Alysa Adams—a first-year master’s student at the University of Maryland, studying Teacher Leadership and Arts Integration—shares a piece of her experience in the Phillips’s virtual Summer Teacher Institute, Seeing Differently: You, Your Students, and Arts Integration. The program focused on integrating the arts into the curriculum while adapting teaching and learning for each educator’s specific students. Alysa reflects on the program, in particular the session with guest teaching artist Jeffrey Kent, a Baltimore-based multidisciplinary artist.
First and foremost, I am an artist. I was an artist before I became an educator, camp counselor, and babysitter. “How come I have not been making any art?” came to mind during the second session of the Summer Teacher Institute. With other obligations I get entangled with, I may not explore new artists or engage in different styles of art-making for MONTHS. I used to make art every week, sometimes every day, and the absence of art-making showed in my lackluster lessons. I was reminded of the importance of regularly engaging in art-making and art study through this program.
From the moment I picked up a canvas, shredded money, matte gel medium, and glitter, on the day Jeffrey Kent joined the program, my mind became colorful again. I felt like my 10-year-old self using my dad’s shredded work papers to craft a flawed but well-loved maraca. I became inspired to make artwork outside of my career and for myself. I also became excited to look into new artists and interact with new pieces of artwork that I could share or model a lesson off of with my students.
The “I was an artist first” mindset led me to feel a powerful urge to take my own creative liberties and make out-of-the-box lessons to teach to my students. I developed a detailed lesson unit focusing on learning about social issues through visual arts, the Prism strategy Empathize, and developing our own classroom book based on the story She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World by Chelsea Clinton. To say I am excited to teach this unit is an understatement. I cannot wait to see how my students take creative liberties, just as I did, and interact with the content while developing their work of art.