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Monday, 16 February 2009

Foundation Art and Design Trip to Berlin and Prague: Teacher Perspective

Now that me and the 17 foundation art and design students that i took to Berlin and Prague are all safely back in Blighty, I can breathe and say "Wow, that actually went quite well!"

Now that we've been back a couple of weeks, I've had time to digest our week away and pat myself on the back for organizing it all! Being my first time taking students abroad, I was quite anxious as to how it would go and convinced that I'd forget something crucial or lose a student... Of course there were some blips along the way but generally it went very smoothly and I was impressed both with the students and with myself!

It's such a privalidge for students and staff to be able to get out of the classroom for a week and have this experience,and although the main purpose is to give students the opportunity to witness art and design, galleries and museums in a different country experiencing other cultures... the overall educational benefit is far greater. It turns out that one of the main things our students took from the trip was mine and my colleague's ability to eat like hamsters at the all you can eat breakfast buffets in order to maintain enough energy to walk the many miles required each day! I don't know why but despite having enough money these days to pay for a decent meal, I still cant help myself if it's 'free'! Luckily by the end most of our gang of adolescents had cottoned on and we didn't look like such pigs in comparison!

Another lesson we all had to learn was patience and optimism! Particularly at points where we had no idea which direction to take or how to buy a train ticket - such situations can be trying at the best of times but when you have a big group all looking to you for the answers, you really feel the pressure! Having traveled alone quite a bit in the past, I tend to be fairly relaxed in such situations, knowing that I always get there in the end, despite my dispraxic tendencies! A solution to my poor map reading was to put the students in charge of navigation - a nice idea until we realized that most of them were worse than me and anarchy arose at the first crossroads, plus it was taking even longer to get from A-B! I also found that I was slightly oblivious to the sensitivities of others in the group at times - a leaning curve for me! As a large multicultural group from east London, it did not surprise or bother me that we attracted attention from passers by, taking a good look at us, but many of the students found it intimidating and thought people were quite hostile towards us, particularly in Berlin.

I think that such experiences are a significant part of their education and believe that they will grow from them and they are lucky to be able to do this with their peers and educators. Although some of the students returned feeling slightly jaded by Berlin for example, I hope that in time they will appreciate all that they witnessed and learned there and hopefully be inspired to return one day as there is so much more than we were able to fit in... I went on a solo mission to Berlin in 2000, whilst doing my degree and it is has changed significantly in the last decade with far more shops and finished buildings, it was like a different city but it still has plenty of edge to it once you get your bearings and delve into its nooks and crannies...

It may have been a little ambitious going to 2 cities in the short time we had, we certainly would have benefited from more time in Berlin as the 2 and a half days we had couldn't do it justice, but doing this gave us the benefit of 2 very different experiences and Prague really was quite magical. It was my first time too, a bit of a perk! We spent much time simply exploring the winding cobbled paths and bridges, soaking up its Gothic charm. For me this was where we found the most exciting gallery too - in amongst all the twee painting studios was the City Gallery showing '1960 - present: Slovak art + Czech Hosts'. It was contemporary but with a very different feel to anything I've seen elsewhere... and in the context of Czech history it was very interesting. The gallery itself was also quite wonderful, with extra rooms appearing here and there like a maze, with lots of hidden gems!

Overall I feel really proud of this trip and think that we saw a lot of stuff from warehouse art shows to holocaust memorials to dancing houses, and then some, not to mention the many culinary delights such as the goulash in Prague, a personal fav, that I enjoyed introducing some of the students to and the saurkraute of course, not to mention hot chocolate to die for and some very odd looking sausages served in a pot of water!

It's funny but the one thing that really stressed me out or made me feel anxious was worrying whether the students were enjoying it or felt that they got lots from it, that it was worth it etc. I really hope that now they've had time to digest it all, that they feel fulfilled and inspired, and confident to pursue more adventures...
Its so hard to tell what young people are thinking and I know it's uncool to show too much enthusiasm! I hope they can appreciate the stuff they didn't like as well as what they loved and understand the value of their experience!
It will be interesting to hear Lisa's student perspective of the trip (link to follow)
I'm interested to hear other perspectives on art school trips abroad from other teachers and students - what have you gained from such jaunts?

Last week I was back in London on an introductory trip to some west end galleries with my AS photography students, again anxious that they enjoy it and develop the confidence and passion to return independently... The photographic portrait prize at the National Portrait gallery was a squeeze just 15 minutes after opening it was packed with school kids... Cork streets Waddington gallery on the other hand was empty and spacious but unfortunately my east end teens were greeted with contempt by the gallery assistant and only 10 were allowed in at once, despite the amount of space.. they were then observed like shoplifters and we all felt very uncomfortable. I really hope that the students were not put off by this experience and I did explain that normally the smaller galleries are pleased to have us... They did find some compensation though (well the girls at least), in the 'hunk' up the road at Abercrombie and Fitch, who they were photographed with (some bizarre campaign)!
We ended our day at Liberty for the Photographers gallery off site show of Landscape photography, I was worried we might get more hostility but not at all - the show is a real joy and the balconies at the top of the department store provide a delightful viewing experience - see pick of the week.

1 comment:

sam said...

hey holly
well done on getting 17 students around 2 big cities!

It's sad to here that the group felt intimidated in Berlin! but really interesting to hear other peoples perspectives. I look forward to reading the students view.

and i love the idea of having a teacher and student version of an event/ exhibition it BRILLOPADS!