Saturday, June 7, 2014

Less Doing, More Being

8th grade boy in Newark, looking.  (M.A. Reilly, 1998)

I. Entering

Grade 5 students from New Rochelle
engage in art conversations. (M.A. Reilly, 2006)

1st graders  in Rensselaer listening
to stories (M.A. Reilly, 2006)
I'm not sure what year it was when I finally began to realize that I was changing as a teacher in what I would later label as profound. It was a time that was uncomfortable and yet energizing. It was then I began to better notice how and what my students were almost learning and not learning. I was keen to notice what they were doing, (un)knowing, and learning that I had not taught, prepared for, or even considered.

There was delight in those days.

1st graders in Newark thinking.  (M.A. Reilly, 2012)

This was also a time when I actively began to photograph my students at work, realizing that observing them and their work was infinitely more critical, more important than the more traditional teaching roles I had worn.

In this manner, causality gave way to occasioning.

Looking through a lens allowed me quiet and the time to observe--to create the teaching in a different manner. The distance created by the lens encouraged me to reframe the classroom by opening myself to wonder.

I was finally confident enough as a teacher to slip into the skin of a learner.

This was a time of great pleasure.


Newark (M.A. Reilly, 2012)
 “Do not seal off the stage.Leaning back, let the spectator be awareOf the busy preparation going onCunningly intended for him. He seesA tin moon floating down, a shingle roofBrought in. Don’t show him too much.But do show him! And, friends, let him be aware that
You are not conjurers, but workers.”         - Bertolt Brecht

Learner as worker is a critical stance--be it in the role of teacher or student or a hybrid of each.

Newark (M.A. Reilly, 2013)

It takes a certain level of confidence and commitment to make this type of shift as it requires us to stay curious,
to be vulnerable
       and wrong,
to                        open large spaces                       for wonder

and (un)knowing,

to feel the joy of being,

           and to listen to the silences

          and observe keenly.

These days there's a lot of attention placed on what and even how to teach. And perhaps this is helpful.  Nonetheless, we have to be willing to know that there is no path to follow in what is largely a wilderness.

We have to be willing to fail better.

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