The Art of Teaching Saturday Seminar Series for the Classroom Professional: A Collaborative Circle
"Come to the Art of Teaching graduate program at Sarah Lawrence College and never have to leave!"
It is a bright sunny Saturday morning in December. Twenty-five teachers, from across the early childhood and the elementary years, meet in the Graduate Studies living room at Sarah Lawrence College to think together about literacy teaching and learning: How do children learn to read and write? What do we know about that? The group is made up of Art of Teaching graduates and their colleagues, teachers who host student teachers from the graduate program, and other interested educators. Some have participated for years in the Art of Teaching Saturday Seminar Series for the Classroom Professional, others join us for the first time. Their teaching experiences span school settings, years teaching, ages taught; the variety and richness of what they bring is the foundation for the complex and layered understandings that emerge each Saturday. On a previous Saturday in November, these teachers had focused on "Math as a Way of Thinking, Questioning, Problem-Solving, and Communicating," and in February they would convene to think together about "The Tone of Teaching: Redefining Classroom Management." These topics, and a final Saturday focused on "The Arts in School," comprised one year's Saturday Seminar series.
The Art of Teaching Saturday Seminar Series for the Classroom Professional grew out of a commitment to offer ongoing support for teachers who graduate from the Art of Teaching program. We knew from experience the isolation teachers can feel as they move into the world of schools. We hold a deep appreciation for the support teachers receive by working alongside other teachers who share their concerns and questions. In the Saturday Seminar work at Sarah Lawrence College, we draw on the the Descriptive Inquiry Processes developed at the Prospect School and Center as a way of talking with one another founded on teacher knowledge made through careful observing and documenting in classrooms. These processes enable conversations that value veterans and new teachers equally. The focus is on children and what we learn by getting to know them to create classrooms and a curriculum that engages and supports each one as an individual.
Why teachers come—as they have expressed it:
- To maintain your center and do what you say you value for children, while also recognizing the compromises you make and the cost of each one.
- To find the cracks by hearing how others have worked against engrained practices.
- To establish a trusting circle in which teachers can air their concerns alongside others who share their values and their struggle.
- To be in a conversation that starts from children, informing curriculum through knowledge of each child.
- To maintain teaching as action and art, a space in which teachers are seen as agents of social change.
- To create a space for teachers to grapple: to think critically and intellectually and sort out for themselves what they value and believe, and to think together about creating such intellectual spaces for children.