Name of Project: EASE (Everyday Arts in Special Education)
Program Manager: Sita Frederick
Number of years as UAP TA: 3
My personal teaching artist mission is evolving. My artistic focus is theater, specifically playwriting but EASE is a multi-disciplinary arts-integrated methodology that uses music, movement, theater, and visual arts to improve student outcomes. In my first years with the program, my main focus was learning the sizable amount of information I needed to effectively teach students with moderate to severe disabilities. Now that I have a lot of that under my belt, I understand just how powerful and important this work is for all learners to be provided the opportunities to reach their potential. I would say that I teach because I want to learn.
In this particular school, I work with elemenatary and middle school age students with emotional distrubance. Astor Byron is classified as a treatment center and students with lives impacted by trauma is the norm. When I first came into the room I was greeted with such responses “Who the are hell you?” and “This is stupid.” and “Boring!” A lot of attitude for such small packages…Now when I see them I am greeted with “Mr. Greg!” and group hugs. And I am reminded, as always, that these are children and they, like any child, want to be smiled upon, played with, listened to and loved. I feel privileged to be able to offer them that.
A really fun project we just completed was “Making Your Own Instruments”. The project involves taking discarded recyclables like tin cans or water bottles and transforming them into instruments. Our big goals were having the students work together using appropriate manners, taking turns, making choices, self-regulating and respecting personal boundaries which doesn’t always come easily to them. However, this time they out did themselves!
One of the reasons I think this activity worked so well was student choice making. These students crave the opportunity to “be in charge” but they are often not ready to handle the responsibility that comes with it. In this activity however, we gave them full responsibility to make their own instrument. These students took it very seriously and focused entirely on the task at hand, feeling rewarded by their personal, meaningful efforts of being responsible.