Friday, June 13, 2008

Docent Doe

For what it's worth, I highly recommend other first year teachers take an extended road trip during the summer. It seems impossible for me to tell how much of my isolation is geographic versus job focused, but I hadn't realized how distant the rest of the world had become.

I'm currently in DC and am loving the opportunity to play tourist. Hitting museums right and left.

In Feburary, I saw this article and resolved to visit the American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery. Seriously, I saved it to tagged to a friend in the area with the note, "Can I visit this whenever I make it out to visit you this summer?"

I did not visit with that friend, but with another friend. We arrived just before a docent tour of the portrait gallery started and decided that would be a good way to start off our day. The tour was wonderful. Our guide took a route where she stopped in every room that we walked into. She would tell us about a portrait, giving all sorts of fun facts. (Which president had a rubber jaw? And where was the secret surgery performed?) And she kept us moving. If there was something else in the room that you wanted to see (for instance when I saw a Lakota cradleboard), that was fine. She kept everyone else moving through. The style was so exciting that I wanted to keep up and find out what else was going on.

After that experience, we were eager for the next docent tour this time of the Art Museum side. Maybe our expectations were raised so they had farther to fall, but we were not impressed. When we were given the out (another docent tour starting now) we jumped for it. And were thrilled to find our first guide doing a different tour.

The thing is, the second docent did the things that good teachers are "supposed to" do. She started out telling us where she would take us. When we were touring she asked us questions about the paintings. She waited for us to stop looking at other pieces in the room before she started talking. She got out the special docent gloves and showed us things that most visitors won't get to see.

And I was BORED.

If I wanted to talk about the pictures I would go through with my friend. I was there to learn more. I wanted the action-packed excitement. And the docent gloves weren't it, no matter how much she liked them.

I keep thinking about how this applies to my classroom. I fear I'm too much of the second docent. Too much of the following the rules. Too much of being excited about myself. Not enough contagious excitement about the material.

I'm not always sure of what makes the excitement contagious, but I think having the deep knowledge of the material. Having the confidence to say, "I don't know the answer to that. Let's look it up." Having the knowledge to be comfortable asking what students want to learn. Where do you want to go from here?Being able to say, "Oh this museum is confusing. I came up a different direction than normal and now I'm lost. You enjoy in here while I go find the picture I really want you to see."

Hopefully I'll have a bit more of that confidence in year two.

And lesson for anyone visiting DC, on Docent tours at the Portrait Gallery, Library of Congress, and the other museum where she works, try to get Madonna as your guide.


Anne said...

Thanks for the tip, I'll be in DC next week!

Side note- I just caught up on 408 and Trenches... uff dah, exhausting overwhelming stuff. I miss discussing blogs with you :)

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