Teachers Act Up!

Thoughts on Teaching, Language, and Social Change from Melisa "Misha" Cahnmann-Taylor

Monthly Archives: February 2023

Positive feedback: Thank you for such kindness.

I have had the great joy and honor to be an invited speaker this year. I don’t take this for granted. It would be enough (dayenu, insider expression) if I had been able to teach bilingual education in and through the arts to children in Los Angeles and Philadelphia. It would have been enough to have been able to go to graduate school and work with undergrad and graduate students in education in Santa Cruz California and Philadelphia. And DaYENU! It would have been enough to get to teach in the College of Education at the University of Georgia to prepare language educators (English language arts, World language, TESOL) for so many beautiful years.

Now, to be invited to speak to teachers (one hour, one day, two days) in Maryland, Utah, and Tennessee this year about integrating the arts and language education is filled with additional joy. To write a talk or deliver a workshop in a way that is accessible and charged with something that feels new–it’s a special challenge. But one never knows how it lands–as a formerly trained actress, I do try to read the room, to feel if the audience is engaged by reading bodies and eyes, listening for laughter or other sound responses. But I don’t always know if what I have to give is working or worth it. I just hope I have done a good job and usually I never found out.

Today, I received some feedback. Attendees filled out evaluations on my keynote talk and workshop. And I am all melty inside because what I hoped to have delivered was so warmly received. I don’t need these affirmations or expect them, but when these kindnesses come, I want to say: thank you. And I want to remind you that if you, dear reader, are touched by a teacher, a poet, an actor or director, a restaurant experience, a childcare worker, a librarian, a police officer, etc. might you try to let them know? We all need a little more kindness. The loudest among those to whom we are in service with our professional skills, are usually those who don’t like what we do or offer. So thank you to the conference organizers for sharing these warm words with me.

Image: Selfie at Weber State University, Ogden Utah’s Arts Integration Conference.

Here’s a sample of what they sent. (If this will strike you as an irritating brag, please don’t read….)

What was the most valuable piece of information from this workshop and why?

  • I LOVED every activity she shared!
  • the rhythm chants were great for keeping kids focused on keeping the beat and tempo
  • I want to create an atmosphere where making mistakes is okay. Games can bring people together!
  • I’m implementing this tomorrow! Great for SEL, vocab, brainstorm for writing
  • the entire thing- having fun and participating so I can take the activities back to my students
  • absolutely fabulous! I love learning games and doing theatre.
  • I want the book that we used
  • all the different forms of poetry to help children understand techniques
  • I loved how it infused joy and quick thinking. SO MUCH FUN!
  • playing games that will help students learn focus and homework
  • most valuable was that we experienced the learning hands-on. A bunch of strategies!
  • ideas for improv and generate stop ideas
  • to do activities with students that are engaging, use focus and include everyone
  • theatre games can grow and evolve to keep it interesting for students celebrating mistakes instead of being ashamed of them.
  • all the fun games and how they can promote language!
  • Games and play for the present moment
  • the games we could use in our classroom to find ways to allow all students to participate
  • Melisa is my new idol! Honestly I knew all of the games she taught but her confidence inspired me.
  • all of the activities that Melisa demonstrated could be utilized in my classroom! Great Stuff!
  • Her expertise and getting everyone out of their comfort zones. Her energy was contagious!
  • I loved this time learning and playing
  • To celebrate making mistakes!
  • Drama games and learning ties
  • Learning from activities that teach attention and focus, stimulate creative thinking, encourage sharing
  • I loved the “5 things” game. I will for sure be using these in my class.
  • fun games
  • so much fun- Lots of happy hands-on ideas. Amazing way of encouraging participation and getting us excited to let go a little bit
  • Games! Connection, bonding, making, and celebrating mistakes. Listening to each other. Responding.
  • Fun activities to engage for the last 5 minutes. Arts are not handmaidens to make core curriculum more fun. I love the book “Inside my Imagination”.
  • Engaging games to inspire integration and creativity

