I, Too, Teach
Teaching artists and other non-traditional educators enrich the child’s learning experience in powerful ways.
Teaching Artists Are a Vital Part of Non-Traditional and Extended Education
Teaching artists are the backbone of Boys & Girls Harbor’s cultural enrichment programs. By their very presence, these educators demonstrate to our students what it means and what it looks like to build a professional life in the arts. In turn, they themselves are strengthened and inspired by the positive changes they see in each child through their own influence as artists. They share their passion to see, be, and explore the very best within themselves, and model these attributes to the newest generation of young artists.
Cultural Enrichment Amplifies the Student’s Academic Journey
We read with great interest a recent New York Times article and other teaching community forums that ask educators around the country what they wished more people knew about what it’s like to be a teacher in 2018. Here’s a sampling of responses:
Teaching today is about being a bridge between oppression and liberation. It is about offering time, space, and tools to riddle out new, responsible ways of sharing thought… There will never be one single package, product, or tool that “fixes” our students; they are not broken. They are beautiful and capable, and squeezed between some dominant ideal and their own story; they are fighting to grow.
—Kerry Alexander, 4th Grade Teacher, Austin, TX
We need to stop trying to fit all students in the same mold and teach[ing] them all the same way.
—Pat Hensley, former classroom teacher, Adjunct Instructor at Fuhrman College
When we look at our most successful students, they are not successful because their parents or teachers skill-and-drilled them to pass the State test; they are successful because people have invested in them.
—David Lee Finkle, 9th Grade English Teacher, DeLand, FL
In a similar article, the New York Times asked students what they wished more people understood about them. The remarks of one high school student in particular stood out for us. She explained that, in her school district, students had to choose a “major” in middle school, which would then determine whether they went to an academic or vocational high school. In her response, this young person says:
Students are supposed to choose electives that relate to our passions, but how are we supposed to really know what those are without much introduction to the topics? What if our future careers have nothing to do with any of the elective choices?
—Selena, 10th Grade Student, Holmdel, NJ
The educational model we use at the Harbor—Harbor S.A.I.L.™ —seeks to make the learning experience more interactive and personally meaningful to each student. Our innovative, experiential approach expands students’ personal vision and pursuit of their own learning.
The Performing Arts as a Tool for Youth Development and Achievement
Students enter the Harbor’s Performing Arts Academy hungry for connections with like-minded creative souls. Their needs are especially crucial, because Boys & Girls Harbor is located in East Harlem, a community that struggles with poverty, underemployment, and crime. Funded by public and private sources, the Harbor offers performing arts training, opportunities to perform, and connections to “real life” artists. These are activities that students not only say “yes” to, they pounce on them.
The Harbor shows the way for children to develop critical thinking skills, to embrace challenges in a safe and supportive environment, to be open to expressing themselves without fear of being marginalized, and to be equally accepting and supportive of their peers.
Sometimes students surprise themselves. Last year, for example, one student absolutely refused to sing; she was convinced she was not talented in that way. After days of patient coaching and gentle coaxing, she decided to give it a try. We were all stunned at how promising she was. Today she is one of our strongest vocalists.
These are the sorts of learning experiences that build character and confidence. Decades of teaching the performing arts has shown us that children and teens are eager to use their creativity, curiosity, and imagination. The Harbor gives them the time, the place, the resources, and the structure to do just that.
As every teaching artist at the Harbor proudly says, “I, too, teach.”