found the following: amity, benevolence, cordiality, friendliness, friendship, goodwill, kindliness. civility, comity, concord, harmony, rapport, charity, generosity. affinity, compassion, empathy, sympathy. chumminess, familiarity, inseparability, intimacy, nearness. affection, devotion, fondness, love. In Japanese the word is コミュニティ pronounced Komyuniti. In Greek the word is κοινότητα and pronounced koinótita. The Greek community is directly related to the culture and emerged and rose to great heights in 525 BC to 350 BC. The traditions that exist today are built on the original ideas.

When MALI educators come together the opportunity is about connecting with people, their idea, and all of those words in the previous paragraph that I found online. In addition, new learning is offered and depending on individual experiences educators enter the conversation from their own place. Everyone is a learner no matter how much experience they have with teaching, learning and/or living. MALI teacher leaders and teaching artist leaders range in teaching experience from 2 years to 49 years.

On Saturday we revisited the work that teacher leaders and teaching artist leaders have underway in this phase (8) of MALI. During this session we looked at the MALI “This We Believe” statements that are each defined. The titles include Arts Integration, Advocacy, Assessment Literacy, Creativity, Effective Educators: Teaching and Learning, Student-Centered Learning, Teacher Leadership and Social Responsibility. The revised definitions will be posted soon for each topic. I’m sure you’ll all agree that these are critical topics to the success of teaching and learning in arts education.

We were fortunate to have Brittany Ray, Director of TREE (Transforming Rural Experience in Education) speak with us about ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and how trauma interrupts the brains capacity to learn. Heavy stuff but so worthwhile to learn more. I will write more about this in later blog posts.

We had a chance to paint using Process Painting as a jumping off place. Listening to music and painting provided an opportunity to think about where we were as educators. And, the day finished out with information on HundrED and the resources and opportunities the organization provides. It’s difficult not to get excited about an organization that believes that the purpose of education is to help every child flourish, no matter what happens in life. HundrED is looking for Youth Ambassadors so if you have students who are interested in leading check out their Youth Ambassadors webpage.

The last of the Phase 8 MALI Teacher Leaders and Teaching Artist Leaders stories will be posted this next Tuesday on the blog. I hope you’ve had a chance to read about their journey’s.

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MALI Teaching Artist Leader: Joe Cough

March 5, 2019

Teaching Artist – Musician

This is one of six blog posts in 2019 that include stories of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 8 Teacher Leaders and Teaching Artist Leaders. This series includes a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about each leader. CLICK HERE  for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE  for more information on the 96 Teacher Leaders and 11 Teaching Artist Leaders. CLICK HERE  for Arts education resources. CLICK HERE for the MALI Resource Bank. Search in the “search archives” box on the bottom right side of this post for past teacher leader stories. Thank you Kerry for sharing your story!

Joseph Cough is a Music educator with a specialty in Voice, Guitar, Composition, Theory, Piano, Trumpet. He joined MALI this year as a teaching artist and teaches all ages at the Midcoast Music Academy.

I didn’t know right away that I wanted to teach people music.

In fact, for a long time, I was discouraged from pursuing a career in music and performing arts, either directly or indirectly. It wasn’t until I attended the College of the Atlantic where I actually thought that I was able to make anything from a music profession. I was greatly inspired by John Cooper, the professor of music there. His ear for music and ability to abstractly write out pitches that he heard (and sang back) was like watching an artist paint a canvas. I wanted to be able to do that too, if only for myself.

It was because of him that I needed to understand music inside and out. How does it work? Why does it work like that? Why is this pleasing to me aurally and this not? I wanted to know every detail about a piece of music, no matter who composed it. What scales were used? What modes? What chord progressions can be heard?

In large part, I’ve accomplished that.

Not to say that I understand EVERYTHING about music, but I’m now in a place where I have reached one goal. One goal, of many more. There are many things about music that I have yet to think about and discover. The list of what more I want to do is endless. I’ll never reach the end goal of complete musical proficiency and knowledge.

