I’m now in Lyon, France and the weather has been, “très chaud!” There’s a heat wave and it’s been pretty difficult to withstand the increasing temperatures. But who can complain really? I’m going on about a month and a week left of this study abroad before I head back in Tucson, AZ to finish the last year of my MFA. I’m so thankful for the experiences that have happened and will continue to happen and I’m so excited to get back and teach by experience. I’ll be teaching Intermediate Modern for non-majors and Improvisation for majors. I’ve been finalizing my syllabi and it’s got me thinking of the amazing journey that I’m assigned and prepared to lead.
There has truly been so much that has happened and falling ill really took its toll on this blog. But I am hoping to be back in action really really soon! So many things have inspired me and although a part of this study abroad was spent accompanying my fiancé on his research of WW1 battlefields of Belgium and Northern France and not dancing, I feel that my depth as an artist has grown tremendously. I’ve been thinking a lot about living history lessons since our trips to Verdun, Ypres, Somme, Passchendaele, Vimy Ridge, and Arras. To stand on the spot where the Christmas Truce occurred and then to stand in no man’s land. To see the devastation of war in the ruins and to witness the depraved conditions soldiers were forced to endure has sent me into a whirlwind of thankfulness and amplified the cries for freedom in our world. I am dismayed but hopeful, tired but inspired, proud but ashamed. All these feelings brought about by the physical act of standing on the ground where it all happened and seeing that life has moved on, that people have returned and that crops grow unaware of the fact that 100 years ago the ground laid barren unable to produce and harvest crops. My heart is heavy with the deeper understanding outside my history classes and it’s an image that I continue to ponder.
It has made me aware of a certain element of teaching as well. If you want to truly inspire your students, the lesson must hold weight, there must be value to what they are learning, and the best way to have them learn is to have them physically be a part of it. I once took a very short lived course in learner centered teaching and while I valued the course work, the experience of standing in the WW1 battlefields taught me more about teaching in one minute than the entire course did. Get the students up and moving. Get them physically involved and have them really delve into the material. If the lesson requires a specific place, bring the students there, if that’s not possible, bring it to them. Use imagination because frankly that’s the way we all first learned as children and it clearly made us capable enough then. I once had a conversation with my fiancé about a lesson he was teaching in his English 101 class. He had the students walk about the room and look at images he posted on the walls. The idea was to get the students up and out of their seats to really look at an image and to then discuss them terms of rhetoric. The result was a success. The students understood the task and were able to deliver.
So despite there being little dancing in the past week I have been emotionally and intellectually inspired by the research. I feel more present in my choices as both an artist and a teacher and while I’ve missed dancing I’ve also managed to gain perspective on things I never knew I needed. I’ve learned that inspiration is that eureka moment, waiting for the muse to come. However, having gained this experience I’ve learned that it’s not so much about waiting and more about being receptive.