Final Strokes: Finishing Up My CUTF Experience

This semester has been a challenging one to say the least. From a student perspective, I have never felt so overwhelmed by both academic work and outside stressors. Zoom is frustrating, and especially as someone who has mosly hands on art and theatre classes left take, just not the same. And while we’ve had to give up a lot because of COVID-19 it’s also important for me to celebrate the ways we’ve been able to carry on safely and innovate both inside and outside the classroom. And although it was by no means perfect, I’m proud of the work I achieved  as UTA for Pitt’s Scene Painting class. With the CUTF Fellowship and my faculty mentor Gianni Downs, I was able to translate previous research and teach a project to the class. I learned more extensively how to create lesson plans and how to effectively demonstrate painting techniques (something that is much harder than it appears). Additionally, by observing Gianni, my understanding of teaching has become a lot more student-based and flexible. I learned the importance of forming relationships with students, especially in small classrooms. The more an instructor knows their students the more they can help them by altering their approach and providing more specific feedback. I think also something I’ve noticed this semester is the loss of any sort of classroom community that so often happens in smaller classes. Due to remote learning students can’t as easily interact with each other, so encouraging those classroom relationships in new ways is important especially when it comes time for students to critique one another’s work. I was also just so impressed by the amount of planning and organizational skills it takes to run a successful flex class. For scene painting, Gianni essentially created 4 different curriculums if not more to accommodate different student needs and COVID-19 safety demands and procedures. From this, I observed first hand the importance of being both a flexible and organized planner. 

Overall, this experience has reinforced my desire to pursue arts education in some way. With everything that’s going on it’s hard to plan too far in the future. For now, I want to focus on finishing up my last semester at Pitt and continuing my own education as a designer and artist. I hope to attend grad school sometime soon to grow these skills and pursue a career in design and painting. And eventually I want to return to education and teach theatre scene design and painting. I already find so much joy in learning about and doing both scenic painting and design. So, it was cool this semester to learn more about the teaching aspects of the subjects and I will definitely be pursuing it more in the future.

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