And that’s ok.

I don’t have those kinds of expectations of myself. In fact, I don’t have any expectations of myself. Well, I do expect myself to put all of my effort into what I’m doing, and to keep a positive and open-minded attitude, but I don’t have a master plan, or an end goal that, if not reached, means I’ve failed. I don’t fail.

Even when when I’ve cracked a note on stage, mistook a perfect 5th for a perfect 4th, muted a string incorrectly, or have played the same passage on the piano at a tortoise speed 28 times, I’ve learned from every one of those experiences. Learning what works, what doesn’t, what is challenging, what isn’t, these are all victories. Gaining this knowledge, despite its positive or negative effect is always and opportunity for growth. This is why I don’t fail.

This is why no one fails.

This is the most important message that I have for anyone who wants to listen.

This is more important than knowing your major scales from memory.

This is more important than having perfect singing posture.

This is more important than ‘good’ pedagogical practice.

There is no ‘good’ or ‘perfect’ or ‘best’ in music.

There is no ‘bad’ or ‘imperfect’ or ‘worst’ in music.

Music, to me, is an experiment. The great thing about this experiment is that when something goes awry, laboratories don’t explode, or things don’t catch on fire. Yet, many students that I’ve worked with over the years are so cautious around music as if one of these things might happen. The good news is, I’ve never seen anyone maimed because they squeaked when they sang, or melted because their dynamics were not interpreted correctly. This is how we learn. This is how we discover what we are. This is how we see what we’re capable of. A lot.

We have preconceived notions of what music should be, and what it shouldn’t be.   

If Schubert didn’t do this, it shouldn’t be done.

If Hendrix did this, it’s the right thing to do.

This is nonsense.

When I teach, I don’t show students what they should do to be a musician. We’re all musicians. We’re born that way. I strive to show them what they’re already capable of doing. Take risks, experiment, make ‘mistakes’ (if there is such a thing).

I’m not advocating that we shouldn’t or needn’t learn from the musicians of the past, and learn music in an academic way.

Schubert was a ‘master’ of German lieder, this is what he did and how he did it.

Hendrix transcended the guitar. This is what he practiced and how.

It’s important to learn all 12 major scales backwards and forwards.

It’s important to train your ear to hear all possible intervals on our tempered scale.

It’s vital to practice the physicality of your instrument.

There are many things someone studying music ought to know.

This is how we communicate with other musicians. This is a way to work with and collaborate with other music artists. If we all speak the same language, we can create stories together and understand them. Does this mean if someone isn’t ‘100% fluent’ in music that they won’t be able to speak and be understood?

No.

But the more we learn, the more we explore, the more curious we are, the more we can teach others our language, and they can teach us theirs. We can share our stories.

It has taken me a long time to truly understand this. Nothing about my musical experience came quickly, or easily. But instant gratification to me is cheap, and contains no substance. I’ve enjoyed every moment that I’ve picked up the guitar, sat at the piano, sang a self-created vocal exercise. I’m thankful that I can do it as often as I do. I wasn’t born with innate knowledge of music and ‘how it works’. We all have the ability to be musicians, but do we all have the time to invest in the craft? I’ve been told many times that I’m ‘talented’ or ‘gifted’ because I do what I do.

I’m not talented. No one is. Talent implies some divine deity bestowed a gift to me that I didn’t have to work at. I wasn’t born an experienced musician, but the hours that I’ve put into the craft give me that experience. This is the other message I have for any learners: our mindset dicates how far you can take your musical journey. Your thoughts tell you your story.

I hear this often in lessons. “This is too hard”, or “I’m just not good enough”, or “if only I started when I was 6 taking lessons, then I’d be good now”. These few word sentences are stories, and we often tell ourselves these stories over and over and over again. They become our story, our reality. The story ends, but is played on a loop. Again, and again, and again.

