Episode 19 – Advice from a Visual Artist with Jan Butler

Art and Butterflies
Art and Butterfly Migration in Northeastern Oklahoma

Episode 19 features artist and art teacher, Jan Butler. Jan is a former collaborator and my forever friend. Jan’s background is in 2D, and 3D art, as well as puppeteering. She works with students in stop motion animation, graphic novels, pottery, mask making AND she teaches kids all about monarch butterfly migration and supports the butterfly population in Northeastern Oklahoma. On top of all that, Jan is a member of the Tulsa Oratorio Chorus and a consummate gardener.

Be sure to listen until the end of the interview for Concise Advice from the Interview, and Words of Wisdom from George.

If you haven’t signed up for the SallyPAL freebies like theatre comics, super helpful links and articles, and the awesome cool sections of your Creator’s Notebook, you can sign up on SallyPAL.com/join to get your 20-page free theatre resource. It’s useful, entertaining, and you can do your pop quizzes right out of these pages. We’ll keep building on it every month.

Concise Advice from the Interview:
Here are 10 bits of advice from visual artist Jan Butler for all artists.

10 Layer your learning to build on what you already know

9 Think bigger than the moment you’re doing your art

8 Focus on the story you want to tell

7 Feed and nurture your inner artist

6 For children to feel they can express something in different ways is really important

5 Getting to experience something through different senses before it becomes academic really makes learning stick

4 The opportunity to work at something and fail without being judged for it is really important

3 As a teacher, you can be creative and free to be an artist for you instead of for people who purchase your work

2 Be open and search for new experience for both you and your students to keep it fresh

1 Whatever you do, do it for yourself

 

 

Episode 13 – Authentic Writer Voice with Sheila Black

About Sally and the Performing Arts Lab

Authentic Writing
Episode 13 features an interview with Sheila Black. Sheila is a published poet and writing professor. She’s been teaching creative writing for over 20 years. While teaching, Sheila continues to practice her craft. This allows her to nurture new writers, and kick butt when necessary.

Teaching from the Heart
In fact, Sheila spends most of her time writing. She also spends time with her students in college classrooms and writing workshops. Sheila’s curriculum encourages students to write authentically and discover their voice. She also encourages her students to perform their own work. The feedback from a live audience promotes more authentic writing.

Writing from the Heart
If you’re in the Tulsa area, sign up for Sheila Black’s writing intensive: Writing from the Heart. This 5-week creative writing workshop encourages authentic expression. The workshop meets from 6-7:30pm every Thursday evening and starts September 21. To find out more, contact Sheila at semanticsblack@yahoo.com.

Bonus Material
After my conversation with Sheila, you’ll hear Concise Advice from the Interview. And if you wait until the end, you’ll hear Words of Wisdom from George. Stick around after the show for the flubs. They’re authentic. Now go create something brilliant!

Let Go and Let Godot
I am a writer, and most of my writing is written for performance. This is a type of writing that can be pretty scary. When I think about a room full of people listening to my words, it can get in the way of authentic expression. As a result, I might try writing to please an imaginary future audience.

Start Small
It helps to let go of my fear if I start small. Maybe I can start by reading aloud to myself. I can probably find a supportive friend who is willing to listen to a few pages. After that, I might even have a reading of the work with friends at my house. When I’ve gotten over pleasing other people, finally, I can get down to authentic writing. That is, writing from my heart and not from my ego or my brain. Save the editing for later. For now, sit down and write!

Episode 8 – Educational Theatre

Arts Educators Empower the Next Generation
Arts educators bear a special responsibility. They must provide feedback that opens young artists to take creative risks.  At the same time they teach technical aspects that are hard to master. For teachers, lifting up while calming down can be challenging but rewarding. When students reach college they have some ideas of their own. They also have some performance habits, both good and bad.

Pitfalls for an Arts Educator 
To be an arts educator in a college setting you must be relevant. That means practicing your art while teaching classes. This is always a good idea. But it comes with pitfalls. For a performing artist it means your students will see your work. That can be scary. Students are often supportive. But they can also be very judgemental. If you are not confident in your work, you could lose status as an arts educator. Lisa Stefanic is a working artist and an arts educator. When Lisa is in the classroom, she brings her vast knowledge of what actually works (and doesn’t work) on the stage. When students see her work outside the classroom, it’s clear she knows what she is talking about.

Arts Educator Lisa Stefanic
Today’s episode of SallyPAL is an interview with actor, director, arts educator, and acting coach, Lisa Stefanic. If you’re a fan of Weird Al Yankovich, you may remember her as Phyllis, the Wheel of Fish contestant in his feature length movie, “UHF”. Lisa has performed in or directed more shows than could fit on a resume. She has starred in several original shows. She also teams up with her husband, Vern Stefanic, to help students create new works. We talk about teaching, developing new talent, making old shows new again, and a variety rehearsal techniques.

