Saturday, November 7, 2009

What Beat Do You Teach To?

by Ann Abbott

Do the classes you teach (or attend) have a chorus--a theme that repeats, as you circle through activities that each bring new insight onto the same topic?

Does the conclusion of your class period echo the introduction, not repeating it exactly but sounding with a deeper timbre because of the work that you and your students did during the previous 50 minutes?

Sometimes one part of my lesson comes to a full stop, with a full-measure rest, before going on to the next part. Most times, though, I like to slip from one activity to the next through a quick, deft transition that links the old and the new.

Professor Liora Bresler is a world-renowned expert on aesthetic education and the qualitative research method. She is also a good friend of mine. The interview with her in the latest Inside Illinois develops the metaphor that teaching (and research) is a musical performance.

How can use this metaphor to explore community service learning (CSL) teaching more deeply? Here are a few thoughts:

  • While traditional classroom teaching might be considered a solo effort (although, of course, it isn't really), teaching a CSL course is highly collaborative. The various stakeholders must be present (even if just present in the content) in your teaching. How do you bring the community members' "voice" into your classroom sessions? Ask students to relate specific encounters that they had with community members. Show a video about or by Spanish-speaking community members as the foundation of a classroom activity. Invite your community partners to lead a class session.
  • Think creatively about the musical instruments you use in your CSL class. My children are lucky to attend a school with a wonderful music program, including Mr. Chad Dunn and his Recycled Rhythms. They use found objects to create rhythm instruments. This creative form of recycling produces wonderful instruments and learning opportunities. What objects do your students "find" in the community, and how can you bring them alive in the classroom? Invite your students to collect real-world Spanish words and phrases that they've never seen in a textbook, then do something with those words in class. Do they discover places (stores, restaurants, offices, Latino-owned businesses, or entire communities!) that they didn't know existed before they started leaving campus to go to their CSL work? Use class time to create a Google Map with those community assets and share it with others.
  • In what other ways does the music metaphor work in a CSL course?

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