The following is the fourth and final post in a series discussing the life and work of a teaching artist.
Miguel Cossio: Mr. Cossio is a TA in Visual Arts who has worked with our partner Riverdale Neighborhood House in the Bronx.
Gardiner Comfort: Mr. Comfort is a TA in Theater Arts who has worked at P.S. 7 in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn.
What would you consider your greatest successes as a teaching artist? What advice would you give to other teaching artists?
Cossio: To be very flexible with regards to methods of teaching. It’s hard to be at the same level with the people you are teaching – you can’t be like a kid, you have to be slightly above them levelwise, but at the same time, you have to put yourself in their shoes in certain aspects.
Runcie: I’m starting to see them go on to high schools of their choice. I’ve given them recommendations and helped them with auditions; they’re going to high schools that they’re proud to attend. As for other teaching artists, I’d say remember YOUR passion for the art, whatever discipline it is. Try to stay in the frame of mind of discovery and to bring that to the students, and be patient. Sometimes, as professionals, when we’re so used to working with those like us, it’s easy to forget that these are kids, even though we are trying to bring them to a higher level of professionalism.
Comfort: Probably seeing students embody what I’ve taught them. I have a lot of students now, and it’s very exciting to see them come into the classroom excited, because they had a good time the last time and want to have fun. But it’s more exciting to see them remember the lessons we’ve worked on. I guess I’d say I appreciate both aspects of teaching, when the kids clearly love you and love what you’ve taught them, that’s so touching, but it’s also equally touching to see them apply the skills they’ve learned.
Would you recommend any books or courses that you found useful?
Cossio: Courses, definitely. I went to one at Lincoln Center Summer Teaching Institute, and it’s based on the idea of imagination.
Runcie: Really just my own overall experiences.
Comfort: I’ve used very few books. I’ve used the Viola Spolin book, which is very useful for descriptions of exercises, but beyond that, I’ve really just reached out to other actors and other teachers I know. I’ve also used my own experiences in acting classes and in rehearsals. One thing that’s really nice about acting is that we’re all basically kids, we’re never really so sophisticated that we can’t goof off and play really simple and fun games!