One of the perks associated with teaching K-12 students in New York City is the endless array of creative resources available for both personal and professional inspiration. Conversely, one of the challenges K-12 teachers confront is finding the right times and the most amenable places to nurture our imagination. This is why the Whitney’s Teacher Exchange, a year-long professional development program for K-12 teachers, is such an exciting opportunity for those of us who want to explore new ways of teaching and sharing ideas.
For our first meeting in early October, eleven of us gathered in the Whitney’s lobby to begin our monthly exploration of the Museum’s collection and to collaborate as educators, artists, and explorers. Over a cup of warm coffee and healthy snacks, we learned about one another’s backgrounds, subject areas, and the schools where we teach. With the help of the Whitney’s eager team of educators, it took very little time for us to feel a sense of connection to the whole group.
Soon after our initial introduction, we went into the galleries where we experienced the luxury of looking at works of art in quiet Museum galleries that were closed to the public. We spent an hour looking closely at two works: Eva Hesse’s No Title (1970), a delicately suspended sculpture made of knotted ropes dipped in latex; and Jonathan Borofsky’s Running People at 2,616,216 (1979), a large-scale work painted directly on the gallery walls and ceiling. We wrote group poems and provided varying perspectives on each work. I was particularly fascinated with Borofsky’s wall painting because it relates so well to the theme of perception, a topic of a high school course I teach. Borofsky’s painting and the manner in which it was wrapped around the stairwell sent my imagination racing with ideas for lessons and conversations that I can bring back to my students.
The afternoon drifted quickly into evening, and we said our goodbyes with buoyant voices and a great sense of good things to come. I loved the tranquility of the space, but I was also stimulated by the creativity of the artwork and comments of my peers.
By Kiara Downey, a participant in the Whitney’s Teacher Exchange program.
Downey teaches English Literature and Drama at The United Nations International School.