Keynote Session Comments

  • I LOVED the keynote address. It was a boost. Sometimes arts specialists can feel isolated.
  • I enjoyed her passion and knowledge
  • Great! Loved the “I hear” writing. So helpful.
  • So great. The writing/poetry interaction was fascinating. Very inspiring
  • She was wonderful, funny and engaging. There were things that I could take and use in my classroom right away.
  • Amazing! Inspiring! Fed my soul!
  • She was wonderful! I love that she got us all to write poetry. It was very inspiring both professionally and personally.
  • Poetry and the arts offer reprieve from news and negativity. Art teachers inspire and empower students. The goal is to have opportunities for students to surprise you with their intelligence.
  • Amazing, great way to include poetry in the classroom. I enjoyed being able to make/create my own poem!
  • I love her energy! How we teach and what we teach should enliven our students and then what they give back energizes us! The Arts/Poetry help us do that. Move from lowercase i to uppercase I and integration. Poetry helps us find our voice! The arts reinforce USBE’s POG and SEL. Your voice is your world!
  • I really enjoyed how uniquely Melisa rephrased common things to open up new meanings in the arts. We need to listen more- see meanings in patterns and life. Thank you!
  • Very knowledgeable and focused. got the creative juices flowing. loved how she used academic language with the activity
  • Amazing
  • what an amazing and optimistic presenter. Come away: the arts heighten our awareness of what we may already know subconsciously- and put it into our windows of experience.
  • I loved her enthusiastic personality and her way of sharing knowledge in an artistic and fun way. she made me love the arts!
  • It was lovely to be fed with poetry. it reminded me of past inspiration I need to act on
  • Insightful, useful, and accessible. Thank you!
  • Amazing! I loved her ideas and the poetry was challenging yet accessible. I wished I had signed up for her breakout session.
  • Wonderful Message
  • Loved her. What do I say? she connected us to multiple forms of art. I love her connection to art being a mode for deep thinking, not just making math more interesting
  • Arts are not handmaidens to make core curriculum more fun loved the structure to write. I need to work with rhymezone.com to add alliteration. We need fine arts to be better humans
  • I love the idea that we can stop arguing for the arts if we really believe in it- just like we don’t have to argue that the sun will rise tomorrow.
  • She was very personable and energetic. I enjoyed her enthusiasm for poetry.
  • Melisa was great! I enjoyed the writing activity we did. The emotion that comes from writing and I was able to see it as others shared their poems.
  • I love her reasons for reputation and changing things up so students don’t zone out
  • Avoiding repetition in teaching, saying the same thing, but saying it differently- create a curriculum that is personal and personally meaningful. sound and pattern/repetition and incantation can be valuable tools to teach and help students retain information. Various traditions of repetition of form. 5 reasons why repetition in Art and Life Matters- the leaping mind
  • Personal to students and teachers. I appreciated her getting us to write. I didn’t think I could write poetry then felt proud after her guided experience.
  • arts teachers enrich and save lives- notice the world around you
  • Melisa’s session was wonderful. Repetition is important to practice paying attention, rehearse creativity within constraint, exercise the imagingation, engage the leaping mind and liberate unconscious intelligence
  • Her activity was engaging! I want to try something similar with my students.
  • Awesome! Although it was poetry, which I don’t do in the school setting, I learned a lot! I loved the writing activities, especially “I Hear”. It was applicable to real life.
  • Everything was great! She’s a UGA Bulldog! writing our poems was fun.
  • the comment that art teachers save lives was golden! the arts ground us in what it means to be human. without the arts, we are less capable of joy. Great ideas of beauty and simplicity of arts education
  • Repetition is so important for children. Poetry is a great powerful art form to express creativity and foster learning
  • I loved the i vs I integration the standard is there- no need to decorate core.
  • I love the insights into what repetition does for us. the examples she used were inspiring. I loved the activity of writing the “I hear” poem.
  • I loved how easily she connected with us. She really understood where we are at in education
  • Melisa emphasized that we know the arts are important. Her focus was on the craft and benefits of poetry. That through repetition we can think and create in new ways. We had fun practicing and creating poetry of our own.
  • Fabulous introduction to the wonder and discover of the conference! Wonderful, inspiring, energetic and emotive presenter!
  • Fabulous
  • I loved her styles and skills to use poetry in the classroom
  • Fabulous thoughts on repetition in art. We wrote some fun poems. I appreciated the prompt ideas.
  • Enthusiastic and knowledgable
  • Her enthusiasm is catching. I enjoyed her focus on poetry and how we can bring the arts to our everyday lives and classroom. Her thoughts on words and how they are art were enlivening
  • Love her! She is one of my people
  • I liked how she included us in her speech today. We actually wrote our own poems and were able to participate in it
  • great energy, instantly engaged in poetry and connecting our stories to each other. I hear poetry was wonderful
  • I want to be her when I grow up! I also felt more inspired to do art at home (for fun!)
  • only love! totally inspiring, human and funny to boot
  • Loved her so much!!!! she was real and funny and insightful.
  • Energizing. It went fast. Misha was warm and welcoming. Surprise-associativitiy and making it new. had focus to feel and part of activity. great timing, I didn’t feel rushed. Excited about the resources she shared. Poetic 🙂
  • Such an amazing way to start the conference. It was inspiring and truthful and beautiful and got my creative juices flowing
  • Repetition matters- reflects life, creates awareness, mindfulness, gratitude encourages synthesis and connection
  • love that she focused on bringing joy to the students and myself as we learn and teach. Energize our classroom! Gave a takeaway poetry sample I can take back and do with no prep. Thanks!
  • This was an amazing session.  I learned so much and will definitely be taking aspects of what she spoke of in my classroom
  • Melisa spoke about poetry and repetition in the classroom- but not the “Beuler Beuler” kind of repetition
  • I loved the poem writing prompts. It made writing something creative attainable
  • I love her! I have never considered myself a poet. However with her direction I wrote a cool poem! “I Hear”
  • she made my heart smile. I loved her 5 reasons why art matters. I will be using her repetitive poem idea with my students
  • She was great. I really enjoyed the writing exercise. I thought it was a great opening to really observe, notice and see in order to create.
  • I am inspired to use poetry and repetition in my classroom
  • She was amazing! I love her enthusiasm and made poetry seem natural
  • Loved this: “the arts help ground us in what it means to be human” nothing is new, it’s doing something we know and making it new.” Without arts, we’re less capable of joy.” She made me remember why I use art in the classroom. I loved it, loved the writing activity! Creative
  • she did a great job you could tell she was passionate about her topic
  • That art is important is not a question anymore. Our responsibility is to just do. Poetry is coming back! Naomi Nye, Walt Whitman, strategies. Poetry and photography
  • the use of poetry in self-expression shown is amazing. she was so engaging to listen to and there are applications for my students
  • I am focused on having my art students integrate more language arts, so I found it helpful
  • I love the opportunity to practice literacy skills in any subject with the poem activity
  • I loved the part where we closed our eyes and listed what we could hear. My list was more specific than I expected.
  • her energy and message were inspiring
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