Marc Boone Case Study
TEACHING THROUGH MAGICAL REALMS
Marc Boone has been working in his field for 24 years. The best skill he brings to work is the spirit of play. Someone he admires is Renee Watson because she started as a teaching artist, to a program director and is now a full time author.
Three pet peeves he has are people who cancel on his dinner parties the day of, people who complain a lot, and people who repeat themselves. He has no hidden talents because he puts them all in display. Three words that he self describes by are playful, competent and black. When he is not working he is happiest decorating his home. Marc cares about equal rights. He wants people to remember him fondly. In this interview, we conversed about the ‘Academy Of Magical Thinking’ and how he applied it to his classrooms. Marc masterfully transformed his classrooms in the Bronx into fantastical places with mystical creatures for the students to explore a different and imaginative atmosphere.
Interviewed by Denisse Cotto Reyes, DY Alum
TEACHING AT DREAMYARD
Denisse: What type of art do you teach?
Marc: I am a multi-disciplined artist that teaches visual arts, performance art, and storytelling.
Denisse: How long have you been working with DreamYard?
Marc: I have been working as a Teaching Artist for Dreamyard for 18 years.
Denisse: You were in a rare situation as a Teaching Artist, where you had your own classroom in a school and you didn’t have to go back and forth with art supplies, how does that impact your teaching style and lesson plans?
Marc: Having my own classrooms affects the environment, the setup, and the supplies for the activities. I am able to transform the space more dramatically. For example, if we are exploring Fairytales, I can put up fairy-lights and create life-size paper trees and even play whimsical music. I could not prepare such an elaborate set-up if I was visiting a classroom. When we do performance art, I am able to have costumes, set designs, and even video some of the work. The access to such multimedia and multi-discipline would be hindered if I was visiting a class.
Denisse: Before your students come into the classroom, they line up outside the room and enter with their classroom teacher. Then you come in afterward, not as their teaching artist but as a character you created, Would you mind talking more about that?
Marc: Yes, that ritual serves several functions. It allows the Teaching Partner(s) to get children seated, quiet, and ready for the Academy of Magical Thinking. It provides a familiar structure, a greeting, and an example of a ‘character’ for storytelling.
Denisse: You have a beautiful way of teaching with discipline and nurture, what sort of lessons have your students taught you?
Marc: Students are always teaching me patience. And new ways to give them honest, but helpful feedback. They teach me their interests and I incorporate them into the lessons. They teach how to be flexible. They teach me how to maintain my child-like spirit.
Denisse: How do you balance discipline within nurture? What’s the role of discipline and high standards within nurturing students?
Marc: The role of discipline is always a challenge. I’m still learning to navigate because there is no one technique that fits all. I mostly use the reward system as a form of discipline. For example, by creating really fun projects, students learn to self-discipline themselves if they want to be included in the activity. I also rely on counsel from Teaching Partners. I also practice tough love.
Denisse: I’ve noticed you share the artwork of students to each other, what is your mission within that?
Marc: I like to use famous artists as references, then eventually move to use their own and their peer’s artwork as reference.
Denisse: How do the students respond when they see their peer’s artwork?
Marc: Sometimes favorably. They can be inspired and give positive feedback to the artist. But there are times when students can be cruel with feedback to their peers. Feedback and critique is also a skill I teach. How to give honest, helpful feedback. But for the most part, students LOVE seeing their peers’ artwork.
BECOMING AN ARTIST
Denisse: When did you discover you were an artist?
Marc: Probably in third grade when my natural artistic talents became apparent. I could draw better than most students my age. I was slightly ‘above average student.’ Art was the only thing that made me exceptional.
Denisse: Tell us more about your Instagram account. Previously, you didn’t have any experience making videos, so how do you do such amazing videos? Do you think this may be a new passion for video making or just a way to broadcast visual art?
Marc: My Instagram account is InnerKiddo. It keeps me young at heart and it is inspired by the lovely young hearts I teach and learn from. I did not have experience but the iPhone makes all things possible. Between my iPhone camera and iMovie on my computer, I already had a film studio! I just took the time to learn the steps. It’s been my favorite artistic journey to date!
Denisse: How did your Instagram account come about?
Marc: I had been teaching for 15 years and forgetting so much of what I had done. I was getting older and wanted to document parts of my life. Instagram was a great vehicle.
Art impacts children by providing an outlet for expression
— Marc Boone
CREATING MAGICAL SPACES
Denisse: What made you want to create a different world in the classroom? How does the classroom transform?
Marc: I wanted to create a different world because I had my own classroom. I was stuck with a Fairytale/Mythology theme across all grades (1st-5th). It was a great opportunity to create an immersive experience for the kids.
Denisse: Who is your character? What are they like?
Marc: My character is called Mr. Wizard! He’s a magical person who works at the Academy of Magical Thinking. Mr. Wizard likes to explore fairytales, nursery rhymes and mythology.
Denisse: What inspired you to start a new world with your students?
