| Nov 8, 2019
Tools for Educators Everywhere
Mural In Process
We are at an exciting moment in the yearly arc of our programming as we get to see glimpses of the impact our in-school artist residences are making. I had the pleasure of sitting in on a residency session in a theatre classroom at Neelsville Middle School where teaching-artist Drew A., engaged students in discussions and writing exercises around exploring and breaking stereotypes. Drew invited students on stage to read and perform early versions of their writing, asking them to use the voices, imaginations, bodies, and ensemble (or V.I.B.E.) to bring the writing to life. We know teachers and teaching-artists across the country are not always able to sit in on sessions like these and learn from other practitioners. Our virtual classroom expands access to these resources and opportunities to bring arts-based tools into classrooms, workplaces, and communities.
My work with Story Tapestries began in summer 2018. I joined the team as a teaching assistant, supporting a visual artist to lead Neelsville Middle School students in Germantown, Maryland to design and create two murals for their school. One student in particular, “John,” stands out when I reflect on that summer program. John was incredibly quiet, didn’t engage with many of the other students, and never raised his hand when the group was asked a question. When we brought out the paints to start realizing our design, he worked silently on his corner, intensely focused. Cleaning spilled paint out of my hair (one of the tubes had exploded), I saw John working on his corner of the mural, intensely focused. I stopped and watched while he carefully applied the paint, blending from lavender to deep purple that just pulled you into the piece.
I flashed back to my middle school self as I watched John paint. I recognized his shyness in myself. I recognized his inability to easily engage with his peers, his hesitancy to raise his hand even though he knew the answer to our questions. At the moment, another student was walking behind John, stopped, and asked, “How’d you do that?!” pointing to the gradient purples. From that moment John became a consultant to other student’s mural sections. He helped others blend their paint, get a clean edge, and troubleshoot issues. I witnessed John become visible to himself and to his peers.
In my new role, every time I visit Neelsville Middle School to support our continued programming at the school and pass that mural, I see another section of John’s handiwork that I hadn’t noticed before. I always pause and take a moment to remind myself what incredible power arts experiences have for students (and had for me, when I was John’s age). I know for myself, the confidence and voice I found in my youth through artmaking supported me in all of my subjects, helped me connect with peers and teachers, and made me feel more of a part of the school community.
As we enter into the season of gratitude and giving, I am grateful for these moments to reflect on the impact your support helps us make in the lives of the young people and school communities we serve as well as the communities those who use the resources in our virtual classroom serve. These tools and resources support educators to help students find their voices, to connect more fully with each other and the content they are learning, and recognize that their contributions matter.
We would love the opportunity to connect as we approach the end of our calendar year. If you are local to the Washington Metropolitan area, mark your calendars for December 10 when Story Tapestries will be performing as a part of the World Holiday Bazaar in Silver Spring. If you are not local to the area, please join us on Facebook. Reach out, comment on our posts, or send us a note and let us know what you are grateful for!
Learning through V.I.B.E.