Walking into the Double Tree hotel (formerly the Sonesta) downtown near Lake Lake Ivanhoe, I was greeted with the sight of the collaborative mural I did for a downtown arts district fundraiser. I was here to report on the 2011 Leadership Summit for the Florida Alliance for Arts Education. After a brief welcome and introduction in the main ballroom, the art teachers in attendance split up to attend various learning and inspirational sessions. I went to the Delaney room to listen to Eric Booth speak. I had to finish up a sketch so I entered Eric's session a little late. I was surprised that everyone in the room was standing as Eric spoke. He then immediately had all the teachers doing pantomime. I couldn't see anything from the back of the room so I marched down the aisle amidst the chaos and I sat next to Eric looking out at the teachers.
Eric had everyone engaged involved and excited throughout his discussion. He acknowledged the value of anything that was offered for thought. He feels most students are taught to only provide the answer a teacher is looking for. Americans hate not knowing the right answer. He encouraged asking questions that have multiple answers. What matters then is the quality or inventiveness of the answer. Students become more creative after many small successes. Reflection is something that is missing in arts education today. 80% of what you teach is who you are. Passion and really engaging with the students in new and unexpected ways is vital.
He has found that when a student creates something he truly cares about then learning becomes essential. What is taught should have real life relevance for students. He stressed that a prime role of a teacher is as a witness. Every student must be acknowledged and encouraged when they think creatively. The student then can reflect and learn something about how they best learn.
Another activity was offered where teachers were paired in groups of two. One teacher stood and they were given the assignment to convince their partner to give up their chair. The energy in the room soured. There was begging, bribing cajoling and plenty of unexpected fun. There was certainly no room for boredom. When the exercise was over he pointed to several methods that had worked in NYC. One person acted like they might vomit. Another took the seated persons purse and put it out on the sidewalk. The seat was immediately given up. Mean yet creative sometimes works.