Marc: I really wanted to be a living example of a character in a story. What do I look like? What do I wear? What do I like to do? These are basic questions that students must ask themselves when developing their own original characters. I wanted students to think about the world their characters lived in. Using the classroom and myself as a reference for character and setting is very helpful…and fun!
Denisse: When you are planning an activity, what do you think about when picking out the supplies and materials?
Marc: I think about what the goal is. For example, if the goal is to explore ‘setting,’ I will spend a lot of time enhancing the classroom environment. I may use photo backdrops of landscapes. I create lessons that use the backdrops and class environment as references for their stories.
Denisse: Given that you work in a school with limited resources, why do you think that imagination is important for the young people you teach? How is it related to their liberation?
Marc: Imagination is a free resource. But it has to be developed. It has to be nurtured. In a limited world, imagination is limitless!
Denisse: How has art impacted children in your classrooms?
Marc: Art impacts children by providing an outlet for expression. Their ideas. Their concerns. Art is communication and language and helps them become more worldly. Art helps them express beauty and truth. Having their art in the classrooms inspires them. It shows them someone is listening and looking. Art encourages them to spread their own vision.
Denisse: Why is art so important for students and their education?
Marc: Art enhances education. Many skills and techniques used in the art are transferable in Social Studies, Science, Math, and more. Art is also a career!
Denisse: How has Dreamyard supported you with professional development?
Marc: Dreamyard has supported me by providing me with a great social justice pedagogy. Taking time to nurture my understanding as a positive force for change. DY helps develop me as an artist and a social justice advocate.
Denisse: Before professional development, how does Marc from when you first started compared to Marc now as a teacher?
Dreamyard has supported me by providing me with a great social justice pedagogy. Taking time to nurture my understanding as a positive force for change. DY helps develop me as an artist and a social justice advocate.
— Marc Boone
Marc: There is a vast difference. I am able to be more sensitive to the needs of the community I serve. For example, prior to training, I never realized how important it was to show black artists as references. One of the simplest but most wonderful ‘Aha! Moments for me.
Denisse: Can you describe to me what a typical day would look like at one of Dreamyard’s Professional development events? What sort of workshops do you remember taking?
Marc: I remember taking community-building activities. For example, asking the person next to you a question. I remember art-making activities. For example, an artist leads us into an artmaking experience, usually, one we can implement into our classrooms. I remember fabulous lunches/dinner and a great time to socialize with the other Teaching Artists.
Denisse: Did you take workshops that have nothing to do with your artistry?
Marc: Of course! It was fabulous. I plan to do more of this since I do multi-discipline and multimedia.
Denisse: Did you learn something new?
Marc: Always learn something new. For example, great warm-up activities from the different departments. Great technology tips from Hillary’s digital department, and great storytelling techniques from the drama/poetry crew.
MAKING ART IN QUARANTINE
Denisse: How are you in this quarantine?
Marc: I’ve been proactively working on my art during the quarantine.
Denisse: Do you have any special rituals you do to practice self-care? Tell me something no one would know by just looking at you?
Marc: I bought 30 essential oils last month. I’ve been spending a day getting to know each scent. Reading about it. Wearing it. Getting acquainted with aromatherapy.
Denisse: Have you worked on any new projects of your own?
Marc: Yes, lots of new projects! Quarantine isolation was beneficial for this practice.
Denisse: Have you learned new things while in quarantine?
Marc: Umm hmm, so many things…for example, I want to work more from home and create more video content.
Denisse: Due to Coronavirus pandemic, you, like everyone else, have had to change your physical classroom to virtual art lessons. How have things changed for you, and how are students learning now?
Marc: Physical space has changed. Interactions have changed. Lesson goals have changed. It would be too soon for me to evaluate the effectiveness of remote teaching and learning, but it is not ideal. Kids are learning but now must be more self-disciplined and motivated. In the classroom, I could gauge student engagement and pivot and navigate accordingly. It’s difficult to do that now. But I am learning and growing and becoming more effective as a remote teacher.
Denisse: How has COVID changed your teaching style?
Marc: I’m investing more (into) in home studio equipment and learning to create more engaging art tutorials.
ADVICE FOR OTHER TEACHING ARTISTS
Denisse: What advice would you give teachers who have trouble managing the classroom?
Marc: I would suggest:
Seek help from a teaching partner.
Ask Dreamyard Staff to visit the classroom
Identify the most challenging students. Make friends with them
Create short, satisfying projects
Talk less, do more!
Denisse: What sort of things would help new teachers create an environment of nurture and also the freedom to express themselves?
HERE IS AN EXAMPLE OF MARC’S VIRTUAL CLASS LESSON.
Marc: Having a theme helps tie things together.
Figure out how your theme provides a nurturing aspect.
Tap into the interests of the students.
Tap into your own interests.
Take the time to create lesson plans that will satisfy the student and the teacher.
Denisse: What is your advice to other teaching artists and educators?
Marc: Learn what your passions are. Learn what the passions of the students are. Combine both aspects when creating a lesson. Be flexible, and practice tough love when necessary.
Feel free to follow Marc Boone’s Instagram @Innerkiddo for more of his artistry.