by Laura Garber, South Western City Schools Career Academy
One of my favorite components of the PAGES program at OSU’s Wexner Center for the Arts is the collaboration. I am an educator who thrives on gaining knowledge through talking with other educators. I continually share, steal, build and modify. I want the best for my students and working together is what’s best.
I was fortunate to collaborate with Kari Gunter-Seymour (Ohio’s 2020 Poet Laureate), Sarah Robison (Manager of Teaching, Learning and Interpretive Practices at the Wexner Center for the Arts), Dionne Custer Edwards (Director of Learning & Public Practice), as well as educators from other high schools involved in the program. However, I didn’t have to look far for one of the most rewarding and beneficial collaborations I have had at the South-Western Career Academy- Kelsey Hodge, our own guidance counselor!
Kelsey is one of two guidance counselors in our school and I reached out to her early in the year to see if she’d like to be there with us through the PAGES process. Thinking, reflecting and writing can sometimes uncover some surprising feelings, and I wanted to make sure our students were supported. Not surprisingly, Kelsey was on board. She is compassionate and empathetic.
Some writing was lighthearted and silly. Write a letter to a famous person about something that triggers you. Cut up some words and paste them in your journal in a new way. But some writing was heavy. Students free wrote in their journals about fears, family issues, failures.
Kelsey joined us in the classroom and on our virtual and in-person trips to the Wex. One of our experiences had us viewing and discussing Holler, a film about a smart young lady in a run-down factory town, faced with the decision to stay stuck and work in the factory or to leave her dead-end town and head to college (and figuring out how to afford either). Students were fortunate to view and discuss the film with writer and director, Nicole Riegel!
Kelsey and I brainstormed ways to connect students with the themes in the film. We met to share the lines, scenes, and ideas that resonated with us and we talked about ways to engage students in thinking and discussing those. It was Kelsey’s idea for the students to recreate an impactful scene from the film, focusing on colors that represent the tone of the moment. We split the students into three stations where they worked with creative writing prompts provided by Kari Gunter-Seymour, they brainstormed goals and plans for college and career, and they created an artistic piece capturing the tone of a scene. We discussed themes including parenting, forgiveness, life’s purpose, proving yourself, roots, survival from nothing, addiction, failure, plus gender and regional stereotypes.
This collaboration helped the students see beyond English class and a film to consider how working, talking and writing through the themes makes them applicable to their own lives. Plus, it was fun! I look forward to finding more non-traditional collaborative opportunities with Kelsey and other colleagues in the future.