Emily’s assessment of her teaching approach is both basic and effective. “I know this is working,” she says, “because I watch their faces.” In fact, you can see both engagement and excitement in the eyes of her students, eager to share and to listen to their classmates. Junior Alicia Gabe clearly enjoyed the reading of art-inspired poems. In fact, when a classmate read hers, she silently mouthed the words as he read them. “This was a more fun way to connect writing and art. Sometimes you do a PowerPoint or an essay with art, but the poems let you be creative and expressive and funny. I don’t usually like things that are funny, but I would usually pick something that was heartwarming or depressing, so I thought a funny picture would be a challenge.” Alicia was on the edge of her seat during the entire class, trying to pick out the postcards which inspired the other poets in the room. Senior Erin Seglem’s favorite assignment is also the poetry which evolves from a work of art in the classroom. “She makes sure that you fit in things that show you have examined the fine details of the painting and can fit them into your poem.” Senior Casey Stewart agrees. “Yes, we did that. But the one I remember best is the time we went to the Art Museum, and she had us write three poems about different paintings we saw. Then if she could identify them, we passed the assignment. So our descriptions had to be very visual.” Emily’s approach extends beyond creative writing. “I use art in the classroom partly because I love art,” she says. In her eleventh grade English class, with a curriculum that focuses on world literature, she uses art as an approach to biographical research. “I use art, because I want them to conduct research on something that will also teach them other skills. So they learn how to read a painting. They learn all about artists’ lives and about poets’ lives. It’s a good assignment, and it works with any level of student, even a struggling reader. And they get excited because they walk into the Museum and they see the artist [they have been researching] on the wall. There’s a sense of ownership, then, and they think, ‘That’s mine. I know that.’” Emily’s classes invariably enjoy a trip to the Museum at some point, and that reinforces the interest of her students. “I’ll tell you one thing, after we go to the Museum, a lot of the kids go back with their girlfriends or boyfriends or parents. The students are proud to know their way around. It’s a very positive thing.”
Emily Farrell with Junior Alicia Gabe
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