The Art of Listening

So the first week of tours are over, and I’m not sure whether to heave a sigh of relief, bang my head against the wall, or lock myself in Ryerson Library to make sure I am even more prepared for next week.

As Tiffany posted earlier, we had a bit of a rollercoaster week, which ended with the two of us making up a tour on the fly on Friday morning. I won’t go into all the details just yet, as Tiffany explains it quite well in her post, but I will say that our supervisors were not kidding when they told us that this job is all about learning to adapt in the moment. I think the metaphor of juggling has been used a lot in the past few weeks, and it is quite apt.

As this was our first week touring with actual students, I figured that I would really be learning from them – what kinds of questions, techniques, and pieces really work with certain age groups – and I definitely took a lot away from each of our school/camp groups. However, I have to give it to my partner for teaching me the biggest lesson of the week.

When Tiffany and I realized that we would be touring 7 year-olds instead of 4-5 year olds on Friday morning, and that our original tour plan for the ABCs of Art tour would not suffice, we had about 5 seconds of pure panic. On the fly we decided to cobble together elements of our first Art From Many Places tour (our theme being Art That Plays) and our ABCs of Art tour. All in all, I think it went pretty well, and it proved that we are getting better at talking about art with our audience.

Below you can find some of the pieces that Tiffany and I included in our whirlwind tour:

Carl Andre, Steel-Aluminum Plane

Stefan Sagmeister and Ralph Ammer, Being Not Truthful Always Works Against Me

Alexander Calder, Streetcar

Where is the lesson in all of this, you might ask? Well, let me tell you. In an attempt to keeps things flowing, seamless, and to avoid my own panic at not having a sufficient lesson plan for the tour, I ended up steamrolling my partner at each stop we made. I spoke over her, I did not let her teach at her own pace, and was more than a little rude. I am only glad that Tiffany and I are comfortable and open enough in our working relationship that she was able to tell me that I was out of line.

This internship is not just learning to adapt on the fly, it is also about learning to work with another person who has a different background, a different teaching style, and different ideas on what will work during a tour. My lesson this week is that I need to learn how to LISTEN before speaking.  Whether that be really listening to the answers that students give on my tour, or listening to what my partner has to say about a certain idea, I need to slow down and let people work and respond at their own pace.

So, lesson learned. One of the great thing about this internship is that I will have many many more opportunities to put that lesson into practice in the very near future.

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