Getting the Most Bang for Your Buck: Leveraging the Four-Day Residency
Funders are increasingly skeptical of the impact that a short-term interaction with an artist has on students, especially those who may count those four hours as their only arts experience for the year.
But despair not! There are ways to make the most of those limited contact hours. A recent best practices sharing session of The Right Brain Initiative illuminated several ways to make the artist-student time really count.
- Start in early with a collaborative planning process. While last minute collaborations can be fruitful, the best way to assure good use of residency time is to plan ahead. The sooner the artist-teacher team gets established, the more opportunities to coordinate there will be. The weeks before school starts are ideal, as teachers are laying out their curriculum units for the year. And if the school has an arts specialist in the building, this is the ideal time to include them in the process as well. They can be an asset in providing students with additional depth of study and classroom teacher support, not to mention their own expertise.
- Let the classroom teacher lead the planning process, starting with their goals and themes for the year. In other words, avoid superimposing assumptions of what teachers and students want or need. Sharing examples of past residency lesson plans can be helpful, but the most meaningful work is customized and connected to longer term goals in the classroom.
- Identify the needs of the students and the power of that art form to meet them. Once the teacher has defined goals for the school year and thematic interests, look for ways that the specific art form (not a specific residency plan) can address those interests. The residency plan will come later, and may include successful elements from previous residencies, but early in the process, collaborators should seek authentic intersections of expertise.
- Honor the expertise of both artist and teacher. Speaking of expertise, let’s admit that we all have them. But they don’t always overlap. So identify the strengths that each collaborator brings to the table and work to design a residency plan that allows those strengths to meet the pre-determined student needs.
- Develop arts strategies that the teacher can carry over between sessions and into the future. This is one of the most important elements, particularly if there isn’t an arts specialist in the school to provide ongoing instruction. Teachers will inevitably need, and will hopefully want, to extend the arts learning beyond the four days of interaction with the artist. So what skills will be most useful to the teacher? What activities might be translate—think “recycling”— to future curriculum units? Focus on providing solid take-aways for the teacher.
- Consider timing of the artist-student sessions. Don’t assume that four consecutive days is the best way. When laying out the residency schedule, return to the goals of the collaboration and think outside the box. (This is another instance where early planning comes in handy.) Maybe visits are scheduled once a month over the course of a semester, or once a week during a unit of study. Or once in the fall with three follow-ups in the spring. Depending on what strategies the teacher may be implementing between visits, the schedule can have significant flexibility.
- Artist and teacher both have clearly assigned tasks. While the artist is in the classroom, be clear about roles and responsibilities. If the collaboration is successful, it might be simple to co-teach. But if roles are fuzzy, collaborators may start feeling like they are stepping on each other’s toes, or worse yet, like some elements are slipping through the cracks. Who will be responsible for student assessment? Who will handle classroom management? Who is in charge of supplies and clean up? Who bridges the transition into and out of the residency work?
- Schedule time for pre- and post-residency interactions: planning, reflection, data interpretation and analysis. Again, the sooner you start the planning process, the better off you will be. Remember that a four-day residency might require at least eight hours of planning and reflection time. Build these collaboration hours into your overall residency plan. They are critical to making limited classroom hours meaningful.
What would you add to this list? How have you made the most of residency time? What tips can you share for making the most of limited time with students?