Reflecting back on my time at the Milwaukee Art Museum interning with the Satellite High School Program brings many valuable memories and thoughts to the surface. I’ve been privileged to have had the opportunity to work with dozens of bright, creative, and enthusiastic students from high schools around Milwaukee. Looking back on those weekly Thursday meetings, there are too many good times to mention. There were not so good times too–students having difficulty with final projects, frustrations with resume editing, and challenges giving tours to younger kids. These are the situations that make a pre-service teacher like me stronger; I was forced to come up with strategies for helping to work through student’s problems along with them in a way that was conducive to their unique learning styles.
Going beyond one-on-one student interactions, I was also given the opportunity to lead a “debriefing” session, in which the teens reflected on their experience leading tours for elementary school children. I structured the talk into three parts: What went well, what didn’t, and a group exercise in which the teens created an activity of their own that students in coming semesters could potentially use for future elementary tours.
My supervisor, Chelsea Kelly, provided feedback to me of my teaching and gave me more than a few valuable pieces of advice. She recommended I keep the conversation as student centered as possible, always directing the attention back to the class. In order to stimulate the students and keep them engaged, she encouraged me to ask a lot of meaningful questions; keeping the talk inquiry based so it is a constant exploration. The most valuable advice she gave me was to embrace silence. Surely there needs to be time in the classroom for students to work through their thoughts and reflect on their experience. Everyone’s minds work at a different pace.
In the Satellite program, high school aged students from schools around Milwaukee with an interest in art come together to look at and discuss art from the MAM’s collection, make responsive art works of their own, and go behind the scenes in the museum to learn about arts-related careers. Many of our activities centered on responding to and acting upon the MAM’s mission statement, which is: “The Milwaukee Art Museum collects and preserves art, presenting it to the community as a vital source of inspiration and education.”
In Satellite, I’ve seen students mobilize this mission and put it into action, making it an exciting and tangible concept. I’ve witnessed them take on leadership roles of their own, as they led small groups of elementary kids through Museum exhibitions and taught them about different works of art. I’ve watched them grow as young adults, artists, and learners in the evenings I’ve spent with them engaged in lively debate, inquiry, and occasionally, gut-wrenching laughter.
Although I may have taught the Satellite teens, they’ve taught me a great deal as well. Teaching is not only about constructing and transmitting knowledge to others, but receiving knowledge yourself as the teacher. This give-and-take cycle of education, discourse, and shared experience is something a biologist might call a symbiotic relationship, in which both parties benefit. I know I’ve gained much from the Satellite interns: a deeper insight into the interests, values, and character of the teens of today, the ability to encounter learning differences with a mindful and positive approach, and a deep-seated respect for individual students. All of these things I’ll carry with me in the teaching experiences that lie ahead.
The greatest thing I learned from the Satellite students is that when given the right tools, environment, and instruction, students and artists are capable of great things, and have the power to make a positive difference in not only the world, but their communities, too.
—Bryce Coppersmith, Teen Programs Intern