But Wait… There’s More!
Be sure to listen until the end for Concise Advice from the Interview and Words of Wisdom from George.
Arts Educator Lisa Stefanic teaches theatre classes at Tulsa Community College and as a private coach.
Arts Educator Lisa Stefanic

Episode 3 – Young Performers

Listen to Episode 3 – Student Performers with Daniel Bowers

Shakespearean Moments
As the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) comes under fire and the conversation for saving the arts in schools pops up on social media yet again, I want to introduce you to Daniel Bowers. Daniel is a well-rounded kid with a hunger for performing. He sings in choir, he acts on the stage. It would not surprise me to see him take up tap dancing. Despite being a 6’4” 15-year-old football player, Daniel speaks as eloquently on acting as any acting coach. He credits his stage experience with building confidence, making friends, learning how to solve problems under pressure, and developing an appetite for working with a diverse group of people creating a big collaborative work from the ground up. These all seem like the things we would want kids to learn to succeed in life, never mind having a career as an actor. I met Daniel when he entered 6th grade at the school where I taught theater arts. He seemed to be a quiet kid but there was a lot going on in that busy brain. In addition to being an avid reader, Daniel is interested in history, languages, and making people laugh with the cast of characters living in his head. He auditioned for Alice in Wonderland. After landing a small role, he set about creating a character that stole the show. Without mugging, or ad libbing, Daniel did something adult actors occasionally miss. He took what was on the page along with a small bit of directing, and he created a memorable moment within the context of a story. I have directed Daniel in two other plays and it has always been a joy. The last show, Juliet Rescue, was a new piece written by my son, Will Inman (episode 2) and me. Daniel played “Young Will Shakespeare”.  He eagerly took on the role and, while speaking in the Bard’s style, he created several hilarious moments that added warmth to the play. When I retired from teaching a year ago, I told him to come visit me in Virginia and I would take him to the Folger Library in Washington DC. It is the foremost Shakespearean library in the world. Daniel and his mom took me up on my offer and we spent quite some time learning about the collection at the Folger. I can imagine Daniel on stage there one day. But for now, I am thrilled to have seen him savor another kind of Shakespearean moment. There are lots of kids who benefit from performance experience. They are girls and boys, shy and outspoken, theatre nerds and athletes, straight-A students and strugglers, and everyone in between. They are a generation of leaders and innovators. And we want them all to have Daniel’s confidence. I hope you will enjoy Episode 3 of SallyPAL with Daniel Bowers.

Listen to Episode 3 – Student Performers with Daniel Bowers Folger2

Listen to Episode 3 – Student Performers with Daniel Bowers https://sallypal.podbean.com/mf/web/sgeydf/Ep_3_Student_Performers_with_Daniel_Bowers.mp3

Arts Teachers Know This Already!

Student ArtistThis is a terrific article written last May for the Washington Post online magazine.  My friend and fellow arts instructor, Jan, sent it to me today.  It reiterates what I have been saying to anyone who will listen: Improved test scores are not an adequate reason to include or exclude a subject area.  Arts have intrinsic value not specifically related and yet foundational to learning in core subject areas.

Middle School Minute(-ish)

Because writing 3X a week was becoming more and more challenging as my school year progressed, a friend suggested instead of blogging, I try vlogging!  Here it is, my first vlog of the new year.  Look for a focus on Middle School and Arts Education!

Developing a Sense of Humor Rather Than a Sense of Outrage: Why Reporting Bullying is only Part of the Answer

A Fledgling Teacher-Led School Trend

Palmer Park Preparatory Academy

My husband found an interesting blog post on the idea of the teacher-led school model.  The idea of a greater presence in the classroom for decision-makers is one which piques my interest.  I am fortunate to work in an educational community where everybody’s involved in student life.  It’s a bit like living in a small town.  Mrs. Crabtree tells your Sunday School teacher what she saw and the milkman noticed something too and we’re all talking to your mom.  But I digress… Enjoy the post:

A Fledgling Teacher-Led School Trend.

Grassroots Education Reform Begins with Us

Barnett Berry Video
I gather that some people have had trouble with the embedded video so I am instead making it a link to the Edutoipia site where you can view his video as well as other resources related to education reform.  Thanks for letting me know!

5 minute Barnett Berry video

Barnett Berry is the president and CEO of the advocacy organization Center for Teaching Quality.  In the preceding video he clarifies for all of us just who is going to reform our current system and outlines ways in which that can be done.  He bases his ideas on what he calls the Four Emergent Realities:

The Four Emergent Realities include:

1. A new learning ecology that provides a “24-7, just-in-time” learning environment with specific assessment tools.

2. Having teachers trained and working both in and out of Cyberspace.

3. Teachers working as teams with a structure to support differentiated teaching careers over time.

4. Teacher-preneurs (we used to refer to these progressive educators as mentors) who teach but are also allowed time, space, geography (connecting in person or online) and reward to spread expertise in and out of Cyberspace.

