So, I’ve been thinking about a colleague’s summer professional development. I know I should be thinking about my own professional development, and I am, but this other summer work just got me thinking.
My colleague is an artist and art teacher who has just started the Low-Residency MFA program at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Awesome! At our opening faculty meeting she shared a little about a particular project from one of her courses this summer. It was called the taxonomy project. Make 10 works in each of 10 categories, all small in size, no time to be super careful or precious, come up the categories, no changing, and get busy.
As my colleague shared both her work and the lessons she learned from the project, I thought about how this related to writing. I’m thinking a lot about making time for a lot more writing in my English class and the idea that many small art works would push creativity resonated with me. Doing more short writing (that may not even be graded) seems analogous to the taxonomy project. In the summer teaching writing course that I took, several of the instructors spoke about what improves writing–a lot of writing improves writing, not a lot of teacher correction on a little bit of writing. (Really why should this not be the case? A lot of what makes kids better readers is reading, reading a lot. So no surprise.) Just doing a thing over and over, I believe that would be called practice, works. Another thing that my colleague noted was that with the 10 categories, she was forced to come up with a lot of potential ideas rather than commit to one, even one that she thought was going to great. And, in doing so, she found other ideas that were really interesting. How will my still inexperienced writers find new paths and new techniques if they don’t ever have to push through “I’ve got nothing.” 100 pieces of writing in my one semester course seems somewhat unrealistic. I mean the kids do take other classes besides mine. So more, reason to stick to my goal of more writing.
And, I totally want to do my own taxonomy art project. There is no way I have the time or skill to do that, but here’s my first set of 10 objects.