Say yes to ‘out-of-the-box’ teaching

‘Stories of the Land and its People: The Film’
By Reade Brower | Aug 16, 2012

I love “yes” people.

Recently, I was part of that group. I was a “yes” person and got the payoff for saying “yes” when invited to support a friend at a movie opening at The Strand Theatre in Rockland last Sunday to watch a documentary film; it was a student-made film called “Stories of the Land and its People: The Film.” The film was a partnership between the Farnsworth Art Museum and four rural schools in the Midcoast.

The reward for being a “yes” person was rich and deep; I got to experience and participate in a heartwarming circle of people and came away encouraged that perhaps our society does have a chance and that perhaps our future is in capable hands.

The Farnsworth Art Museum is an asset that most of us in Midcoast Maine understand but perhaps take for granted, and, at least for me, don’t realize the reach and depth of its current involvement in the lives of our children and educators here in the Midcoast.

My hope for the future last Sunday stems from out-of-the-box thinking that there is a better way to integrate teachers and students to create more and better ways of learning. After watching the movie, I was motivated to write this and encourage all those in Midcoast Maine to honor the future and, most importantly, our teachers.

Andrea Curtis of Rockland spearheaded the program and led the charge for Roger Dell, director of education at the Farnsworth, and his Farnsworth team that partnered with Julia’s Gallery to create an art show and to make the movie documenting the experience of both the educators and the students creating art and photography journalism that told the stories of the land and people that make up four rural communities of Midcoast Maine.

Nicole Marie Fuller directed the production with more than a half-dozen area high school students who took charge of the movie by scoring the music, directing photography, doing voice-overs, and handling the boom and other production functions.

The movie and show were both extraordinary, but that is only part of the story and not the reason I want to share this experience.

I want to share because viewing this film gave a glimpse of the way that education can be a collaborative effort and can excite and motivate educators and students.

It was the smiling faces of the children, it was their engagement in the process, and it was the teamwork of teachers — a combination of teacher and student that was powerful and meaningful.

The key cornerstone was that the classrooms and outside learning experiences were full of support and cemented by respect from and to the teachers.

With support and respect, many things will grow. Bullying will stop because it doesn’t have room to breathe in that atmosphere. Learning will increase incrementally when teachers are excited and students follow that lead.

Simply put, when we treat children with respect and excitement, they respond. When we treat teachers with respect and excitement, they respond.

In our current model too often the classroom teacher is overburdened with paperwork, student ratios are too high, and administrators don’t support and nurture creative learning so the stale air stifles the teachers and the classrooms, breeding and manifesting lethargic and ho-hum business-as-usual education.

The excitement created by engaging our young people was intoxicating and we should thank and honor the Farnsworth for spearheading this effort and for all they are doing to incorporate art into learning and for fostering an education model that will get us the results and humanity we are in desperate search for.

The Farnsworth also lends its financial support to the internationally renowned Lincoln Center Institute and offers teachers from Midcoast Maine the opportunity to attend these “world-class professional development” workshops while covering the tuition and costs of providing the five-day workshop annually from its Farnsworth location to many Midcoast educators.

These innovative teaching methods and experiences must be encouraged if we are to keep our teachers interested and engaged and our students understanding the value of their work and how it can motivate others and move a community forward.

Do our Midcoast world a favor: honor a teacher today and ask them how you can support their efforts with our children. Thank the Farnsworth for their commitment to art, education, and for what they do in the community they are a part of.

Challenge yourself to be part of the process, to be part of the movement, to be part of the success; I have heard that parents are the primary teachers and that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree — I believe that and I take it to heart.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Carol W Bachofner | Aug 18, 2012 08:13

I would add that in "honoring a teacher" we refrain from berating their efforts and complaining that they have too much time off and make too much money. (Neither of these is true, by the way)

These fine and dedicated people are on the front lines with the students, helping parents to shape their futures. Parents need to support their efforts, and participate at the level of the kitchen table. Consider when the last time was that you visited your child's classroom to do more than drop off forgotten homework? Have you volunteered to help with projects?Have you sent a teacher a nice encouraging note?  If you can't recall the occasions, perhaps it is time to step up and get involved. Honor the teacher, yes indeed, but HELP the teacher by doing your part is more important. As someone famous said, "it takes a village."

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