I think Barnett may be onto something.


	

Fast Track Preschool

Children in Jerusalem.
Image via Wikipedia

This New York Times story of preschool madness elicits an obvious response: “Are these parents crazy?”  There are more subtle forms of directed learning that may thwart rather than propel children. We all know that an over-scheduled child can become a stressed-out child.  It would take a month’s worth of blogs to identify negatives associated with stress. For this post I’ll stick to the theme of directed learning.  I should call it over-directed learning.

I have seen teachers and parents (including me) pulling their hair in frustration because a child won’t go along with our learning structure.  I am a fan of giving a certain amount of structure to kids. This includes a few rules, a reliable schedule and logical consequences. That structure allows kids freedom to create within a psychologically safe environment. But here is where I differ from those who push their children to earn their place among the learning superstars before they enter middle school. A child who plays with Lego’s by destroying and rebuilding or spins around in the backyard until he falls down, stands up, looks around, and spins again is learning. We label this kind of learning “play” and by doing so we reduce its importance in the educational hierarchy. Learning does not only occur at a desk or in an environment where right answers rule the day.

Coercing children into directed learning environments such as the one described in the New York Times article or even placing your baby near the stereo to hear Beethoven’s 5th Symphony has only a short-term effect on spatial-temporal reasoning and no discernible increase in intelligence. Why, then, do we continue down these competitive paths? Sometimes we  favor organizational skills and following directions over experiment and exploration. Imposing adult standards on children for things like order, neatness and organization has more to do with convenience and less to do with allowing children to learn and grow. Failure Freedom is missing in these environments.

The freedom to fail boldly is what allows for quantum leaps in learning. By encouraging our children to be afraid of failure and push harder to please the adults in their lives we have siphoned the gas from our educational engine. It took me three kids and many years in the classroom to learn this lesson. But my failures (and not the copious books I have read) have been my greatest learning tool.

Why Are Creative Kids So Easily Bored in School?

Philbrook Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Pueblo pe...
Image via Wikipedia

Dr. Robert Sternberg, is an American psychologist and psychometrician and Provost at Oklahoma State University. He was formerly President of the American Psychological Association. Although Dr. Sternberg developed assessments for creativity and practicality (problem solving) he is not a fan of the current model of educational testing.  He asserts that rather than focus on what has been learned, he is interested in assessing a student’s ability to learn.  In his talk at a recent Creativity Summit at the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he answered his own questions, “What do you mean by creativity?” and  “Why isn’t everyone creative?” He restated an idea he promotes in much of his work: “There are people who buy low and sell high in the world of ideas.”  This is shorthand for Sternberg’s Investment Theory of Creativity developed with Dr. Todd Lubart.  My short version of the theory goes something like this: Creative people come up with novel ideas.  The mere novelty of the idea causes it to be rejected by the majority of people.  This rejection is not just a rejection but an acceptance of the status quo.  This is the “buy low” portion of the theory.  The innovator invests effort into convincing others that the idea is not only workable but superior to the status quo. This precedes the “sell high” portion of the argument.  When an idea’s value is finally recognized, the creator ‘sells’ the idea to others to develop while the innovator moves on to other projects. As Sternberg notes, “If you think about it, that’s what creativity is about.”

Sternberg has been quoted as saying, “Creativity is a decision.” He cites 7 Key Decisions in creativity:

1: Decide if you have a problem that seems unsolvable.  Then ask, “Can I redefine the problem?”

2: When you have a creative idea, ask yourself three questions: a) What’s the best that can happen? b) What’s the worst that can happen? and, c) What’s likely to happen?  This helps an innovator analyze potential outcomes.

3. Look for entrenchment.  “Where there’s vested interest, it’s hard to sell creative ideas.”

4. Realize that knowledge is a double-edged sword when it comes to creativity.  Knowledge means less repetition but it can also cause entrenchment.  When knowledge of past outcomes is the lens through which a person creates, “many experts are less creative… [because] they can’t see through other lenses.”

5. Be willing to take sensible risks.

6. Persevere in the face of obstacles.

7. Find what you love to do. “With your kids and with your students, what’s important is not what you want them to do but what they want to do.”

Dr. Sternberg is an authentic and innovative thinker.  Despite expertise that could cause entrenchment in a less playful personality, Dr. Sternberg is the perfect person to explore the educational landscape of assessments and creativity.  Although the entrenchment many of us face in the world of teaching makes innovation challenging, it will help to remember Dr. Sternberg’s 6th Key Decision.  Keeping the creativity conversation alive may cause enough of a shift to allow innovative thinkers a seat at the table when assessments are discussed.