What does education look and feel like from a teacher’s point of view? Genevieve DeBose, a Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow, wanted to capture and share the voices of classroom teachers in creative ways with her Department of Education colleagues.
“Why not engage teachers in ED’s work through the arts?,” DeBose said. “Why not get a cohort of local educators to meet regularly to have a dialogue about the current status of their profession and think about what is possible for the future?”
DeBose invited teachers to join her “Teacher’s Lounge,” a two-month project that included a weekly discussion forum held at the Department of Education’s headquarters, and culminated in a play in the department’s auditorium. DeBose originally wanted to recruit seven or eight teachers/actors to act out her play, but since applications were so strong, she decided on accepting 14. One teacher drove four hours from Virginia Beach to participate.
“In a profession that can often be isolating and extremely overwhelming, teachers want to find new ways to share best practices and learn from their colleagues,” DuBose explained.
By working through writing and theater games, teachers shared their thoughts and feelings about their profession and educational initiatives.
The result was a powerful, inspiring experience. Participant Jonas Minino, a Spanish teacher from Loudon County, Md., said that he and his mother studied for the Praxis together, but she died of cancer before making it to a classroom. “I am a teacher for both of us,” he said, standing up with fiery determination in his eyes.
“Teacher’s Lounge” was a sounding board for teachers who love what they do and are not afraid to share their experiences of daily pressures, isolation, frustrations and dreams.
Department of Education employees were presented with the complex array of skills and abilities necessary to succeed in the classroom, and also shown how these skills are connected to real teachers who work on the front lines of learning with daily “courage in the classroom.” The profession can be challenging, but teachers persist because they know they affect lives, lift up dreams and create a better future.
At the end of the play, 14 teacher/actors asked, “What would you change? What can you change?” I believe that all of us must respond to this question by remembering that our nation’s teachers must have a prominent role in the transformation of their own profession in the 21st Century.
Actors in Teacher’s Lounge
Hannatu Abbas, 5th grade reading and ELA at Beltsville Academy in Prince George’s County
Susan Allen, 9th grade English and ESL, Bryant Avenue Alternative High School I Franklin County
Marni Barron, Instructional Coach at Hearst Elementary School, DC Public Schools
Danette Dicks, kindergarten at Eagle Academy Public Charter School, DC
Janet Faulkner, 6-8 literacy teacher at Larkspur Middle School, Virginia Beach
Thom Ferlisi, kindergarten teacher at Takoma Park Elementary School, Montgomery County
Joshua Goode, 5th grade science teacher at DC Prep Edgewood Middle Campus, DC
Tamara Gordon, 8th grade U.S. History at Gwynn Park Middle School in Prince George’s County
Alexis Mays-Field, PK- 6th grade inclusion specialist at Center City Public Charter School, Brightwood Campus, DC
Jonas Minino, 9-12th grade Spanish teacher, Park View High School, Loudon County
Rosemarie Onwukwe, Pre-K and kindergarten ESL, Community Academy Public Charter School, DC
Audra Polk, 9-12th grade acting and theater at Ballou Senior High School in DC Public Schools
Stacy Schraa, K-6 music, chorus, and band at Providence Elementary School, Fairfax City, VA
Meg Switzer, 4th grade teacher at Laurel Meadow Elementary School in Hanover County
“Teachers’ Lounge” Directed by Genevieve DeBose
and Lisa Vazquez