By Luke Reece
It’s only recently that I started referring to myself as an artist educator. This is probably because I’m working this fall as an Apprentice Resident Artist Educator with Young People’s Theatre, and I need to get used to the term. I’ve always considered myself an artist, creating stories with pictures and words since I could pick up a crayon. I’ll even say that I’ve been educating since the day my younger sister was born. Bringing these two words together however, this is new.
Without knowing it at the time, I think that what I really wanted to get out of the two days of training at YPT was a better understanding of what my role is as an artist educator.
Jump to one and three-quarter days later, and I’m standing with a group of student experts in grades 4 and 5, pretending to be pencils. Did I put in my lesson plan that we were going to be pencils in order to stand still and listen? Nope. Nor did I include the part where you had to find a pencil sharpener to sharpen your pencil-person, to get into partners for the activity. It just happened, and they went for it. They were there with me, accepting my offerings. Before the whole pencil thing took shape I had noticed some of the students ‘dabbing’ (this is a dance move). I took this as an offering from them, and included the dabbing motion in my warm-up activity. I think the point I’m trying to make is that I discovered this was a give and take relationship. I worked with what they gave me, so they worked with what I gave them.
Anne Wessels [of Tarragon Theatre] said on the first day of training that we should think about the kind of environment we want to create as artist educators who are facilitators. We facilitate creation instead of managing classrooms. I think that’s wonderful. The moment when the students all found a partner and started ‘sharpening’ each other was when I realized that this is the kind of space I want them to have, where everyone is accepting and trying new ideas. It was one thing to talk about it on day one, but a completely different experience to work with the children on day two. I definitely have a better understanding of my role, and I’ve put it to the test! However, I might start calling myself an artist educator/facilitator instead.