School Name: Telpochcalli
Teacher Name: Dana Castellon
Teaching Artist Name: Laura Sáenz
Big Idea: Our stories in our language
Inquiry: How can we record and share our personal stories in Spanish and bring them to life through video
1. Planning: What interests and curiosities were brought to the planning by each of you?
I am really interested in language and how to support our students as dual language learners. Laura was interested in stories, families and movement. Her work at StoryCorps and my interest in promoting the value of Spanish resulted in our plan to have students use Spanish to tell their stories.
Teaching Artist response:
I was interested in bringing together my background in movement and performance with my recent work in storytelling, archiving and sharing stories. Being bilingual, I really responded to Dana’s work as bilingual coordinator now at Telpochcalli after being a classroom teacher. We had done a SCALE theater program at Telpochcalli 11 years ago and wanted to work together again.
2. The Project: Tell the story of your project. What happened in the classroom?
We started off the year by talking about why we wanted the students stories, and why we wanted to have more media in Spanish. We worked on telling stories, interviewing, active listening, asking follow up questions, and some recording skills. We adjusted our original plan based on the students and their needs. We worked together to get ready to go to record at the StoryCorps booth by practicing with different students.
3. How did you check in throughout the project to plan and adjust plans as the project unfolded?
We checked in regularly in class, before class, after class, and on e-mail. We were sharing our reflections and ways we thought we could adjust our plans. Our communication seems to go well as far “how did that go?” “What if we try_____?”
4. What are the conflicts, contradictions or challenges of your teacher/artist collaboration?
I think we struggled some with how much to tell students and how much to let them explore. Laura as the expert often wanted to make sure to explain the filming. I would sometimes worry about their ability to pay attention and would want to make sure they started the work. That can be challenging when they don’t fully understand the steps. I think that is a good representation of the conflict of teaching in general, that balance between explaining and exploring.
Teaching Artist response:
There were several challenges but they were all part of the process of discovering how to work together again and finding our way through the ideas of story, language and performance video. I have been out of the classroom for awhile, so I needed to re-learn how to focus big ideas into a concrete lesson plan for each day. We were also experimenting with approaches – some of them worked others didn’t. My biggest challenge is to keep the student’s attention and engage them in self-discovery after a long day of school (physically and mentally) and also with students that are still learning their own way or “own language” of conversation with another. I think our modern tech world has cut conversations short and we needed to re-learn the art of face to face, real, in-person conversation (looking at someone in the eyes) as well as deep active listening.
5. What are you learning as a result of collaborating with one another in terms of teaching and art making?
Laura had great ideas about the ways to get the students to explore more about their stories. She brings great games and activities for the students. I also love to hear her speak Spanish and I aspire to improve my Spanish.
Teaching Artist response:
Dana focuses my big idea thinking into small parts that can be developed into a lesson plan for the class. She also made sure that our lessons offered clear guidance and steps the students could follow but which still allowed them to explore and create on their own. Because she has been longer in the classroom than I have, she reminds me of the tools I need to be able to keep the students engaged and focused and what won’t work with certain grade levels or ages that might work with others. Equally how to balance classroom dynamics and choose student partners that complement and challenge each other.
6. How has the community-focused component of the project contributed to or challenged your teacher/artist collaboration?
I think that the concept of our own stories in our own language (Nuestras Historias) is a key component of community. I think the two ideas are intertwined. So it is a contribution that helps remind us why it is important.
Teaching Artist response: We had aspired to bring in the stories of our community and families more to this project but slowly realized that the students still needed time to develop their own personal stories as well as there own language of how to tell them (especially in Spanish if that is more of a “second language” they use). I think perhaps it could be a part of something we develop for the Spring after our exhibit or a separate SCALE project another year. Reaching out to Storycorps and having our students take a trip on the train (for some their first) to downtown and listening to stories of others has been another way of engaging outer communities and worlds.