But what if we changed our stories to “this is challenging, but with more time, I’ll get it”, or “I’m not where I want to be yet musically, but I’ll continue to strive toward what I want to be”, or “this is what I’m capable of now, and I take stock of my accomplishments and will continue to add to them”. These stories don’t end. They are ever evolving. They have substance. They don’t just stop.

So, in a roundabout way, this is where I am now. Even for teaching, I continue to write and edit my story of what I want to be as an educator. In anything really. I literally can do whatever I want to artistically, professionally, etc. It just depends on how much time one has/wants to invest in it. I cannot create professional singers, or guitarists, or composers. But with time, anyone can create the artist within themselves. Any student can write the story in their own mind. Once in the mind, it can manifest itself in any way imaginable.

This is but a small sample of my story. A chapter. I don’t have all the answers. I’m not even sure I could give sound advice to a new incoming Teaching Artist. My style is different than everyone else’s. Maybe the only advice I could give would be to be kind to yourself. Teaching is, an art. Like anything, it needs to be practiced, tried, retried, reworked, adjusted. No one is born a ‘gifted’ educator. But I’ve learned and received some gifts along the way from my colleagues and mentors and teachers. This is why I’m happy to be a part of the Maine Art Leadership Initiative as a Teaching Artist Leader. I can learn from other’s experiences, and they can learn from mine.

What I learn from my colleagues and students in the coming years will all be included in the next chapter of my story.

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MALI Teacher Leader Story: Anthony Lufkin

February 26, 2019

Art Educator

This is one of six blog posts in 2019 that include stories of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 8 Teacher Leaders and Teaching Artist Leaders. This series includes a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about each leader. CLICK HERE  for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE  for more information on the 96 Teacher Leaders and 11 Teaching Artist Leaders. CLICK HERE  for Arts education resources. CLICK HERE for the MALI Resource Bank. Search in the “search archives” box on the bottom right side of this post for past teacher leader stories. Thank you Anthony for sharing your story!

Anthony Lufkin

Anthony Lufkin currently teaches art in RSU #40, at three small schools, including Friendship Village School, Prescott Memorial School, and Union Elementary School. In addition, Anthony teaches a weekly class at Rivers Alternative Middle School which is on the same premises as Union Elementary. This is Anthony’s 12thyear teaching; 4 years at Sedomocha Elementary in Dover-Foxcroft, 4 years at Appleton Village School in Appleton, and the rest in his current position. Presently, he has about 300 students that he sees once a week for about 40 minutes.

What do you like best about being an arts educator?

I like to create, whether for aesthetics or function, it is a gratifying experience for me to use my hands, to think visually, and experiment with ideas. The collaboration of ideas that comes with teaching and learning is as exciting for me as the creation process. Teaching art in my opinion, is visually capturing what already exists in students. It is harnessing the innate characteristics of art that drive creativity, expression, innovation, investigation, and the ability to develop fine motor skills.  It is a powerful tool, and a great opportunity. It is being immersed in the subject, refining skills, pushing creative boundaries, sharing ideas, and celebrating successes. While the logistics of the educational field may have its difficulties, I find the interaction with students, the development of ideas, and the growth in understanding and skill development in both students and myself, very rewarding.

One other thing I appreciate most about art education, is that I can help students respond to ideas through artistic mediums by developing their skills, knowledge, and understanding of the materials and therefore begin to understand the potential for communication. When students are able to make connections, transfer and apply their learning outside of the art room, it is both a fulfilling and motivating experience. Knowing what I am teaching them has application and seeing them utilizing it not only justifies what I do, but inspires me to develop more thought provoking, interconnected, and inspiring teaching practices

What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?

Three important components to a successful VPA program in my opinion, are resources, flexibility, and support.

Having access to quality resources will help define how students perceive art. This does not necessarily mean having the cake made for you, but having the materials and tools to make it.  There is a distinct difference in feeling if you are working in a shared space versus having a designated studio space. The same applies to materials. We don’t need to give oil paints to kindergarteners, but we need to use materials the same way we project high expectations on students if we expect them to value the experience.

