Hector called to all the people,
“Come and share my treasure trunk!”
And all the silly sightless people
Came and looked…and called it junk.
-from “Hector the Collector,” Shel Silverstein (1994)
Last night was a live session for the curriculum course I’m currently teaching. We generally have three of these meetings over the course of each eight-week session of the program. The first is like the introductory overview and discussion one would get on the first day of any graduate level course. The other two are generally filled with hurried student presentations. I inevitably leave these sessions feeling like there’s never enough time and not the right space for engaging in one another’s ideas or carrying out any kind of substantive dialogue.
For this session I tried to slow things down a little. To go deeper rather than try to cover everything. Part of the session included an introduction to our next project and I decided I needed to try to model some of what I wanted the students to do; the processes of brainstorming and planning I hoped they would engage in their own work. I presented my own small unit of instruction dedicated to the idea that “artists give new life to old things.” I am going to see if I can run a version of this with Cora’s preschool class or our new creative play-group, so more on it later.
For the purposes of this post, the important thing is that I started my presentation by reading “Hector the Collector” from Shel Silverstein’s (1974) Where the Sidewalk Ends. I primarily read the poem as a way of demonstrating the role children’s literature can play as an introduction to the study of visual art, but it wound up seeming like something more than that. Reading a story aloud to the class gave us something to focus on as a group. Though we were as far away from one another as Las Vegas and Miami, I like to think we were united for a moment by Hector and his treasures. Like I’ve written here before, I think sometimes even grown-ups just want to hear a story.
I’m not sure I was successful in furthering my students’ understanding of backward design and essential questions through this presentation. (Perhaps some of you will chime in here… for extra credit??) But, there’s something I really like about the image of a distance learning teacher sitting in her house, reading aloud from the pages of a printed book to her students across the country. There’s something comforting about that to me. Something concrete in a virtual, and at times surreal, learning environment.