You may remember that back in November I had an article accepted for publication in the Teaching Artist Journal (TAJ); the TAJ is a research initiative of the Office of Academic Research, Columbia College Chicago. Shortly after the article was finalized I was asked to become an Associate Editor of the TAJ. This is a huge compliment, and a great honor to be included in what is currently the only peer reviewed journal dedicated specifically to the work and thought of teaching artists.
I've subscribed to the TAJ since it's inception, but that was seven years ago now, and in 2003 I had just started thinking about how math and dance (percussive dance in particular) could be brought together. So, before I receive my first article to shepherd through the peer review process, I thought I had better go back and take a look around past issues and get (re)acquainted with the work that has been done prior to this moment.
What is interesting to me is how much my experience has changed me in the last seven years or so. As I go through the first four volumes of the TAJ I realize am looking at these articles with new eyes. There is so much there that could have been really helpful to me at the time, but I didn't really see it. Why? Because I was still new at being a teaching artist. Because I was in the middle of my own process, slogging away, trying to figure out what a math and dance integration would look like or even if it was a workable idea. In short, I had to have my own experiences. I needed more time doing the work of being a teaching artist before reflecting on my place in this profession or even really being able to fully understand what other teaching artists were saying about their own work.
That, in a nutshell, describes my view of how the learning process should be. Actions first, reflection later. Concrete to symbolic. In Math in Your Feet we quite literally jump into dancing from the first moments of the residency. As children build their understanding of and competency with percussive dance elements, they are able to apply this new understanding towards making connections between math and dance. By the end of our time together they are usually able to understand their own personal relationship to the world of both dance and math because now they, too, have become creative problem solvers in two great fields of inquiry. Most kids who complete a Math in Your Feet residency report being proud of their efforts as well as how much more they understand about both math and dance.
Sort of like how I'm feeling right now.
But this is no time to rest on my laurels -- I have seven more years of the TAJ to look through! I estimate that at the rate of one article a night before bed I may be through them all by some time in early May. Better get to work!