One of the nice things about teaching art is that it is more expansive than linear, allowing for more flexibility in curriculum than most subjects. It does not mean just doing whatever, but rather having the ability to experiment, to find new ways to connect with students, and to try new methods and materials. Making progressive and relevant changes is important in education and requires at least some experimentation to implement. This flexibility also allows room for educators to connect more with their students interests, making the information relevant and creating applicable associations for students. I firmly believe there is still a linear progression to art education, however, there are many pathways to getting there. Having the ability to customize it to a specific audience, will create a more relatable and impactful experience.

Similar to resources, perception of the art program is important to student engagement. Having the support of administration, colleagues, parents and community members, not only makes our job easier, it also creates a positive assumption in students that there is value in what we do. When parents and teachers are engaged with what is happening, students naturally develop a stronger sense of importance. What a community values can easily be seen in its children. If we are to have a successful VPA program, we need to build and foster support.

How have you found assessment to be helpful to you in your classroom?

I have found informal assessment to be an invaluable tool in developing student growth both in skills, and conceptual understanding. Being able to respond to students throughout the process allows me to interject when students are struggling, and to provide support to help them understand the components of techniques and expression of ideas. With the limited amount of time I have with students, I have found verbal formative assessments to be the most beneficial and productive to students’ growth. I also include some critiquing components such as visual thinking skills when looking artwork to help students analyze and create meaning. Helping them create meaning is as important as helping them create.

MALI Critical Friend Day, November 2018

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the Maine Arts Leadership initiative?

I joined MALI this year after talking to several other VPA educators that recommended it. I was aware of its existence but not really sure about its application. Becoming involved with MALI has been motivational, providing a platform for creating improvements. Through the collaborative exercises, the processes of feedback, and the access to resources, it has helped me begin a pathway to creating improvement I would have otherwise thought incapable of happening. There is always room for improvement. Using MALI as a platform has already helped foster more impact on making some of those improvements a reality. There is a lot of work to do within my logic model, but I feel confident through this process that I will be able to influence the necessary stakeholders to move in a positive direction.

What are you most proud of in your career?

As I continue in the teaching profession, there are a few things that really motivate me, and keep invested in my work. Visual culture is such a huge and underrated component of society so creating awareness has always been a driving factor for me. To create awareness, I have sought to create opportunities for students to see how art is integrated throughout life experiences and give them the tools to actively participate in communication through visual literacy. I am proud of the integrated, collaborative, and extracurricular opportunities I have been able to provide students.

As students develop, there is a gradual shift from the creativity and skill development of traditional art mediums to a more social awareness that tends to start a gradual decline in participation and eventually interest in art. I know most students enjoy creating, but it becomes a balance of time, a self-conscious view of abilities and self, and drive towards financial stability that stifles their continued growth.  Creating opportunities that make connections for students, has helped to keep them engaged, and helped them see the relevance and possibilities that art can have on their lifestyle and career. Not everyone will make a career out of art, but everyone can and should appreciate it for what is, as a reflection of humanity.

What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher?

Currently, one of my biggest obstacles is the logistics of my position. Being an itinerant teacher, and only seeing students once a week makes it very difficult to create any continuity. Just working in separate spaces, toting materials between schools, working in a gymnasium for the majority of my classes are a few of the difficulties of the position.

Another difficult component to teaching art in my position are the natural interruptions that cause missed classes. There have been times that I have not seen students over the course of a month due to snow days, field trips, sick days, etc. It is very hard to maintain sequential learning without continuity and to teach transferable concepts, when students don’t have enough time and access to the material.

And, of course time.

Anthony at the Gala celebrating the Maine Teacher of the Year educators. Anthony is the 2018 Knox County Teacher of the Year.

