Digital Arts Learning in the Age of COVID-19

Apr 11, 2020 | Education

With school now taking place for students remotely, teachers have had to adjust to a new style of teaching. But what about our teaching artists, who go into schools to create with kids? Today, NYCCT Teaching Artist, Claire tells us about the successes and challenges of adapting to a new way of teaching the arts. 

Over the last 3 weeks, New Yorkers have been settling into this new way of quarantine life. I have found it very important to find a daily routine and ways to move my body from one part of my apartment to the next. I’ve been very lucky that I have the opportunity to lead some digital classes during the week. This gives me a reason to wake up, get ready, move my body, and have some daily structure. I am very lucky to have this daily responsibility to my students, but the transition into digital learning was a really emotionally and mentally draining one.

As a Theater Teaching Artist, my job is heavily centered around the organic and beautiful creativity of my students- letting their ideas flow freely and bouncing off each other. In a digital classroom, things are structurally very different. Having to pick and choose which student gets to speak and which students are muted so everyone can hear who is sharing has been a huge transition for me and my class. My wish for teaching has always been that students feel safe and encouraged to share when they want and through creative means like improvisation games and activities. I also pride my classes in their ability to bring students together through team building and partner work. This is one of my favorite parts of the arts in general- how they build a group of students up through their collective creativity and ideas. However, the digital classroom changes how we do these activities, and my students are learning how to feel free and creative in the confines of a computer.

With all of this being said, the digital classroom keeps my students and me together despite this uncertain and scary time. It gives me and my students a sense of normalcy and allows them to use their imagination and creativity despite feeling limited by their walls. I have also found that there are fewer distractions and biological limits on my students when they are participating in the comfort of their homes! It’s quite freeing for me and my students when they can take a snack or bathroom break whenever they need, and they can wear the clothes they feel most comfortable and excited about. I am learning more about my students this way than I could have in a physical classroom bounded by the rules they assume exist in those spaces. Every class I learn what does and does not work. So often, the ideas I was so excited about may not work in this new normal. However, I also learn that all my students need is the consistency of knowing that if they hop on Zoom in the afternoon they will get to move their bodies and use their imaginations with Ms. Claire, and that might be all I need to know that every class is worth it.

Thank you to every teacher, educator and teaching artist alike, for managing this new normal like champs, and doing it for the students who need you. I am so grateful to be (digitally) surrounded by the NYCCT Teaching Artist Community who never ceases to amaze me with their endless support and willingness to share ideas. Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay indoors.

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