Today was the first day of the YCBA Summer Institute for teachers. As in any classroom on the first day, we began tentatively, looking for familiar faces and settling into listening mode when Tom and Cyra got us started. As we broke into groups, and got into the deeper thinking that happens when we talk about art, we inevitably began to know each other as teachers, learners, thinkers, observers. And in the afternoon when we drew and made our own art, we started a community which will be ours for the week.
I am always struck by the trust and comfort that emerges when art is at the center of a group of people. My son likes to go to jazz clubs in New York because he says no matter who everyone is outside of that club, they are all friends while the music is playing: the common language of jazz brings them together and forms their community. When I watch a group of students gather around a painting or sculpture – even a reproduction – there is a similar intimacy that comes over them. They may all have their differing opinions and translations of the art, but they are brought together by one image.
As we continue this week, I wonder if any of you have thoughts about how to use art to create your classroom community. How could art start your year in September? How can you include visuals to ground your students in safety, so they can think deeply and share courageously? What can you bring into the room? How will you show them how to do it?