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

Something I have spent a lot of time on is the development of curriculum and lesson plans that are both relevant and engaging. The more times I teach something, the more connections I can make, and the more clearly I see the effectiveness. My “curriculum” is as it should be, is in constant flux.  There are some tried and true lessons I do not change much, but most are adapted regularly and I am constantly on the lookout for better ways to build skills and convey concepts. I am sure it looks like any other art class to most, but there are many details and research I have put into my process.  Understanding developmental levels, how to have high but reasonable standards, how to structure building blocks of learning both over the course of a year and over several years, are all important aspects that may not be noticed but I believe make a huge difference in how effective and art education can be.

Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers?

Teaching is a social service. It is not a lucrative job and success is not based on a financial scale. It is though, one of the most rewarding occupations one can have. You are given the opportunity to influence the future more than anyone else. It is a powerful and humbling experience.

There is the saying that there are two types of people, those that work to live, and those that live to work. There should be a balance though, being self-aware and allowing time to step back, is crucial to the longevity of a successful teaching career. It is also important to work in a field you enjoy. However, to truly appreciate something, you need to be able to see it from other perspectives as well so it is important to take a step back every once in a while. There is the quote by Marc Anthony, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life”. True to some degree, though I would argue that all success requires hard work. Being able to see the big picture and being passionate about it, gives a sense of accomplishment and gratitude to the work that is being done. I like the quote by Dr. J a little better: “Being a professional is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don’t feel like doing them”.

Some other advice, be passionate. If you’re not excited about it, neither will your students. Even if it’s not your favorite thing to teach, teach it with enthusiasm. Being passionate is projected and will create interest.

Finally, have a plan, and a back-up plan, and maybe even plan C. There can be many difficulties to teaching whether it is specific students, administration, parents, access to materials or resources, etc. If you are not prepared for these, they can derail you. If you are though, you can take them in stride, and not let them cripple your perspective on teaching. You’ll also look good doing it.

MALI Summer Institute, August 2018, USM

If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

I feel like the most fiscally responsible thing to do with such a large amount of money would be to invest it. Using the interest, I would think I would be able to create a system of sustainable growth contributing to the enhancements of the art programs and facilities in my district and community first, then possibly expand to other areas of the state.

Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets?

I do and would regret opportunities I was not able to take advantage of. We only have one life to live so I think it is important to make the most of it. However, if we are always trying to take advantage of opportunities, it is easy to get burnt out and lose focus on what matters. It is important to see and appreciate the little things that make life so great. One of the benefits of having a job directly focused in art, is that it encourages me to take time to look closely at things, to identify and appreciate the subtleties that make life so interesting.

So, my regrets don’t mean I am disappointed with the direction my life has and will go. The events in my life have shaped who I am. The path I have taken has sculpted the way I think, interact, and of course teach. Therefore, it is the destiny I have put forth. Plus, I teach art for a living. I think that’s hard to beat.

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Midcoast Music Academy

February 20, 2019

Creating new music

Midcoast Music Academy (MCMA) provides strong opportunities for learners of all ages to learn music and in addition, they support and encourage ‘out of the box’ thinking.
An example of this recently took place when instructors Tom Luther and Joe Cough co-taught a lesson with the intention of coaching students to create a new piece of music. Tom and Joe are both Teaching Artists Leaders with the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI). The students, Cameron Pinchbeck (alto sax) and Aili Nell Charland (guitar), improvised and performed an amazing piece. They started with Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”, and their improvisation took them to a totally new work. Tom said: “I think that this is a great example of what can happen when you give students choice, and help them to believe that their story is worth telling.”

LINK TO THEIR PIECE

Midcoast Music Academy (MCMA) is a community music school founded in January 2012 and located in downtown Rockland, Maine that provides the highest quality music instruction to students of all ages and skill levels in a fun, relaxed, and creative environment. MCMA emphasizes access to music education regardless of financial constraints and combines the fundamentals of music – theory, notation, and ear training – with a contemporary approach to learning. At MCMA, we believe students should learn to play what they love and love what they play.
If you have questions please contact Tom Luther and Joe Cough.
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