Teachers Wear Masks…Remember “Miss Nelson Is Missing”???

17 Mar


Everyone has professional development days. Those days where every school in the state has professional development, and while the kids yell “We have no school on Tuesday!!” the teachers groan and mutter to each other that this professional development better be more interesting than the last one, where we learned about a great online curriculum…except our classrooms don’t have computers. See, unfortunately, because our school is not a public school, we’re usually left out in the cold when it comes to professional development. Usually, the principal tries to bring in someone interesting, and if no one is available, we come up with something “important” ourselves, which usually turns into a complaint session with no solutions. After sitting through countless numbers of these sessions, I asked the principal if I could have a few hours during the next session to do a little art lesson with the teachers. I explained that it would be a good way to get everyone to open up a little, have fun, and at the same time see how art (and the art teacher!) can be used for so much more than making pretty bulletin boards.

So I prepared a mask lesson that would require each teacher to make an animal mask embodying characteristics that also applied to themselves. I wheeled out a cart that was loaded with supplies, and after completing a short brainstorm session, everybody got to work. It was really enlightening to teach my co-workers, and even more so to see how clearly their personalities and styles came out in their mask. One teacher finished in about ten minutes, even though he knew he had 45. He quickly cut, added some pipe cleaner whiskers, and called it a fox. At the other end of the spectrum, another teacher used every material available in every possible color, and created the most imaginative, beautiful creature that never existed. If anyone was paying attention, it was utterly obvious through the expression of these masks what it would be like to sit in each teacher’s classroom for a day and be taught by them.

The best part of the activity was the wrap-up. I had everyone view each mask, and write on a piece of paper adjectives and descriptive phrases that they felt it conveyed. When everyone read the descriptions of their own mask, they were surprised how other people’s interpretations were different than what they originally intended to express. What does this say about the messages they’re sending to their students without even knowing it? They say teachers have to wear many different hats, but I think it might be the “masks” that we wear when we’re teaching that have the biggest effect on our students.

Get the full lesson plan here!!
Get the worksheet here!!

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