The weather was perfect for a trip to outer space yesterday. That’s right–I rocketed off into the asteroid belt and beyond our galaxy while on my field trip to the Adler Planetarium. I was so excited since it was my first time there. I touched an actual meteorite and a piece of the moon! It was pretty nifty. I really don’t know where the word nifty came from, though. I must have brought that back from my journey. Another word that sticks out from my trip is “Planet.” I learned that it means “wanderer.” That makes sense! How come I never knew that before?
What does a planetarium have to do with my goals of professional development, though? Well, I am a teaching artist on the side, so field trips are a great learning experience for me and the students! Of course I learned a few new little things about the stars, but some age old questions just still weren’t answered: how do we teach our kids in a way that excites them? How do we make them want to learn? Well, Galileo improved the telescope, and Steve Jobs has improved the telephone. I guess that makes one of our answers technology. The Adler Planetarium tries to stay on the edge of technology with its interactive tools, but what about the human aspect to the teaching process?
We took one of the tours, and as an adult I found a lot of what the guide was saying so fascinating. But a few of my students were beginning to get restless. Mind you, I know my middle schoolers are quite a bit to handle, even for the YMCA staff who brought them on the trip and who work with them on a daily basis. So I can’t blame the planetarium staff for getting frustrated with my kids. There were a few of them that needed some time to reflect upon their actions. But sitting a child out may teach them a lesson about life, but what about the lesson at hand?
That’s where drama comes into play. I’ve always believed that the arts can make it easier to understand other subjects. And let me tell you, this tour could’ve dealt with a little more theatrics. In order to take command of a room, you need that stage presence. Had our guide been a little more histrionic, the students would’ve been a little more engaged. If a lawyer is required to take an acting class, and a football player is encouraged to take ballet, then a tourguide might benefit from an improvisation class. Our tourguide, though nice and informative, was meek and quiet. We were her audience, and this critic is saying she did not capture us.
I must reiterate that my students are a handful. Then again, most students are, especially in middle school. I personally try not to remember those days myself. Granted, I didn’t have the same distractions as the youth today does with a cell phone in every pocket. They naturally have shorter attention spans these days. But it’s still the educator’s responsibility to educate, whether she be a teacher or a parent or even a tourguide.
If you’re getting bored, so are your students. If the adults in your tour have glazed over looks, so do your students. If the student is getting restless, it’s time to change your tactic. That’s what the director would tell and actor, and that’s what I’m telling all educators including myself.